Why are the feminists silent?
Anil Thakraney 14 May 2010

Women in Indian ads are depicted in a regressive, medieval way

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.

1 decade ago
What I mean is that some women assume that other women are only interested in going with traditional stereotypes....this is not the case....THEY may be a certain way, but it should be understood that all women aren't comfortable at all with the stereotype assigned to them
1 decade ago
OK, I'm going to be rude here - I don't like people (especially other women) who try to fit all women into the 'women only want one thing, no matter how successful she is' category....Speak for yourself, Sister!
hi waterslippers
can you elaborate this...?
1 decade ago
I dont agree with any of the comments made earlier, regarding the TanishQ ad Its not correct to say that All women want a big wedding, love parties, diamonds etc...
Many dont..in fact tons dont .... the PROBLEM HERE is this -
1. Theres already a stereotype that girls want a big wedding, that they are these sentimental, giggly creatures blah,blah. Many women (Myself included) arent like that so when it's presumed we are we get really irritated
2. Why does everyone think girls are obsessed with jewellery and clothes? sure they are nice, but really not so important in the greater scheme of things.
3. OK, I'm going to be rude here - I don't like people (especially other women) who try to fit all women into the 'women only want one thing, no matter how successful she is' category....Speak for yourself, Sister!
I mean i'm not anti marriage, anti jewellery or anything, but why do other women perpetuate the their own stereotype?
It's like we sabotage ourselves....So, now you know why we are silent....True feminism is dead....
amrita simon
1 decade ago
I liked the tanishq ad.It was a sweet,tongue-in-cheek look at there being a little girl inside every woman,one who can't resist beautiful jewelery, and is willing to consider marriage even, just so she can wear some on her wedding day.
Western sitcoms/chick flicks have also made cracks about women wanting to get married, just so they can have a wedding day,where they get to dress up and play princess. Almost every girl grows up dreaming of that one big day in her life,even the ambitious go getter type.
In fact try proposing marriage to a woman with the condition that there would be no wedding party,chances are she will back out.

The axe ad is just a silly over exaggerated promise to an avg guy, that he will become magically irresistible to all women by a spray! Hah! That is almost every guy's fantasy isn't it?being chased by hoards of women?

The ad I had found truly offending was an underwear ad where the woman is washing a man's underwear with a supposedly very turned on expression.I found that vulgar and demeaning.
Salil Khetani
1 decade ago
I agree with you on the Tanishq jewellery part which is regressive.

I disagree on the axe effect part because that on the contrary has the opposite effect. Showing emboldened women who are not afraid to flaunt their attraction for a man is a progressive rather than a regressive step.
1 decade ago
Dear anil,
it may sound away frm this topic but I think you should check out utv bindass tvc
is the link. I would love to read a view of yours upon this.
Why its so special?
I heard its being in-house produced by utv team and its verrrrrry appealing too.
However related to feminists silent about these ads I think Indian ad makers still can't think outta box, still stuck with 90s.
Saurabh Singhal
1 decade ago
Reply for Tanishq's Commercial, for rest of the ads you might be right:

Marriage is one of the most auspicious ocassion in any girl's life (esp.if she is an India - more so bcoz of the culture prevalent here, nothing otherwise) and we all know "beauty" is associated with "women" - be it internal and/or external. Marriage is the day when every bride looks most beautiful - more beautiful than anyone else there, she is supposed to be special. She wears the most special things and in india, "jewellery" is considered one of the forms of purity where comes these precious gems!

Its not about no career, no goals, no ambition- its about her nature. A guy will behave like a GUY only, u can't expect him to be too soft or flowery ! So is with a girl, no matter how career oriented she is , she would still like to do some stuff for her loved ones and ofcourse, fulfill her own sets of whims & wishes!

The girl in the advertisement is shown to be so SWEET, CHILDISH, and CUTE, that she is willing to THINK about marrying a guy if few of her whims are fulfilled.. M sure a guy will also think of marriage if he is bribed by his father for a rolls royce!

It is not ONLY, it could be anything.

You cant keep women and jewelery away for too long! No women can resist this temptation. She says that even after 25 yrs, he cannot understand a woman! So, true I must say!

I loved the ad for its simplistic and realistic portrayal. It is really tough for a woman to say no to jewels! Generally, all jewellery ads often consist of models clad in gold from head to toe and dancing to a jingle. This ad is strikingly different from the run-of-the-mill ones.
1 decade ago
Not sure why the title is about feminists' silence. Many individuals have spoken and are speaking out against such ads. Like in every other area, the vast majority of individuals are not activists who will actually do something about it. The focus should be on the regressive attitudes of advertisers.
Free Helpline
Legal Credit