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Pink Washing, Patronizing, Guilt Tripping Women… The New Marketing Strategy?

Glitter and pink are on the cards every time on a day for celebrating women, and pink washing and patronising is now women's empowerment.

Glitter and pink are on the cards every time on a day for celebrating women, and pink washing and patronising is now women’s empowerment.

We have got more exciting offers! The shopping madness is just beginning, make sure you have your wish-list all set to go! This International Women’s Day, we have something special for you!

*Valid on our Ladies’ Department and selected items only*

We all have come across such sale offers via emails, text messages, social media, or flyers on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day, Daughter’s Day, etc. Where brands want us- the women, to take a break from our busy schedule, shop, and let our hair down to have fun! Sounds like a good deal, but is it?

Pink Washing

The history of International Women’s Day is much more than brands quite literally ‘selling’ us empowerment and telling us how to spend that one specific day. International Women’s Day is a reminder of a long struggle for women’s rights in all spheres, which has now been patronized by marketing strategies by different brands.

Not only are these strategies of pink washing sexist, but also a reminder that rest of the days are not for women. These ads further confine the movement to sales and offers on fashion, clothes, etc. ignoring the serious issues and the battle that women have to fight on a daily basis.

They are the same brands that colour their logos rainbow and immediately change on 1st July. These brands do not waste their time to jump on the Pride Month bandwagon, again, by selling Pride through sales and offers, without acknowledging the struggle.

These brands do not really care about the community, because as they support Pride Month for the sake of their market, and at the same time support political figures who are anti-feminist/anti-LGBTQ+.

The brands are simply sabotaging the struggle and pink washing the movement, glorifying the struggles with make-up, fashion, and what not.

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Guilt tripping and green washing

There is so much competition in the market that new brands have further taken a step to shame menstruators for choosing ‘non-biodegradable’ menstrual products. Many brands are suddenly conscious about the environment, ignoring their own carbon-footprint and propagating the use of “biodegradable” menstrual products.

I am here not trying to dismiss any pro-environmental efforts, or glorify waste; however, there is more to the green-washing of menstrual products. The marketing strategies of brands target menstruators into using menstrual products that they might not be comfortable with for the sake of zero waste, but is it really zero waste? Not necessarily.

When a sanitary pad reads ‘biodegradable’, it means it will eventually degrade and become CO2, water and other organic matter, but we do not have an assigned duration. It can take 5 days, 5 months, 5 years or even 500 years, who knows. The word ‘compostable’ on the other hand indicates that the process of composting should start within 180 days of disposal. Therefore, the term ‘biodegradable’ in itself is misleading.

Now the question arises: are ‘biodegradable’ pads really worth the cost?

The answer is simple- No.

A volunteer at Green the Red tried composting used and unused pads and most of the ‘biodegradable’ pads had lumps while used. Personally speaking, ‘biodegradable’ pads are not for the heavy-bleeders as they will not soak all the blood no matter if it is an XL.

Health activist Komal Ramdey mentioned the cost difference between ‘biodegradable’ pads and ‘non-biodegradable’ pads. A pack of ten of the ‘biodegradable’ pads costs around Rs. 240, whereas a pack of 48XL ‘non-biodegradable’ pad costs Rs. 336. At such a cost difference, ‘non-biodegradable’ pads will make the cut.

Also, let us not forget that most of the ‘eco-friendly’ options are for the privileged. In a country like India where only approx. 12% menstruators have access to sanitary napkins, it is impossible for everyone to afford ‘biodegradable’ pads. Other alternatives like menstrual cups are again a very privileged option, that not only needs access to private/attached washroom, but also menstrual awareness and sex education, which is unavailable in even highly reputed educational institutions of urban India, forget about the ones in remote areas.

Cloth pads or reusable pads could be an option; however, Dr. Saroj Tucker suggests that just like any other pads, cloth pads also need to be changed within 6 hours or else it can cause infections. Changing cloth pads is not feasible; you cannot always have access to a washing/drying space when you are out.

There are plenty of ways that can help curb down waste, so why are menstruators targeted, why are their choices questioned?

It is simple, for the longest time menstrual products were taxed under luxury items, whereas these are absolutely essentials! Thus, it becomes easy to target luxury products. Though the 12% GST for luxury items has been removed from tampons and pads, it will take a lot to unlearn from what’s been conditioned.

We live in a patriarchal society that tends to avoid the struggle of the suppressed. In this case, menstruators (women and LGBTQ+ community) have been suppressed for so long that their struggles and choices have been ignored by the shenanigans of marketing strategy.

Published here first.

Image source: Canva

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About the Author

Ishita Roy

Ishita Roy graduated in History from Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi. Based in Delhi, Ishita is an aspiring social scientist, trying for feminist voices to be heard through the field of history and journalism. read more...

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