Conditioning is for hair, not minds
A new series in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman
Under the 4th instalment of the Conditioning is for Hair, Not Minds, my series in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman, I am taking up yet another commercial rife with regressive clichés about Indian women and their “place”. This one, a part of Mother Dairy’s “Ma Jaisi Koi Nahin” campaign almost made me barf harder than a glass of sour milk. Watch the ad here (and try not to cringe, I dare you).
It begins with a woman nervously watching her office-returned husband relish the delectable dinner she prepared for him. He compliments her cooking (“Pulao bohot badiya bani hai!”), and sensing that the time is right, she confesses to breaking his trophy (catch the sad pun-play here, for you’ll see how she is presented as not much more than a trophy herself) while doing the dusting earlier in the day. He suddenly looks like he’s going to choke on the badiya pulao, and yells- “Haven’t I told you a thousand times never to touch my things? Why don’t you ever listen? Don’t I always stay away from yours? So why did you touch it?” She whispers a meek apology; he scoffs derisively, pushes his plate aside and walks away. Serious douchebag alert here. I have to say, either the actor who plays this is an actual asshole in real life, or he deserves an Oscar already. That was as real a jerk impression as I have seen, and oh, I have seen quite a few!
Meanwhile, here is the plot twist. There was one coming from a mile away. The son has been hiding behind a door and has witnessed this entire episode through a small crack. The mother then walks up to him and gently (because sanskari Indian women can never get angry, not towards their boys anyway, duh!) asks him never to play cricket in the house again. He nods and says sorry. She walks away and cleans the plate of food her husband abandoned.
To end this abomination, a male narrator (because evidently only men can explain things to us) spews some tripe about the sacrificial and giving nature of mothers, asking us to drink Mother Dairy milk so we can be healthy and take care of our moms. Oh sorry, not all of us! He’s only talking to sons, because from what I make of Mother Dairy’s campaign, no matter how much milk daughters drink, we’ll never be big and strong enough for the job. We’ll always be limited to being the demure, submissive, pulao cooking wife who sits quietly as her obnoxious husband (who by the way she could do so much better than, the woman is an absolute hottie!) berates her over a lifeless object. Sigh! I suppose there are some things even Mother Dairy’s milk can’t do!
This led me to wonder what milk brands have against women…Amul tells us that “girls” toys aren’t good enough for boys, and Mother Dairy is telling us (among other things), that a mother will take the fall for her son’s mistakes, because, you guessed it, “boys will be boys”! Also, apparently, little girls are only good for ads about hair oil and shampoo.
Great job, Mother Dairy, really. In a matter of a minute and 16 seconds, you have managed to convey, firstly, that a husband flipping out and yelling at his wife is a totally normal and acceptable part of a marriage. Secondly, you’re telling us that it’s women who need to be cared for all their lives, by their fathers, sons and husbands (didn’t expect Ogilvy and Mather to be taking inspiration from Manusmriti .i.e. the manual on misogyny) Finally, you’re telling us that boys don’t need to take responsibility for their actions, because their mothers are simpering, subservient beings who will take the fall for anything that goes wrong with the world (and we wonder why men don’t “respect” women). Face, meet palm.
This campaign was conceptualized to “pay tribute to the mothers of the country” (though it seems to imply only Hindu upper caste mothers, but I digress. Maybe that’s a topic of another post, another time). However, the sad part is, I didn’t see a tribute at all. I saw a commercial where a little boy watched his father shout at his mother. He will thus grow up believing he doesn’t have to be accountable for his actions. He will grow up believing that a woman’s place is in the home- and worse, the little boy who was powerless in front of his father, hiding behind a door because he was too afraid to confess his mistake-will in all probability grow up to treat his wife/ partner the same way.
So yeah, screw you Mother Dairy and the people who served up this piece of regressive bullshit. Maybe, come out with a milk packaging that does not contain added flavours of misogyny.