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Indian Patriarchy League? How you missed the sexism in some of the ads aired during this IPL

Binjal Shah
4th May 2016
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The downside of being educated on sexism is that you start to realise how ubiquitous it is – and you start to notice it in everything. When that happens, you want to point it out. When you point it out, you receive confrontation, as most people don’t quite see it yet. This set of ads is of precisely that ambiguous nature – picked to highlight subliminal sexism, and subtle reinforcement of stereotypes, biases and preconceived notions. These, however, will have a snowball effect because they are being administered to us in toxic doses, during the IPL, which is equal parts advertisement and gameplay.

These are, by no means, the worst ads of the bulk that is being broadcasted at large. However, these illustrate a very specific and pertinent question that ad filmmakers and filmmakers in general grapple with, while formulating the scripts of their films – the chicken-and-egg dilemma of whether the media mirrors society or the society mirrors the media, and upon whom does the onus lie to break free from the cycle and act responsibly.

OPPO

OPPO, ‘Bright and Beautiful’:

What a sad state it was, that I started my day with Radhika Apte’s video for Unblushed that told me my gloriously imperfect body was beautiful, and ended it with arguably the most irksomely jarring jingle at this year’s IPL – the Oppo ad that feels that they would change a thing or two on Sonam Kapoor’s fine face, if they had the chance to do so. What is this impossible standard of beauty that even the darling of Indian shutterbugs could not measure upto?

Then again, India is a contradictory society, and has people living both a hundred years ahead and behind time, all at once. On the one hand, we have a dark-skinned citizen painting herself kohl-black and walking about confidently in public, as a plea to normalise our natural Indian skin tone, and on the other, this mobile company decides to go down the Fair And Lovely road and further whitewash an already fair-skinned actress who was clearly already put on screen caked with one layer of foundation. That’s three layers of whitewashing, mind you.

The jingle suggests that you must be bright in order to be beautiful.

Capitalising on the vanity of our generation as well as cashing in on our insecurities; that’s advertising 101 for you. Not the kind of advertising we deserve – but the kind of advertising we are dished daily to deceptively keep us aspiring for things we don’t need.

At this point, I do not even want to waste my breath to the rookie mistake the ad made in bringing in knight in shining armour trope with Hrithik’s smug skedaddle into the frame, to “beautify” the selfie-clicking diva in distress.

Ziwame

Zivame, Salesman Bhaiyya Ki Favourite Bra:

Zivame – to me, it did not represent a startup as much as a movement. It had sound values that were administered to you not like a sermon, but like a whiff of fresh air after spending your life in a box, I had thought, when I first read about that 20-something workaholic building a business around a subject-that-must-not-be-named, telling a woman to fearlessly embrace her inner sexy, asking her to explore what she likes and what her companion likes, reasoning with her that she is not immoral to experiment, she is only human- rather, woman. The old Zivame was all about fighting that taboo, and rubbishing the insecurity.

Cut now to Zivame’s ad campaign for IPL that directly starts off with –“Kitna awkward hota hai na, market mein bra khareedna? (How awkward is it to buy a bra in the market?)”

We had a good run.

What happened to the messiah of lingerie, which erected an empire out of normalising the idea of indulgent lingerie as an ode to a woman’s inherent sexuality? This, in fact, goes against everything it stood for.

My contention with this ad is it is tugging at a woman’s insecurity just like most other ‘beauty’ or ‘fitness’ products, in order to promote itself. How is it different than a Fair & Lovely ad that tells you it is taboo to be dusky?

Log judgemental ho jaate hai yaar,” she informs those of you who perhaps never even felt a tad bit embarrassed about buying lingerie from a physical store, until now.

Some may argue that the ad is simply portraying the current state of affairs keeping their sorry condition intact – but since when have we started giving into prevalent norms and making alterations in our lives in order to work our way around these absurd notions?

If I were to draw a parallel- how is it different from a “well-wisher” asking women to stay indoors in order to avoid harassment?

Zivame’s intention is to convince people to adopt the online medium, but it should not resort to making buying bras, a necessity for an average woman, a taboo when done offline.

ZTata sky

Tata Sky, #PyaarJingalala At Dinner

Part of a series of ads that depict couples of various shapes and sizes in various lights, tempers and situations, this campaign is advertising Tata Sky’s value-added features that help strengthen a couple’s bond and foster love. Or, do they?

One of these ads depicts a young couple catching up over dinner after, presumably, long days at work. Over the usual small-talk that ensues over a meal, the wife makes a passing reference at how well their maid has cooked the pasta. As the husband echoes everything she says, she realises that the maid hadn’t shown up for work that day. As it dawns on her that the pasta was, in fact, painstakingly prepared by her dear husband, her eyes well up with love and widen in shock. A little too wide, if you ask me.

Turn the tables, literally, and would the wife get such an overwhelming response had she decided to lace up her gloves and cook dinner? Appreciation, sure. But shock, wonderment, rushes of affection – I wouldn’t go that far.

Had this scene been part of a larger piece of production – perhaps a film – and had it come and gone without much fanfare, it would have seemed progressive. But an ad film focusing entirely on the happening, with the smitten wide-eyed disbelief becoming the punch line of it – implies that it was an extraordinary event that would make for an entertaining and enthralling sketch because of its novelty. Would a woman cooking a meal get an ad dedicated to her?

Quoting one of our own HerStory campaigns – “It’s not ‘cute’ when a husband cooks, and it’s not “routine” when a wife does.” Sharing the load must go beyond the washing machine.

Many critics state that tropes used in advertising are not progressing at the same pace as real times. While it is still uncertain whether the chicken came first or the egg, it is up to you to decide which one needs to be bred first, for the other to grow up healthy, as well.

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