Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?
The Indian fixation on fair skin stooped to a new low recently when Clean and Dry Intimate Wash launched a fairness product for women’s private parts.
While fairness creams have a long history in India, the emergence of vaginal creams have sparked a huge debate in India in the media and among netizens.
Outrage and insult over whitening cream
“Interestingly, while ‘whiten your vagina’ got the ad world divided about appropriateness, gender exploitation or that biggest sin of all, dreadfully bad taste, the ordinary whiten-up message is so not news," said Mari Marcel Thekaekara, commenting in Time Healthland.
"It’s just how life is. From cradle to death. The second question asked in maternity wards after ‘boy or girl?’ is ‘fair or dark?’,”
The Wall Street Journal published an opinionated piece by Rupa Subramanya, who described the whole concept as "the ultimate insult."
Deepanjana Pal in Mumbai Boss wrote: "My vagina isn't happy about what's been happening recently in Indian media."
Blogger Sharell added: "No doubt this latest product will heighten women's insecurities about their color."
The beleaguered Clean and Dry ad director, Alyque Padamsee, thinks the press has blown the issue out of proportion. After all, what was so different about vaginal whitening than any other cosmetic procedure?
“It is hard to deny that fairness creams often get social commentators and activists all worked up. What they should do is take a deep breath and think again," he said.
"Lipstick is used to make your lips redder, fairness cream is used to make you fairer — so what’s the problem? … The only reason I can offer for why people like fairness, is this: if you have two beautiful girls, one of them fair and the other dark, you see the fair girl’s features more clearly.
Vaginal whitening: a solution for tepid love life?
Revathy Iyer, 32, was a home-maker from India when she made what she described as "that shameful trip to the supermarket," to buy the product. Afterward, Iyer said, she couldn't look at herself in the mirror.
But her married life was facing its low point, she said, when a friend suggested she try India's newest craze -- the vaginal cream.
Iyer remembered feeling repulsed, but was ready to try anything to save her marriage. In a desperate measure she fell prey to the advertising gimmick. Within less than a year, she was divorced.
She lived with remorse from compromising her self-respect for almost six months after this.
Screenshot from vaginal whitening cream ad
Caste and fairness