MY FAIR VAGINA

An in­ti­mate wash ad­ver­tise­ment ex­tends the fron­tiers of fair­ness to eroge­nous zones. Has it gone too far?

India Today - - SOCIETY -

Awoman sits for­lorn in the liv­ing room, sip­ping tea as her hus­band buries him­self in the news­pa­per, as if com­pletely obliv­i­ous of her ex­is­tence. She’s ev­i­dently quite at­trac­tive; if not a spit­ting im­age of Bollywood queen Ka­t­rina Kaif, at least a poor man’s Ka­t­rina. Then what ex­plains such dis­in­ter­est? Hold your breath. It’s ap­par­ently be­cause her pri­vate parts aren’t clean and don’t match her fair and lovely face. A dash to the shower and a splash of Clean & Dry In­ti­mate Wash. And happy days are here again.

It all started with your face. Then they took over your neck, legs, un­der­arms. And now, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies have de­cided that there’s one more thing that’s just not fair enough for your­self or your man—your vagina. The Clean & Dry ad­ver­tise­ment, which be­gan air­ing in March, has kicked up a storm for ex­tend­ing the fron­tiers of fair­ness to eroge­nous zones. Cy­be­ria is par­tic­u­larly an­gry. “Now ev­ery­one has to be in­se­cure about the fact that their vagi­nas hap­pen to be the colour that vagi­nas are??? Splen­did! God, I was just say­ing the other day that my misog­yny didn’t have enough racism in it,” posted writer Lindy West on women’s blog Jezebel. One of the less abu­sive com­ments about the ad­vert on Youtube reads, “Isn’t it weird that white peo­ple are ob­sessed with tanned skin, while In­di­ans (who al­ready have that per­fect brown color) are ob­sessed with fair skin. Why can’t we just all be happy with the skin colour we al­ready have?”

The ‘fair­ness’ in­dus­try has long been huge in In­dia, what with In­di­ans’ ob­ses­sion with lighter skin. Bollywood has more than done its bit to pro­mote the ‘fair­ness’ cul­ture, with ac­tors like Genelia D’souza, Asin, Shah Rukh Khan and John Abra­ham re­peat­edly en­dors­ing such prod­ucts. The sub­text is that life’s bet­ter if you’re fair. And many In­di­ans be­lieve so. The body of ev­i­dence is ir­refutable: At Rs 900 crore, the fair­ness cream busi­ness con­sti­tutes 47 per cent of the Rs 2,000

The sub­text is that life’s bet­ter if you’re fair. And many In­di­ans be­lieve so: The fair­ness cream busi­ness is worth Rs 900 crore.

crore skin­care prod­ucts’ in­dus­try.

But have they gone too far by equat­ing a fairer vagina to a hap­pier life? “Life for women will now be fresher, cleaner, fairer,” claims the prod­uct page on­line. Sananda Chakraborty, 27, a house­wife from Kolkata, says she might try it. “I have been us­ing fair­ness creams ev­ery day for the past five years, so why not?” she says. Roshni Singh, 27, a Ban­ga­lore-based web de­vel­oper, also thinks the prod­uct is a good idea. “It in­di­cates peo­ple’s will­ing­ness to try new things. It shows that the In­dian mar­ket is open­ing up, along with the peo­ple’s minds,” she says. Singh has been us­ing fair­ness creams since 2006. Would she use Clean & Dry her­self? “I won’t use it. I don’t think I need to,” she says.

Clean & Dry man­u­fac­turer Mi­das Care says the prod­uct is more about keep­ing the vagina clean than fair. “Skin in pri­vate ar­eas, just like el­bows and knees, can be a lit­tle darker than the reg­u­lar body shade for some,” a com­pany spokesper­son emailed

IN­DIA TO­DAY. It fur­ther said that the ad­ver­tise­ment does not show the fe­male get­ting re­jected and that the prod­uct has been re­ceived pos­i­tively and a lot of women have thanked the com­pany for “cater­ing to their most in­ti­mate needs”.

Sheela Ku­ruvilla, a der­ma­tol­o­gist at the Pondicherry In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sci­ences, says, “I’ve seen pa­tients who get rashes or other al­ler­gic re­ac­tions on us­ing fair­ness creams.” She, too, won­ders why there is a ne­ces­sity to make the vagina fairer. “Your skin gets darker on be­ing ex­posed to the sun and it can only re­turn to your orig­i­nal skin colour, it can’t get fairer,” she adds. “Hav­ing a clean, dry vagina is great... but why should it be fair?” asks Anu­pama Srini­vasan, 30, of Pra­jnya, a Chen­nai-based NGO deal­ing with women’s rights. Why in­deed!

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