Home Institution

Boston College

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

India: Public Health, Gender, and Community Action


This paper aims to study the fairness paradigm in India and how the media influences women’s perceptions of beauty. It aims to answer a main question: How does the media influence the cultural obsession with fairness and ultimately perpetuate a market for dysmorphic beauty ideals among women in India? The paper is structured to discuss three topics: How has fairness as a beauty ideal evolved? How does advertising and the film industry portray women? How do they influence young girls’ perceptions of beauty and self? While most studies have focused on college-educated, middle class women, this study focuses on women from two conservative and low income communities in Mumbai. Information from secondary literature and media is combined with data from four focus group interviews. The study revealed certain gaps in young women’s understanding of why fair skin is considered beautiful in Indian society. It also illuminated the influence of advertisements and celebrities on fairness cream use and perceptions of beauty standards in India. This paper reveals the normalization of fairness creams among this population of women as well as their community’s attitudes towards female beauty.


Advertising and Promotion Management | Asian Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Women's Studies


Article Location