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Sexism in ads is everywhere, and it infiltrates minds in ways we can’t control. But as parents, we should begin at home, and keep the conversation with our kids ongoing if we are to beat it.
As a millennial adult, it feels great to have seen a gradation of changes in technology. Through our different stages of life till now, we’ve seen video games, dial-up Internet connections to ‘camera mobiles’. 3G transcended into 4G smartphones in the blink of an eye and here we are, awaiting the pinnacle of the 5G-IoT (Internet of Things) revolution to fully automate our surroundings, and even realize driver-less cars shortly.
But, for the sake of patriarchal convenience, two things will NEVER change – Indian advertisements and their toxic SEXISM.
Barring a handful of Indian advertisements, we have only the female model grappling with the greasy collars of her husbands’ shirts, and somebody dictating to her husband to get it brushed well from the “Missus”.
Because: I really wonder if all bachelors staying away from their ‘Mom-ly’ homes wear the recently invented self-cleaning hydrophobic clothes or can’t afford a machine. Or are they necessarily so affluent as to delegate the job to a laundromat on a daily basis. What is it about washing machines that married men can’t operate them?
A man dressed in a suit tells a woman to go with a better dish washing bar; but doesn’t even bother to show the difference between the brands’ washing.
By the way, there’s an ‘expert’ dishwashing bar ad that glorifies the poor homemaker who, for courtesy sake, isn’t termed a ‘slave’. She is shown cooking and reheating food round the clock that leaves her with a sink overflowing with the day’s dishes to wash. Her husband only frowns when she puts him off on being asked to join him for an ice-cream, but doesn’t care to help her quickly finish the task. And the brand calls it their proud initiative to “Use fewer number of utensils” so that “somebody” gets her share of personal time.
Because: The very sight of a man doing the dishes may prove fatal to the hearts of the Indian audience.
Equally absurd are the baby diaper ads, where almost none of them shows a troubled baby sleeping between the sleep-deprived parents. Well, in India, where co-sleeping is quite a norm until the child turns a tween, the father is usually as aware of the child’s sleeping habits, positions and patterns as the mother. In reality, a newborn baby is often seen as a threat to the parents’ sleep. And yet, we don’t have Indian advertisements showing a dad changing the diaper or even sharing his feedback on the brand.
Because: It’s part of the father’s duty to be completely oblivious of your children’s personal care and hygiene.
And then you have the same father (and note here, not the mother) to discuss finances and life insurance schemes with the grown up son to help him build his career or business. Coming to life insurance policy ads, with a few exceptions, it is usually always about getting the daughter married off with well-planned and managed expenses.
Because: As an influential emotional medium, of course ads need to cater to and reinforce the stereotype that as parents, your goal setting for the son has to be about his career and for the daughter, what could be bigger than marriage? And, of course, only Daddy can explain finances; what does poor Mommy stuck in the kitchen know?
Yeah, most of us have already moved on from paying any kind of attention to the ridiculous ‘fairness’ campaigns. I’m sure those who even wish to ‘lighten’ their ‘skin tone’ would simply use a foundation/concealer or even further, laser whitening today.
But then we have a soap brand that has always preached a daughter to look up to her mom not essentially for her unconditional love and kindness, but for her beauty standards! Lately, this ad has gone too far hailing the mom user of the brand as the ‘lucky charm’ for the other kids too who flock to catch her glimpse just before a school competition.
Because: I mean, seriously! Ditch your own mom’s good wishes, because her face doesn’t have the ‘glow’ that your friend’s ‘fair’ mom does. And skin-tone shaming should start early! Sarcasm Alert (By the way, it’s funny that I take caution in asterisking sarcasm 🙂 )
Insecurities Alert You see, sometimes, we don’t even consider growing beyond our skin tones or appearance. Do we?
So while some top-notch celebrities declined offers of endorsing fairness creams due to the rigged mindset behind such ads, they chose to up their game by removing the sexism part out of the fairness fetish and serving it up to the men too with equal amounts of cringe.
And if you’re already thinking that I’m digressing from my take on sexism here, why don’t we have Indian advertisements featuring the ‘handsomeness’ quotients of dads? I remember around 2 decades ago, I related quite a lot to an ad by a popular cooking oil brand that had “MY DADDY STRONGEST” as its slogan.
We all know that an advertisement needs to imbibe exaggeration as the main ingredient, and in that context, the slogan made perfect sense to project the cooking oil as the reason behind your father’s fitness. I remember cheering as a kid for my Dad during any sports competition being proud of his athletic past and his physically active way of living.
Decades later, we see lesser number of such ads, and only the concentration of sexism increasing to ridiculous levels.
We don’t have car ads showing a female driver or car owner. But she may always be present to lust after the man who owns and drives that car. Indian advertisements for deodorants and body sprays are another sexist genre, where objectification is always the USP, irrespective of how nauseating the fragrance is!
Then we have a ‘Oh-so-cute-he’s-a-jealous-husband’ adjusting his wife’s mangalsutra to assert the fallacy around the ornament, that she’s taken, rather, she’s his property. So, besides happily commemorating and cherishing your beautiful wedding moment, a mangalsutra is wrongly associated with the ‘ownership’ of a wife. And what can we say, it’s a well known brand reinforcing the patriarchal idea with its ‘cute’ sexism.
Let alone these, we have an instant noodles ad that has a teenage boy cooking different versions of the noodles, two of which are mild and hot & spicy versions for two different female friends, subtly hinting at their hotness quotient.
But from all other Indian advertisements, the one that takes the cake home is the ad that clearly tells you that no matter how career-oriented a married woman you are, the ONLY way to win your frustrated husband’s mood and approval is by getting home fast and cooking a sumptuous and elaborate dinner for him. And show it to him on a video call. If you don’t even do that, your relationship may hit the rocks out of regular frustration.
Of course, I love cooking and seeing my family enjoy my food. Many women like me enjoy to cook. But when you show these on a relatively potent media, it starts conditioning young minds (like those of your kids) that these are the standards a woman and man have to ideally live by. That chores and household tasks are reserved for womens. And there goes gender equality for a lame toss!
Therefore, it’d be a great thing to productively discuss with your children about what’s wrong with such media in terms of reinstating gender stereotypes. Bollywood has been blatantly promoting sexism with its raunchy songs shouting,“Oh come on, she’s always asking for it!” And we need to debunk the mirage of sexism to our kids that these ads and movies serve hot to them every single day.
What have been your thoughts on shattering gender stereotypes for your kids? I’d love to know in your comments.
Published here earlier.
Image source: YouTube
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