“Dark is Beautiful, Too” – A Counter-Narrative of Feminine Beauty: Reactions of Dhaka-based Beauty Conscious Women

by Asifur Rahman Khan


Skin tone has historically been used as a parameter for beauty, from as early as the Nordic history to the Shakespearean era when the queens would rub dangerous compounds on their faces to be fair. But today, unlike history, this parameter of beauty has been commercialized by conglomerates in their marketing attempts to create a need and to fuel that need with insecurity by using almost every trick in the book to make a female wish ‘for a fairer skin’. Commercializing this need was particularly easy in the subcontinent where the British ruled like the mighty Titans for more than 200 years, associating their skin tone with power, i.e. fair equals power, a fact that was never outright mentioned nor advertised, but worked subliminally and culturally to slowly take a firm root in our social
construction of beauty. That’s the reason why the sales of skin whitening products are increasing day by day. In fact, India and Bangladesh represents significant markets for skin whitening manufacturers, so much so that they have become the largest spenders on media right after telecom. The industry is booming worldwide, with sales crossing the 2 billion dollar mark annually. The conglomerate most active in Bangladesh is promoting that fairness equates to power is none other than Fair and Lovely, a product and brand of Unilever Bangladesh, who works six days every
week in Bangladesh to ensure that our females are extremely insecure about their skin tone. Not a hard job considering our nation’s equatorial location that ensures that we are almost all shades of brown. But in 2014, Meril Splash, a soap product and brand of Square Toiletries, launched a new campaign titled ‘Beauty is not only
in fairness, it is in freshness too.’ This campaign rallied against the contemporary, established notion that ‘fair is beautiful’ by showing the plights of girls when family, society and media are constantly telling them that they have to be fair, or else. This thesis has been conducted to assess the success of the campaign of Meril Splash in establishing the counter narrative of feminine beauty by measuring the attitude among urban females.

Keywords: counter narrative, feminine beauty, beauty conscious women, Dhaka City

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