It Is Time Media, Especially Advertisements Own Their Responsibility In Promoting Patriarchy

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Media and ads promoting patriarchy is seriously undermining gender equality by pandering mainly to the male gaze and objectifying women.

Late for a meeting, I was frantically looking for a rickshaw. The fourth rickshaw fella I asked said a YES. As I entered his rickshaw, I saw a small torn poster – ‘Space for 3 IDIOTS’. His meter box cover read — ‘ONGO Accepted’. On my way, I saw huge billboards of Ranveer Singh promoting a mobile. In my office building, the space between the elevators were used for advertisements. This week it was booked by a realty estate and an online company providing all local services. I mentally noted the name of the company as I was looking for a handyman for my household errands. I was buying medicine and the chemist packed my medicine in a bag of an online food delivery company called ‘BOX8’.

In our day to day life we are bombarded with a variety of advertisements either subtly or directly. Paper, billboards and TV are not the only medium of advertisements. The online world has opened multiple avenues of advertisements, and these, or media in general subconsciously plays with our mind. One might not accept, but these do influence our choices, lifestyle and habits.

So bottom line is, we register ads all around us, even unconsciously, and these can affect to a large extent how we think.

I read an article once, which said that the world of advertisements put forth a world where looking good, smelling good, having a car, going on expensive holidays are the parameters of happiness. They define what we need to be happy. They block our own vision of happiness and put up their own product as the ladder to a good life.

Over the years, media has played an important role in promoting patriarchy too.

I came across this podcast – When Women Stopped Coding. It traces the root cause of the declining number of females in computers in the 1980’s. Projecting computers as an all men domain being one of the main causes of the declining interest.

This Ted Talk Bring on the Female SuperHeroes, by Christopher Bell (A media Studies Scholar) explains the role of media in creating gender based toys. Marketing dolls for girls and superheroes for boys. He goes on to explain how there is no lack of female superwomen but there is no merchandize available for the same. How media conglomerates are trying to promote their thoughts and opinions on public.

Closer home, we are bombarded with the daily soaps where the notion of an ideal women (mother, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law) is portrayed as someone who is obedient, sacrificing, homely. On the other hand, though, advertisements use women’s sexuality to promote their products.

Advertisements promote how looking fair boosts confidence and guarantee you a job (Your qualification doesn’t matter). They show that women fall for men who smell good or ride bikes (Compatibility doesn’t matter). Some of the daily soaps and advertisements are ridiculously biased in their depiction of women as dumb, scheming or totally selfless.

Patriarchy is so deeply rooted that even to promote sanitation the ad says- “Daughters and Daughters-in-law shouldn’t go outside, build a toilet inside your house”. As if other women do not matter. Read about it here.

To be fair, there have been some pathbreaking advertisements (I can’t say same about the daily soaps, I feel their level is stooping low day by day). However, these advertisements have been few and far (I am not a Kitchen ApplianceRakshaBandhanWorking-Women-New-Ad).

There is an act IRWA (Indecent Representation of Women Act)- An Act to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

But is it really doing anything about all this? That is the question to find an answer to. The fight for gender equality has many demons. The act only targets one of them. With the fight gaining momentum due to increased awareness, it the right time for corporate and media to analyse their marketing strategy.

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