[3 May 2010]
Many of the IPL’s leaders of fanatic glee and cheer hail from Australia. Would it be immodest or perhaps ill-advised for Indian women to gyrate and shake in the nearly naked costumes of India Premier League’s cheerleaders? Whatever the take, it is, however, clear that with foreignness AND fair-skin on their sides, these white recruits easily circumvent the normal social sensibilities that keep the flesh trade in the shadows. Yet, just as the tightly bound bopping bosoms provide a well-needed respite from the seemingly endless cricket matches, one only need observe the commercial interventions in the telecasts of these games to see the underlying cause of what cultural critic bell hooks calls ‘worshipping at the mantle of whiteness’.
Sales of the famed skin bleach Fair and Lovely have been trumped in recent years by the introduction of Fair and Handsome, which tries to bring men out of the closet by rebranding the same product with masculine colored packaging instead of pink. Commercial breaks in cricket matches now show products such as Vaseline’s local line of body care products recently released a whitener that promises to match the corps with the already bleached face. “Fanta face / Coca Cola body,” says one old disco chime heard throughout West Africa where the skin-bleach phenomenon nearly rivals that of South Asia. The best, however, is Fela Kuti’s song “Yellow Fever”, which makes small work of mincing up the worship of whiteness to a darn funky beat.
Nonetheless, globalizing consumerism has accelerated the trend like a sticky pedal, as all sorts of Americanisms spread worldwide with local flavors. Star endorsements and proper packaging spells profits, by any means necessary. Yet, not to be outdone, the India Premier League importing white women to titillate the fans is a new high (or low) in the internalization of native inferiorisation. It celebrates native ugliness with Pom-Poms and glitter, fair feminine flesh set against glitz of this region’s favorite pastime. Few fans seem to peel away from their zeal. Fair and Handsome is one of the most widely selling skin creams on the planet according to many marketers. Hence, sitting in the stands, under cloak and cover from the sun’s darkening rays, fans in India can enjoy whiteness while their boys play ball. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.