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June 04, 2007 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-06-04

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Monday, June 4, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

5

DEVADATTA GANDHI
Fair and lovely?

RACHEL WAGNER
'Don't ask, don't tell' don't work

dt was as a teenager attending
boarding school inlIndia that I
first heard of a product called
"Fair and Lovely." Fair and Lovely
is a cream
made by Cosmetics
Unilever to industry
lighten dark
skin. Our exploits
working- prejudi
class, dark- prju ces.
skinned
matron, who is an adult, residen-
tial advisor-like figure, used it.
Although the school encour-
aged free thought and open-mind-
edness more than most Indian
educational institutions, India's
long tradition of color- and class-
based prejudices proved difficult
to shake. Fair-skinned students
were generally considered more
attractive, and I once witnessed
a fellow student using the words
"poor" and "black" as insults
directed at another student.
India's obsession with "fairness"
is- regrettably directed more at
striving for lighter skin than egali-
tarianism. The origins of India's
worship oflightskin are complicat-
ed, and while some cite the legacy
of colonialism, others argue that
the phenomenon has been a part
of Indian culture for hundreds of
years. In recent years, though, the
skin-tone issue has been fueled
by the global cosmetics industry,
which ruthlessly exploits the inse-
curities, misconceptions and preju-
dices of millions of Indians.
The Fair and Lovely website
proudly flashes the slogan, "Guar-
anteed Fairness. Guaranteed
Fame." A 2003 Women's E-News
report details that Fair and Love-
ly's marketing spans more than 38

problems that a dark-skinned
woman might face when trying
to find romance to a message that
lighter skin enables women to
obtain jobs conventionally held
by men. It also reports that 60 to
65 percent of Indian women use
these products daily. According
to research by the Euromonitor
International, skincare is now
a $318-million -market in India,
having grown by more than 42
percent since 2001.
A potentially dangerous conse-
quence of this increase in use, as
the Times points out, is that light-
ening products can damage the
skin ifoverused. This is particularly
true if the products contain hydro-
quinone, a compound that reduces
melanin, but can leave permanent
dark spots if used excessively.
But the Fair and Lovely phe-
nomenon is only one example of
the cosmetic industry's irrespon-
sibility. A strong case has been
made that even India's multiple
successes in global beauty pag-
eants - with, for instance, light-
skinned Indians winning Miss
World and Miss Universe com-
petitions - are driven by the cos-
metic industry's marketing goals.
In America too, consumers are
not immune from such pressures.
I have always found the L'Oreal
"Because You're Worth It" adboth-
ersome. Perhaps the ad campaign
can be seen as empowering, with its
implication that every woman has
the right to look her best. But I see
it as a blatantly unethical attempt
to induce consumers to buy unnec-
essary products. Being "worth it"
and buying L'Oreal products have
nothing important in common.
Perhaps there will be no lasting

"I now believe that if gay men and
lesbians served openly in the Unit-
ed States military, they would not
undermine the efficacy ofour armed
forces."
- John Shalikashvili
n a January piece for The New
York Times editorial page,
John Shalikashvili, chair-
man of the
Joint Chiefs
of Staff from The military
1993 to 1997 has a long way
and former to go before it
supporter of .
the "Don't is equal.
Ask, Don't
Tell" policy, came out in favor of
allowing openlygay people to serve
in the U.S. military. This would be
an enormously beneficial and nec-
essary shift in policy that America
should not hesitate to take.
Established in 1993, the "Don't
Ask, Don't Tell" policy allows gay
people to serve in the military
only if they keep their sexuality a
secret. Military personnel cannot
ask another service member about
his or her sexuality, and anyone
who is openly gay is discharged.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a step up
from "No gays, period," but it's still
far from perfect. "Don't Ask, Don't
Tell" was implemented to prevent
tension and bullying while pre-
serving troop unity and effective-
ness. But really, it has just proved
backward, detrimental and dis-
criminatory.
Perhaps it has taken America
longer to recognize gay rights

because we perceive gay culture as
a new phenomenon, even though
anyone slightly familiar with any
piece of ancient Greek literature
knows there is absolutely nothing
new about homosexuality. Think
of it this way: If you substituted
"women" or "black people" for
"gay people" in the above quota-
tion, most people would find Sha-
likashvili's statement absolutely
abhorrent. Maybe this is because
most people either lived through or
learned about the civil rights move-
ment for minorities and women,
and we are more accustomed to
those types of equality.
However you justify it, dis-
crimination by any name is still
discrimination. We cringe at the
idea of racial, religious or gender-
based prejudice, but how are those
any different than prejudice based
on sexuality? Why is America, a
country that prides itself on per-
sonal freedoms and diversity, still
clinging to needless discrimina-
tory policy?
According to a recent CBS poll,
76 percent of Americans surveyed
believe the war in Iraq is going
badly. Despite these dismal rat-
ings, more troops are still being
sent to Iraq, and, quite frankly, the
military should take anyone who is
willing to fight. Whether they are
openly gay, straight or bisexual, the
military is in no position to turn
away people who want and are able
to serve.
Sadly, more than 11,000 service
members have been discharged
under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Seven hundred and twenty six of
those were dismissed in 2005. To
add to the absurdity, about 800 of
the discharged service members
had critically important abilities,
including 55 who were proficient in
Arabic. When trying to bring order
to a chaotic battle, it is counterpro-
ductive to dismiss people with rare
and critical skills because of intol-
erant ideology at home.
About 24 countries cur-
rently allow openly gay and
lesbian soldiers to serve in the mil-
itary, including Israel and Britain.
Despite its original concerns, Brit-
ain has found that most of its fears
about openly homosexual soldiers
have not come to fruition. Now
the Royal Navy has even allowed
gay sailors to participate in civil
partnership ceremonies onboard
ships.
The land of the free obviously
has some catching up to do when
it comes to personal freedoms. A
recent Zogby poll of more than 500
service members returning from
Iraq and Afghanistan found that
75 percent were comfortable work-
ing with gay people. It appears our
troops are ready to move toward a
more open policy, but the fears of
an overly conservative administra-
tion are holding things back.
If we truly want to support our
troops, we should support not just
the sacrifices they make and the
work they do, but the people they
are as well.
Rachel Wagner can be reached
at rachwag@umich.edu.

TRAVIS SCHAU

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itries. The ads typically show solution without a change in atti-
epressed woman finding a tudes toward beauty and what it
riend or getting a job thanks means. But even while consumer
ie newfound beauty that the demand shows no sign of dissipat-
uct gives her. On its website ing, companies that peddle hope
company calls it "the miracle and a better future on the backs
ker." of false promises should be made
'omen's E-News pointed out to live up to their obligations. Any
other American and Euro- dubious claims or public health
companies eagerly seized hazardsshouldbevigorouslypros-
marketing opportunity too. ecuted, with better government
ds such as L'Oreal, Lancome, regulation needed at the outset.
Saint-Laurent, Clinique, Unilever's Malaysia website
e Lauder and Revlon rushed to claims that, "We aim to make aWA
g whitening products to India. positive impact ... through our
equently, the Delhi-based brands ... and through the various
er for Advocacy and Research other ways in which we engage
sed the industry of "unfair with society." Unethical advertis-
e practices" and "using a social ing and preying on human weak-
na to sell their products." nesses do not help this goal.
he New York Times reported
Fair and Lovely has changed Devadatta Gandhi can be
advertising focus from the reached at debu@umich.edu. \
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