By Kavita Emmanuel | Founder and Director of WOW
Lately there has been a lot of talk and speculation on the guidelines for advertising fairness products that was introduced by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). So let’s take some time to break it down and see what this means for us.
We grow up with this learned behaviour that clean and bright means white. Or that beauty and success require light skin. We are constantly being bombarded by these messages from the media. This is why the guidelines introduced by ASCI were a breath of fresh air. But regulations are just the beginning to the change we want to see.
Let’s face it! Even if all print and TV advertisements followed the ASCI guidelines we may still see skin colour discrimination endorsed simply because any product recommending ‘fairness’ as an option is in a way continuing to tell us that ‘the fair’ way is the wanted way! That is the reason our advocacy efforts include seeing more diversity on the silver screen.
We have had conversations with fashion photographers: some want to work with the traditional idea of beauty while others have seen the beauty in all skin colours and would recommend a model based on talent. But often photographers and advertising agencies are caught between what they would like to do and what the client (the brand) wants to see.
When we sit down to chat with owners and directors of brands, they too believe talented models come in many colours but their clientele (we the customers) are more comfortable with the traditional sense of beauty where a model’s skin as white as milk. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps us stagnating in our patriarchal ideologies and perceptions of beauty, success, and self worth. This is where we would like to inspire advertising agencies and brands to take a stand towards ‘responsible advertising’ and not just do what sells.
When we think of change, we want to see the BIG picture and a future where media does not sell discrimination to our children. Do we not want our children outgrowing the iron-maiden-beauty-traps that we have come to believe as something true and real? Do we not want our children to accept themselves for who they are and respect others for being themselves? And do we not want our children to witness a true celebration of all skin colours in the media? We, at Dark is Beautiful, do not just want to see discriminatory advertisements disappear but we want to see people of all skin colours being included and their skin tones celebrated.
This is why we welcomed the story of model Natasha Sharma. Here is a young Indian-American talking about changing the landscape of visual media by combating skin colour bias in the media. Stay tuned for her story that will be coming out this week. Meanwhile, if you see an ad on television that is discriminatory and derogatory, do your part and report it to ASCI at www.ascionline.org.