Sometimes I wonder why. In Circa 2010 AD, when urban women have smashed every possible glass (and concrete) ceiling, and are at par with men on every single profession and activity, advertisers in India continue to project the modern woman as either a sex object or an obedient housewife. This was the case thirty years ago, and it’s pretty much still the case now, despite seismic changes in gender equality in the real-time world. Across advertising for all product categories you’ll notice this bias. The man is always the one shown enjoying a rocking, ambitious career and lifestyle while the woman is mainly seen doing householdy things, looking after the children, or gladly stripping for manly products.
Two recent campaigns come to the mind immediately. One, the continuing Axe commercials, which suggest that women are like rats that follow the man around as if he is the irresistible Mr Pied Piper of Hemlines (pardon the pun). Each time he uses the spray, they go crazy. The cricket-based commercials run during the IPL coverage were totally regressive. Women chase down fielders and bowlers and batsmen in hordes. And they fall all over these sods, unable to resist the so-called ‘Axe-effect’.
Then there’s the recent Tanishq commercial. This one suggests that the entire raison-de-etre of a woman’s existence is her ultimate marriage. No career, no goals, no ambitions. And yes, they don’t even care to depict a rural woman behaving thus (which itself would be sad). A modern, urban girl is featured wanting to get married ONLY so that she can get to adorn some glittering Tanishq jewels! Surely, this should be insulting to today’s women.
Which then brings me to two observations: No, no one has bat an eyelid. There are no protests, no road-shows. These ads haven’t been pulled up for showing women in a poor light, and no woman is complaining either. And that’s what makes me wonder. Could it be that the modern Indian woman doesn’t care for such an image being projected of her? Or worse, is she actually enjoying this regressive, medieval depiction? Also, marketers aren’t such fools as to be running such seemingly offensive creatives, unless they have an insight that Indian women mainly want sub-servience and shaadi in their dreary lives. And not much else. That, under the mask of equality, there lies a woman who refuses to evolve with the changing times. That, what is shown in our TV serials, is a true reflection of the Indian woman.
Quite frightening, if the above is true. And the silence from the feminists on such ads is deafening indeed.