By Arré Bench Jun. 26, 2020
Hindustan Unilever’s move to strip the Fair & Lovely brand name of the word “fair” was welcomed by many, including Suhana Khan. When she put out an Insta story lauding it, people were quick to remind her that her father Shah Rukh Khan endorses “Fair & Handsome”.
The murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in the United States brought thousands of people to the streets. It also ignited a much-needed conversation around racism. It spilled over to India, with criticism directed towards fairness creams, like Fair & Lovely, and matrimonial companies like shaadi.com. Then, Suhana Khan dragged into the controversy.
On Thursday, Hindustan Unilever, one of India’s biggest consumer giants announced that, “We’re committed to a skin care portfolio that’s inclusive of all skin tones, celebrating the diversity of beauty. That’s why we’re removing the words ‘fairness’, ‘whitening’ and ‘lightening’ from products, and changing the Fair & Lovely brand name.”
We’re committed to a skin care portfolio that’s inclusive of all skin tones, celebrating the diversity of beauty. That’s why we’re removing the words ‘fairness’, ‘whitening’ & ‘lightening’ from products, and changing the Fair & Lovely brand name.https://t.co/W3tHn6dHqE
— Unilever #StaySafe (@Unilever) June 25, 2020
Some users criticised the move stating it was only a marketing gimmick, and that merely removing the word doesn’t make much of a difference. The problem is with the product itself, not only with the marketing.
The company has been accused of engaging in virtue-signalling activism.
Changing the name of a product is not a radical step. It’s just a marketing strategy used by companies to make sure you buy more of their products as you get blinded by their performative activism. They’re bringing about no change and perpetuating the hegemony of “fair is beauty”
— Didi Dialectic 🌱🌈🌻 (@anuxiety_) June 25, 2020
However, the move was also lauded by some as a step in the right direction. Among those cheering was Shah Rukh Khan’s 20-year-old daughter Suhana Khan.
In an Instagram story, Suhana Khan said, “It (HUL) has also committed that it will remove all suggestions that success is linked to skin tone or colour in communication.”
So Suhana Khan shared this… pic.twitter.com/U52kyiV1dk
— Brijwa SRK FAN (@BrijwaSrk) June 25, 2020
It immediately attracted criticism on social media with many users pointing out the irony that Shah Rukh Khan is the brand ambassador of a men’s fairness cream called “Fair and Handsome”.
Shahruk’s daughter Suhana Khan who has lauded the decision amid the racism debate. Not to forget that Shah Rukh Khan is the brand ambassador of men’s fairness cream called ‘Fair and Handsome’.
— sirAKASHtic (@Dev_akash_) June 26, 2020
Social media users have claimed that Suhana Khan’s statement is Bollywood’s typical performative wokeness. A kind of “activism” to increase one’s social capital instead of being actually devoted to the cause. Merely for the sake of likes, clicks and PR points, they will say the trendy right things but when it comes to action, things are starkly different.
It is not only Bollywood, but even corporates have been seen engaging in such behaviour.
Companies change DPs on their social media platforms to the pride rainbow, or tweet with #BlackLivesMatter. But when it comes to taking action in making changes in the boardroom, hiring policy, and pay, the gap between talk and action is quite troubling.
Take fair and lovely/fair and handsome OFF the shelves completely. pic.twitter.com/PJAk6EzK2p
— Priyanka Bansal (@priyanka_65) June 25, 2020
If you wanna go after the one fairness cream ad that Priyanka Chopra did years ago, please ALSO go after Shahrukh Khan & Hrithik Roshan & Kartik Aryan’s ACTIVE involvement in Fair & Handsome ads till date!
Let’s not be racist AND sexist 🙏🏽
— Shubhi Shekhar (@shubhishekhar) June 25, 2020
While removing “fair” from a product’s brand name is an easy thing to do, bringing about real change after decades of questionable advertising will require much more to be done. And as for Suhana Khan and the rest of Bollywood, walking the talk on the issue is due.a