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The #ToughMom advertisement peddles regressive ideas under the veneer of a progressive tagline. Here are 6 grave problems that I had with this ad.
In recent times advertisements have moved from merely promoting products to reaching out to us on an emotional, mature level, either through humour or social awareness. Most of the times such ads strike the right chord and then comes along an ad that leaves me wondering “What on earth were they thinking!?”
On February 21, 2018, All Out came up with an ad with the hashtag – #StandByToughMoms because it’s good to be tough. The bio regarding the ad mentions on YouTube– “A tough mom protects her children at any cost, even when it comes to facing criticism from her own family. And so does All Out by keeping her family safe from mosquitoes. All Out proudly stands by her, because when a mother is being tough, she is protecting the next generation.”
Surprisingly, this one is directed by Shoojit Sircar. The same director who made ‘Piku’ showcasing a woman, Deepika Padukone, as a strong, independent woman.
The ad seems so wrong on various levels and thankfully when I read the comment thread on Facebook I was glad to see men and women alike talking of how regressive the ad seemed to them as well and the hashtag being just plain ironic. However the same video on YouTube has the comments disabled by All Out India.
The 3 minute 38 second video opens to the scene of two women serving dinner to the family while the rest are seated and getting ready to eat.
Are we still going to show archaic images of women serving a family at dinner? How about showing everyone sitting together and serving themselves? Do we still need to show women waiting on the elders, husbands and children hand on foot? The first few seconds of the video show something so cringe worthy that it left me wondering whether the ad changes this perspective soon. Sadly I was wrong.
A young child is served dinner however pushes the plate away not once but twice. While the family looks on at this behaviour without saying a word, the mother picks up his plate and keeps it away.
And then it goes downhill and how!
One of the elder women, perhaps the mother in law, calls her out by saying that why did she have to punish the child for something so trivial. Another relative, a man, seconds this lady. Apparently, as another lady chimes in, it’s just 10 rupees he took from the purse. Not like he stole from the neighbours. And the ultimate slap in the face, as I see it, the husband telling her that the money stolen is his after all – being the breadwinner. “Not like he stole your father’s money”, he tell his wife.
Are we condoning this language and message now? So while other children in the family watch this unfold, is this how we would talk in front of them? Is this actually an acceptable family dinner situation that it was considered even halfway ‘normal’ to be highlighted in the video? How can we talk of a ‘tough mom’ when she is serving dinner while the family sits like royalty and she is demeaned and spoken to rudely by everyone? The husband till date considers money as ‘his’?? So a housewife aka tough mom is basically worthless as per the ad because it’s not her money so why make a fuss, right?
Words spewed by another elder woman – “She’s from a low level family. Uncultured. Haven’t your parents taught you anything?” By this time for sure my blood was boiling. Is this ad for real?
Are we not realising the message we are giving out when she depict women in this manner? When we are daily and constantly fighting for women to support each other and raise each other up, we show this? Talk about teaching the children how women are treated. Talk about the message the young boy receives when he sees his mother take this abuse silently and learning how a father talks to his wife. Parenting at its worst.
Do we need to shame a child in front of everyone? Why can’t we praise openly and criticise in private? This is why children in severe situations do not speak out. As the underlying theme in families in the name of parenting is to SHAME. We don’t talk. We don’t listen to the child. Or guide about consequences. We instead choose to comment, degrade, insult and use guilt as a side dish.
Some people might not agree to the above and think that the video shows a ‘tough’ mom who is listening silently to all this and thus teaching her child ‘tolerance’ and not to speak up in front of elders. Which brings me to the next point.
Yes let’s show a women silent and tolerating all this. Because after all that’s what we aim at, right? We allow rape culture because we force women into silence. We encourage sexual harassment as women should not speak of this. We allow domestic abuse as that is a woman’s role to ‘take it’. We allow emotional trauma because women do not have a right to express it. In a time and age where we have ordinary women as role models talk about the power of speaking up for themselves and the future generation, this ad is so regressive that it seems to downplay everything women have been fighting for, daily.
Patriarchy in all its glory! It may seem like a ray of hope to see the father in law supporting the mother’s decision however it is cleverly concealed in yet another aspect. Why is it that only when he spoke did others finally keep quiet? Why is it only his voice and support that counted for something? Why did the other women have to be shown in roles as villains in the family? Why must it be a man who had to metaphorically pat the daughter in law on the back? Is it only his ‘approval’ that matters?
The mother breathes a sigh of relief and the caption says – “When you see a mother being tough stand by her”. Fair enough. But can we not show this tough mother as a mute being? It may be intended to show that silence speaks volumes which it does indeed but not in situations like these for sure.
“When you stand by a tough mom you help her protect the next generation” Indeed. Why does she have to find an ally in the family? Are the rest enemies of the next generation? Is it only upon her, that the burden lies to raise the next generation? What about the cutting remarks that we throw at her and have the children listen in on? What good are we creating from that?
So, Dear Mr. Sircar, from a movie buff who loved Piku and considers it one of her favourite films, I am extremely disappointed by your association with directing this ad.
A tough mom need not be silent. It’s her voice that can move mountains. It’s her silence too that can change the course of a life.
Please do not confuse silence with toughness. She is not a punching bag. She is not a waiter. She is not uncultured. She is a mother. She is tough for the mere fact that she is born a woman in this world.
No wonder we as a country stand confused when it comes to what we mean by equality / feminism.
Let’s stand by woman and give them a voice please. Please don’t shun them into silence. It’s high time!
Image Source: YouTube