Fair and unlovely

Fair and Unlovely!I’m not in the best of moods today and I have this irresistible urge to lash out at something. I think I will just go ahead and slam this commercial that runs constantly on Arabic satellite channels. It is a well-crafted ad for a lotion that makes women "fair" and "lovely."

I personally think this ad should be banned due to its racist nature. Arab Women activists — if they really care — should follow in the footsteps of their counterparts in India and get this advertisement banned forever.

For those who have not seen the ad, here is the gist of it: A women who is ‘not that white’ decides to become "fair and lovely" by applying this lotion to her face. After she becomes "lovely" she gets a job as an interviewer on an Arabic satellite channel. The ad concludes with the woman’s mom shedding tears of joy as she watches her daughter on TV.

The theme song of this outrageous piece of advertisement sings "achieve your dream on your own." I’m assuming the dream in this case is to become white enough to get a job as a TV presenter at one of the major Arabic networks. If this is not racist I don’t know what is. I guess it goes back to the mentality found among many in the region: "fair" is beautiful.

In this part of the globe, fair women are always the best candidates for marriage and fair babies are always cuter than their darker kin. In a nutshell, if you are dark, you are cursed. I know this sounds outrageous but sadly enough this attitude is widespread. Let’s ban this ad!

30 thoughts on “Fair and unlovely”

  1. I heard that Jordan is requiring cigarette makers to put a warning on their packages including the picture of smoke-damaged lungs. The makers of this cream should be required to add a warning on the package with a picture of Michael Jackson.

  2. Yea, Ziad, that oughta scare them!
    Natasha, I share your feelings. Talk about playing on women’s fears and desires. Find out who created this ad! Time to receive who we are and be glad than to always long for what we weren’t created to be. You could do the anti-thesis of this ad: Jordanian exotic beauty gets the journalism job and the great guy by being who she is, full stop!
    Can’t believe that in one half of the world women risk the health of their skin on this whitening junk and on the other half they risk skin cancer to get a darker color!

  3. lol good one Natasha 🙂
    My Arabic ads are outdated, but I prefer the fair and lovely ad that went something like.. there are two sisters and the one that used fair and lovely got married while the other didn’t. hehe anyone remember that one?
    Arabs are obsessed with fairness, and in the west being pale and untanned is a shame so no one’s happy with their skin tone.
    Happy Friday everyone 🙂

  4. There’s something really weird about that ad. I think it’s the music. It makes you think you’re watching a film trailer for some tragic epic, and then they give you skin cream.

  5. Excellent remarks, Natasha. “Fair And Lovely” is a major one amongst a group of despicable products known as “fairness lotions,” available in markets all over the Indian sub-continent. I’ve been very intrigued about how in Bangladesh fair brides are always sought for marriage and fair babies are always “oh sooo cute: look how fair!!” I even had several verbal fights with family and friends about such pervasive racism within ourselves. But I thought this was only true of South Asians: I did’t know similar problems exist in Arab communities.

  6. But you guys know what the “khattabat” always look for: taweeleh w beitha w shaqra! If a stunning brunette does not use “Fair & Lovely” she’ll most probably t3annis, and the only way for her to marry would be to “tfoot dorra” to some elderly fat hajjeh. You don’t want that to happen do you?

  7. I even hear about fairness among arabs in America. gosh thats bad. So this lotion actualluy makes you lighter? how in the hell does it do that? does it have bleach or something? oh lordy. Someone should not only ban this ad for its message, but probably also for its ingredients.

  8. Haha thats a great one Natasha, I actually think about this every single time the ad comes up. It really is racism at its core.. Why the hell would anyone even make a “natural fairness cream”? Haha, I’m actuallyone of the people who splurges on tanning creams and a shade darker foundations to get a better color..
    Back to Fair and zeft, making things even worse, their ads are absolutely crap… Who remembers “Marwaaaaa? Da ba2a wejek 7elu 2awi wo mnawar! akeed fi ser!”
    YEEEEEEEEEY! I cringe just remembering…

  9. I’ve been making lots of fun of these ads recently, as they seem to be the sole ad revenue source for One TV and MBC 4. In the US they sell this same cream to black women, that’s who the ads market to at least. And they are a bit more subtle in their approach, likely because anything else seems racist.
    Here, what I’ve been making fun of, is the naturalness of the advert. There’s the one with two teenage girls bouncing around in their room — like we know all teenage girls do — when they have a great idea: let’s go bleach our faces!! Yeah! So they head to the bathroom and have just a lovely time. So much so that after it’s all done they are kicking and punching the air. “Isn’t it great to have pale skin!”
    The one the wife cites is a bit more subversive, as it and the music seem to suggest that it’s fairness and not the woman’s ability that gets her a job and success. And her parents are so proud: “I always knew she’d be fair and lovely … and successful.” The latter being keenly tied to the former.
    It is, as pointed out above, the great irony that women of color seem to want to get white, while white women are desperate to have a nice glowing tan. And in between are cosmetic manufacturers making a killing.

  10. Wow Natasha I was just thinking about this when I saw the ad for the millionth time yesterday… and the one before was even worse; this girl who wants to get the main role in a play and some guys laughs and says she never would (obviously because she was not ‘fair’) and then she goes off and uses the magical fair and lovely and wins the part in the play… Great success!!
    So how about it you people? Let’s take some action instead of just lashing it out… can we start collecting signatures to ban it, or file a suit or something?? I’m not quite sure what can be done… any experienced activists or lawyers out there??
    I always used to say I want to send Coca Cola a letter to complain about their ad where the bottle’s figure is compared to that of a female body… I found it very insulting, or the ad of the different thermos styles which are also compared to female model body shapes, it used to drive me nuts but I never did anything about it other than expressing my anger to family and friends!! come on let’s do something about this racist fair lotion crap!!!

  11. Hah! You’re just saying that because you’re dark and ugly! You’ll feel different when you get your face fixed! 😉

  12. Yea Lina, let’s do it! Not just the fair and lovely company but the advertisers who created this “advert”…so, how to go about it?

  13. I can’t stand Arabic TV ads at all, god they’re cheesy! We had ART back in the early 90s, they kept playing some crappy ads for Pizza Hut and Pringles. And some weird amphibious car with the driver in a dishdasha. It was the one time you’d actually thank the Islamic Republic for its clampdown on Western triteness.

  14. Unfortunately, this is not the only add or phenomenon that takes a discriminatory nature. When I pointed out in other posts to the fact that religion should not be on your personal ID in Jordan, no body wanted to comment. Even in some job applications. As they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder; if all Jordanians view a beautiful women as being blond, blue eyed ..etc, so be it. This is the criteria. That puts most of Jordanian females on the other side of the spectrum. But, as they say also; beauty is a skin deep. As for my own personal criteria; one day I will run my own add.

  15. Lina,
    We can start by complaining to the networks that run these ads like MBC. I’m sure we can find their contact info on their websites.

  16. OMG. Funny enough, while i was washing the dishes, my parents were watching MBC and this commercial comes on. The commercial showed though a darker woman in an art class, etc etc etc and someone painted her face because shes fair.
    Okay, this is how we do it guys. First, you write a letter to the comapny of Fair and Lovely itself and tell them how you feel. Then to MBC stating you will boycott their channles until the ad is taken of their channel. Then you send letters to the other advertisers who advertise on MBC and you tell them you will boycott MBC, thus these advertisers may stop advertising with MBC and this puts additional pressure on MBC to drop Fair and Lovely. But this cycle/effect can only happen if enough people do it.
    Then, enough letters to the editor should be written to your local newspapers about the product and how it is racist and i do think unhealthy. If there are enough letters written, maybe other people who have this ad may drop it or may take the whole issue on as a story. But like i said, enough letters have to be written for this to take place.

  17. Ok Natasha and Linda 🙂 let’s get started with it… I like the idea of sending to MBC, I’m not sure we can send one to the company that produces “Fair and Lovely” because I think we’re up against the whole concept of the product, they can’t agree to change the commercials because what else would they say about this lotion??
    I’ll try to write a draft for the complaint this week, if anyone has specific ideas please do share them… and let’s get the contact info of the station we want to send to and make sure it gets to the right person…
    And all you writers out there… yeah let’s start sending letters to local newspaper editors!! I’m not sure we can mobilize a large enough number… but what do we have to lose? 🙂 we’re spending a lot of time writing and blogging anyways ;p

  18. Lina,
    its still good to write one to the company letting them know that 1) you will never buy their products and why and 2) letting them know exactly what you are doing about that. It wont change them, but at least we can say we warned them that we were taking action.

  19. Come on men, why are you silent ? Looks like you prefer to give this product a try on your spouses !

  20. I was just blogging about this same issue. The desire to be white here is a mind boggling one to me. The sexualized image of ME women in the West is usually golden brown, not white. But until socieity here changes its attitude about its idea of beauty not much will change. Procuts such as this one, and others, are big profits. A few people boycotting isn’t going to make much of an impact.
    I would suggest awareness as a first step. Do some research, on the companies themselves as well as the ingredients. Mercury poisoning is a VERY large factor in such products, which can lead to long term body damage. Such as liver damage, women need to know at what cost such ideas of beauty come at.
    UAE’s magazine Arabian Woman did a small piece on the use of whitening products. Their writing however is poor and left out very pertinent information, but its a start. Maybe getting some statistics togther, and information and start an awareness campaign it may motivate more women to become active on the issue and that means the television companies would then listen.

  21. Hey, H; get a life! Friendly joking is not reacted to with spitting insane hostility in civilized societies.
    As for the “coke bottles”, that’s also a very mild and unimportant joke or observation here. If Arabs are that hypersensitive and certain of their purity, they are too primitive to bother with. It’s a brittle and unproductive kind of mind and thinking which is not worth anything much.

  22. Jareer, I missed your comment about religion being on ID’s, with you on it. Thanks for joining Jeff in agreeing on the skin color topic.
    Nzingha, I’ve participated in many boycotts that achieved the desired result in time. It is worth it.
    May I add letting stores know that you will not shop there until they cease to carry the product on the shelves. And in Jordan, contacting the importers of the product. One must also continue reminding them that you are not purchasing any of their products periodically. Maybe write a letter to JO mag and Living Well and ask them to make an issue. Maybe get some dermatologists involved?
    Lina, I will wait for the addresses and drafts too. Contact me! Does this mean I have to give up my tanning cream? 🙂

  23. The hilarious inversion of this is that until the skin-cancer scare started 10 years or so back, in the U.S. there was similar pressure on fair-skinned people to darken their skin in the sun. And now there are increasing numbers of “sunless tanning” products that fair-skinned people are encouraged via advertising to use to achieve a somewhat darker, more golden complexion. Fairness of the Nordic or Anglo variety is during summertime considered a mark of poor health – anemia or lack of physical vigor.

  24. I support you people all the way! So, if you need a voice in Saudi Arabia, I’m your girl!
    The funny part is that I was discussing this very same issue with my friends at college once and they were all… “la 3ady, ma feeh shay al i3lan. 6ayeb al baitha a7la.. 7ageega hathy” and I was all “GRRR…!!”
    Anyways, it may not be racism though, as all Arabs are one race: Arabic. It doesn’t show a biased opinion regarding a certain people, rather a certain perception of beauty.
    It is, however, mean and unfair and downright stupid!!! I mean, I’m Asmareeka and gosh darn it I’M HOT! But potential hubby will never know that now will he? Because while I was here sitting in all my radiance and beauty his mom (or the khataba) was out there looking for barbie (or worse, Paris Hilton)!
    Let me know if you guys are serious, because God knows I sure as heck am! 🙂

  25. Girls, just got back from Safeway and flipped to discover that every major maker of skin cream on the shelf has their own version of “Fair and Lovely”. Big job ahead.

  26. Hi Guys, Im directing a documentary about skin bleaching for ITV which is a UK based tv network. Im based in London and am doing my research and really feel that Hindustan Lever who makes the fair and lovely products needs to answer a few questions as Unilever the main umbrella is based in London and would never dare to execute this type of advertising as trading standards would racism lawsuit at them. Why is it a differnt ball game for the asian and arab world? What i really need DESPERATELY is a Fair and Lovely advert and i dont know how to get a copy on VHS. CAN ANYONE HELP? IT WILL BE GREAT TO PUT THE DOCUMENTARY TO SHOW THE EXPLOITATION. if anyone can record for me please please this would be so good. (skinshades@yahoo.com)

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