Here are so many reasons to find the Fem bleach ad frustrating.
First off, it uses one of the oldest and most infamous tricks in the book of pop-culture tricks that everybody has grown tired of: queerness as a plot twist.
Expectation: “WOW, they are queer. Now that changes everything! 🤯”
Reality: That is not at all how queer people are behaving in their relationships. 🙄
Secondly, the bleach gives you itna nikhaar that it’s impossible to be mad at you, because you know, you’re queer. It makes up for the huge personal failure of being a woman-loving-woman. By encouraging such narratives, we are inadvertently creating space for plotlines that insidiously play on the systemically-fuelled insecurities of people with other historically-oppressed markers, not excluding brownness/blackness.
And finally, so many queer folx I know are exploring their truths and intimacies without the explicit and traditionally-sanctioned rituals of acceptance and pride-in-progeny passes from their parents and birth families. For some reason, while this couple is bizarrely flirting and prodding one another, there is an older person lingering around them while dropping hints about the queer nature of their relationship, and also dotingly guiding them through the ways of karva chauth – which, might I add, is a commemoration that many cis-het couples are themselves questioning. Humour my guileless curiosity, but how does one person giving up food and drink for a day benefit the other? Especially during these stressful times when so many of us have struggled to maintain nourishing and balanced relationships with food and routines around it? Seems like a cruel joke. How about other subtle languages of love? This ad was clearly in service of getting the brand to piggyback on the twin-hashtag trends of queerwashing and karva chauth, even if the 2 cultures are in stark contrast with each other.
Personally, this was a line of thinking that I questioned with the Bhima jewelery ad as well. Whenever I see a billboard of a femme person standing decked in gold, it invokes in my head nauseating imagery of subtle dowry practices and a show of caste privilege (in India, what speaks to generational wealth louder than jewelry?). As a person of transgender identity, this token of acceptance feels like a bribe, as if to say, play your chosen role faultlessly well so nobody suspects that you’re an imposter – and then maybe we can get on-board and play pretend with you.
Whereas the principle of intersectionality in feminism reminds us that oppression is systemic. The same chains that shackle us in the gender binary extend further down the room to shackle others to their locations of caste, colour, race, disability, and so much more.
While the bar for my expectations from capitalism and advertising hangs quite low, watching this ad made me realise that I don’t want my queer conscience to be tainted by staying silent on the continued production of the aspirational cultures of skin-lightness and misogynistic rituals.