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How Not To Do Empowerment Right - A 'Glow & Lovely' Case Study

I know, I know. We’ve all had enough of the fairness cream discourse, nothing new about there.

But you know what we haven’t had enough of? A “glow” cream discourse (ok sorry bad joke).

Anyway, this blogpost is about Fair & Lovely’s rather unlovely rebrand into “Glow & Lovely” and the promotional video for this campaign.

 

It’s clear right from the start that they’re actively trying to construct an ‘empowerment narrative’ to address the backlash that they may have faced. This is evident from the video description on Youtube, as well as the content of the video itself, which I will get into in a few seconds.

Now lets break the song down one by one.


Starting with The Name:

“Mitti Ke Sau Rung."

Sounds progressive enough. Seems like they’re finally willing to acknowledge that there are other skin tones and complexions than your standard gora.

A step in the right direction? Maybe.


The Video:

Full of seemingly “empowered” women in professions ranging from football to dhol to motorbiking- all traditionally male dominated.

Bringing these women to the forefront? Also a step in the right direction.


The Lyrics:

Kinda your average corny motivational fight song “mushkilen aati rahein tumnay larr jaana hai” etc. etc. but chalo, we can give them points for trying.


The Problem:

By now you're probably wondering: gaana acha, video achi, intention achi, phir masla kya hai?

Masla ye hai that in their attempt to highlight female empowerment, “Glow” and Lovely is forgetting all that it actually stands for.


And here’s the most obvious example:

Despite the title of the song, 4/6 women in the video are fair-skinned. Shocking!


In a capitalistic world, there’s only so far a rebranding can go in terms of covering up your core beliefs and practices. At the end of the day, their product remains the same, regardless of whether or not they use buzzwords like diversity and equality to promote it.


While the video and lyrics are good as stand-alone media products, they seem to be very inconsistent with the brand itself, which also ends up undermining the message they’re trying to put out.


To me, this entire commercial reads something like ‘yes you can choose any sort of profession you want, but only if you’re fair enough for society’s liking’.

We will empower you, but not before putting you down for something else first.

 

What are your thoughts on this ad and the notion of empowerment its trying to promote? Is there anything you would have done differently or do you think this is good as it stands? Would love to discuss more in the comments!








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Thank you for raising this issue, we as a colonised nation have become so whitewashed that it seems impossible to consider anything other than fair skin to be pretty. Such ads also keep reinforcing those beauty standards, Stuart Hall's reading talked about making associations with certain colors and since whiteness has always been linked to the "better", the "top," the ad seems to associate fair skin with achievements and being at the top. No matter how harmful the ingredients might be, they would try to sell the product in the name of empowerment. When they show fair skinned models mostly, it then hinders representation and promotes harmful ideas of only fair skin as being "glow-y" and "lovely."

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Exactly! Hall’s other reading also mentioned how because these stereotypes are socially constructed, they can very well be challenged and turned around. Equating a woman’s degree of success, career or non-career wise, to her complexion is simply demeaning and downplays the effort they put in. Fair and Lovely had the opportunity to reconstruct this notion but the fact that they did not do it reflects very poorly on their part.

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Love the satire in the blog. Absolutely nailed it. One thing that I have always found so ironic about this entire situation is how every whitening cream brand has changed their perspective to 'empowering women' as a face-saving technique. They've all somehow felt the need to show that they really care about women, their goals, and ambitions, but the real question is; if they really did care, why do they constantly feel the need to make us believe that our goals are tied to how we look externally? A similar case can also be seen in shampoo ads; how is my hair-fall connected to my job interview going well? (Yikes) Also, another really disturbing thing in these advertisements that I…

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Hahaha loved the tweet! And exactly!! Celebrity endorsements for such products have never settled well with me, especially if they’re by women who are the so-called “face” of empowerment in the industry. The prime example of this is Mahira Khan, who so many young women look upto, but when I see her endorsing hair-removal creams like Veet, I feel very disheartened because that means putting restrictions and conditions on a woman’s empowerment. You can be as successful and inspiring, and empowered as Mahira, but only if you look like her and follow the same beauty standards as she does, which also gives these celebrities an undeserved degree of power over the public.

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Fr, the way that people are obsessed with changing their skin tones and their bodies and stuff, is not giving women empowerment. Youre right, they'll empower what you want to do with your life but only if you fit their beauty standards. Think: not wearing makeup to work. If you're not fair and traditionally beautiful, put together, easy on the eyes, skinny, etc., your worth seems to drop. Like parents disregarding a medical degree because larki ki shaadi nahi hui. Wild.

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Yess exactly. Its like women are always disadvantaged or inferior in some way or another, regardless of how successful they might be. Physical beauty and marriage are the only benchmark society imposes on women and the fact that media products like this ad reinforce these ideas make it even harder for them to move past them and reform the ideals that seem to be so set in stone- its a never-ending loop.

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Sohainaa Farrukh Shahab
Sohainaa Farrukh Shahab
2023年6月19日

This entire campaign feels like a desperate attempt to restore sales in the wake of an era when people are closely starting to examine notions of beauty and starting to question marketing campaigns that exploit people's insecurities and are based on years of racism and colourism. The fact of the matter is, Glow and Lovely is built on a legacy of seeing fair skin as better than other tones and a source of self-confidence and beauty. However, the product still contains harmful ingredients (which is why it is banned in Norway) and does NOT work because a topical cream cannot change your skin tone. In my opinion, the entire product needs to be scrapped because of how severely outdated it…

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The harmful ingredients omg! Whats more insane is that we have SO many beauty products containing these ingredients, including but not limited to: bleaching creams, depilatory creams and a whole range of facewashes. Even some sunscreens include bleaching agents which is not just harmful but also so unethical! Its sad how women are made to buy these cancerous products just because of societal pressure and stereotypes. If not scrapped entirely, at the very least creams like this should be made to go through vigorous health and safety standards so women do not have to put literally EVERYTHING at risk, but yes I do agree there’s no benefit in having these products around and our people should be made aware of…

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Khadija Nasir
Khadija Nasir
2023年6月17日

Completely agree with your analysis, and such a fun read this was! I loved the formatting and bad puns! While on the surface, the ad does seem to finally be catching up with how problematic our beauty standards are. But with the product eventually remaining the same, their underlying intentions seem to be capitalistic in nature. The ad seems like nothing more than a desperate attempt to stay on top of sales and relevant when the discourse on inclusivity and diversity is more prevalent than ever. the rebranding and surface level acceptance of different skin tones isn't enough, though. While the ad may have served as a great means of exposure for these talented women, their presence in the ad…

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I agree 100%. Representation can only be done right if the intention is there- which clearly isn’t in their case considering their whole product relies on a certain stereotype- of fair women being better and more successful than their non-fair counterparts. Whats worse is that they have gone ahead and linked beauty to career, implying that while in the past you’d just be shunned on the basis of your complexion, you will now be shunned on the basis of your complexion AND career with only the fair women having a chance at empowerment through the use of this cream.

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