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bicyclewithoutafish

Fighting like a girl

Month

February 2016

Amazon, Women Can Shop for Themselves, and That’s Okay

Conditioning is for Hair, not Minds

A new series in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman

PART 7

Well, hello! Wow, what a week it has been! Students are protesting, nationalists are outraging, the Police is pulling a Modi and lawyers are doing a Salman Khan. While Salman Khan himself is still not in jail, but those who shouldn’t be, are. With all that going on, plus classes, assignments, a North Indian wedding and a rushed trip to Delhi (full of clandestine meetings and secret plans to take over the world) thrown in, it has taken me forever to come up with this post! But I promise you, I’ll make it worth the wait. So with that in mind, here’s the next edition of ‘Conditioning is for Hair, not Minds’ in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman

The ad I am taking up under the 8th instalment of the series is Amazon’s new groundbreaking (not) social experiment, titled “When a Woman Shops”. Check it out here.

The ad begins with a group of men, in a generic, posh, urban living room type area (?), talking about their wives’ shopping habits. One says, “If you wanna make her happy, you just say ‘let’s go shopping’, and her face glows!” Husband of the year award goes to you, sir! *slow clap* “Who shops for ten kurtas at a time? I don’t shop for that many shirts in a year!” exclaims another. Yup, that’s right; you don’t- because you haven’t been subjected to years of patriarchal, sexist conditioning that tells you your worth lies in the way you look.

They go on and on about how their wives are shopaholics, only shopping for clothes, make up and shoes (“we live in a 2BHK..one bedroom is full of her slippers”!), – but of course if a dudebro were to convert an entire room in his house to a video game den, or comic book library or a work-out zone, he would automatically become a hero in the male-realm. Incidentally, that is something that actually happens, while the room full of shoes is obviously an exaggeration. But it does say something about how you would react if a woman REALLY created a space in her house dedicated to something she enjoys collecting / using. Even though men doing it is not only acceptable, but revered.

Anyway, to make life easier for these miserable, sad men (catch the irony), Amazon gives their wives vouchers worth 5000 rupees to find out what women really shop for- are they actually selfish, self indulgent women who like buying stuff for themselves? Or are they the perfect Bharatiya Naaris who will put everybody else’s needs and wants before their own?
The couples then sit together, and the husbands go through all the shopping their wives have done – one man pulls a lipstick out of the box, the wife hurriedly snatches it from him saying “That’s just lipstick, but it’s okay, that’s just a small thing!” He then finds a new shirt that she bought for him. Phew, that was close – Goddess forbid a woman shop only for herself! Even if it’s just a “small thing” like lipstick!

One woman adds that you have to think about your husband and your kids while shopping (here’s the thing though – you don’t!). The next one says that since her husband is oh-so-busy with work, and she has so much time on her hands, she does his shopping for him (I’m just happy she doesn’t change his diapers for him too. Or maybe she does but they didn’t include that in the ad). The men then sheepishly admit that they were wrong. Women shop for their husbands too. Their wives are good women after all – they never put themselves first!

“Men think women love to shop….truth is, they shop to show love”, the commercial proudly proclaims, as I throw up a little in my mouth.
What’s even more incredible though is how Amazon’s definition of “women” didn’t include any single women. I guess we hardly even qualify as people if we don’t have husbands, huh?

Listen up, Amazon – women aren’t just wives – we are individuals with wants and desires, and we can shop for whatever the hell we want. We can be selfish and indulge ourselves. We can go shopping and come back home with bags full of clothes, shoes and make up. Hell, we can dedicate an entire room to our shoes and another one entirely to our bags and you don’t get to shame us for it! Maybe it makes me a bad woman in your archaic, sexist and regressive world, but what the hell; at least I have some great shoes!

 

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Kapil Sharma – We’re Tyred of Your Misogyny

 Conditioning is for Hair, not Minds

A new series in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman

PART 6

 

Hello again! The ad I am taking up under the 6th instalment of the “Conditioning is for Hair, Not Minds’ series in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman is by TVS tyres- watch it here and cringe once again at Indian TVs favourite misogynist, Kapil Sharma.

The commercial starts with Sharma offering a lift to a young man holding a bouquet of flowers, on his motorcycle. He’s late for a date it seems, and Sharma graciously offers to drop him. Sharma asks if this is his first girlfriend- the man replies saying she’s his 4th, and that the last two left him in five months. They reach their destination after a rather bumpy ride, and Sharma offers him this gem of advice- “Yeh date-late ka chakkar chhor, aur kisi ek pe tik ja”. When asked to explain, he says, girlfriends should be like TVS tyres, because “Bura waqt ho ya sahi, acchi sadak ho ya nahin, tikey rehte hai”.

I really shouldn’t expect anything better from a man who has made a living out of degrading pretty much any community that didn’t fall under Upper-Caste-Heterosexual-North-Indian-Male. Watching Comedy Nights with Kapil was a nightly ritual at my house- watching him mock “Pinky Bua” for being an unmarried woman in her 40s, who in turn tries to entice all male guests on the show into marrying her (What kind of respectable Indian woman stays unmarried after 25? The horror!). Watching him insult his “wife” because her lips are too big, her father is too poor (I call my wife ugly and demean her family, ha ha, hilarious!). Listening to him ask Hema Malini if her husband understands “South Indian” (I don’t know if that’s any better than being asked multiple times, as I have, if we speak “Madrasi”). I could go on and on- racist, casteist misogynistic jokes are always a plenty on Comedy Nights.

Thankfully my parents got tired of the show pretty soon-and I was hoping to get a brief reprieve from his “jokes” when I heard Comedy Nights was FINALLY going off air, but I guess that was too good to be true.

So according to Sharma, “bura waqt ho ya sahi”, women should stick by their boyfriends through thick and thin- because any woman who leaves a man out of her own free will is a bad woman- Bharatiya Naaris just don’t have that luxury! We can get mocked, humiliated, insulted and beaten- but we can’t walk out of a relationship, since we have to be “totally tikau” like TVS tyres!

Comparing women to objects is definitely not a new practice in advertising, but comparing a woman to a tyre…that’s something I’ve never seen before. Maybe there is a layer of metaphorical irony there considering how women in India are expected to be the wheels that run a man’s life smoothly while running themselves into the ground, eventually burning out. But, then what do I know? I obviously need to “lighten up” because it’s “just a joke”! Shouldn’t be such a killjoy, eh?

The Director of TVS tyres says that this ad is “ushering in a new era”, using Kapil Sharma’s “charm” (!) and “humour”. Someone needs to break it to him that the only thing that’s “new” here is the low that Indian advertising has hit with this commercial.

Oh, and one more thing. Kapil Sharma, your comedy sucks, dudebro. Just fade away into oblivion already. Sorry, not sorry.

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Dekh Dude, Apni Faux Empowerment, OLX Pe Bech De!

Conditioning is for hair, not minds

A new series in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman

PART 5

 

Hello again! I am back with another instalment of Conditioning is for Hair, Not Minds, a series in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman. It’s been an incredible few days or so for me, with a couple of renowned media outlets covering or mentioning this series. First, Huffpost India ran a story on The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman’s recent crowdsourced meme series (which, by the way, is the most brilliant concept you will see and something you should participate in for sure) and mentioned THIS blog-series as part of the story. Then, just a couple of days ago, the wonderful folks at Feminism in India featured two blog posts (on Whisper and Amul) from this series on their website! So yeah, you can say it’s been an exciting time for me and I want to take a moment to thank all my readers, as well as the people behind the SMIW page for the support. Incidentally, today’s post has been co-authored by Bruce Vain aka Feminist Batman of the SMIW! So without further ado, let’s get this bad girl on the road!

The ad we’re taking up today was suggested by SMIW reader Mrinalini Bakshi Sengupta – it’s a TV commercial for online classified service OLX and has been titled “Aadhe Tere Aadhe Mere”. Presumably a well-meaning effort, with an emphasis on empowerment through equal division of resources. But that’s where the equality takes form of (maybe) unintentional misogyny. I wanna come back to this bit at the end. For now, watch this example of empowerment-gone-wrong here.

The ad starts with Neetu waiting for her husband Nitin to drive her to work. Once he drops her, he says, “Shaam ko 6:30 bajey?” Neetu nods and enters her office. Cut to 6:30 pm, and Neetu gets a text from Nitin telling her that he’s going to be an hour late. At this point, I wonder why he had to wait till the precise time he was supposed to pick her up to let her know? Does have no sense of time? Does he know how to tell the time? Does he work a minute away from her office? If yes, then why can’t she walk to his office, get the car and drive home herself? Why does he get first dibs on the car anyway? Why can’t she drop him to work and keep the car with her? OMG! I NEED ANSWERS!

It gets worse though. After a little more time has passed, Neetu receives another text from Nitin saying he can’t make it, and that she should take a cab. Which, she obediently does. The next morning, poor Neetu tells her husband, “Pata hai Nitin..shaadi se pehle main zyada independent thi”( If someone kept me waiting for two hours and then asked me to take a cab, I think I’d have a LOT more to say than that, but then I’m just an angry feminist.).

Bad enough so far right? However, what happens next WILL BLOW YOUR MIND! Actually, it will leave you extremely underwhelmed. But isn’t that what all such click bait-ey headlines end up doing anyway? So yeah, Nitin decides to play the knight-in-shining armour and grants his damsel-in-distress her lost independence-by selling off his big fancy car, and buying two small ones! Marital problems solved! Oh the shenanigans! Cue eternal happiness music now. Oh wait, maybe get a barf bag first.

Okay, so this is where I was told I’m being overly critical / that I should just accept that Nitin is a nice guy who bought his wife a car. BUT here’s what people who’re telling me this are failing to see: a) Nitin took a major financial decision without consulting his partner. That’s not very ‘equal’ or ‘empowering’ b) Since he meant for it to be a “surprise” I am going to assume he got both the new cars registered in his name (unless, you know, he procured her ID and financial documents without her knowledge and forged her signature). So, more capital assets to Nitin. Yay! So you see, selling one car to buy two cars is not exactly a sacrifice for him. It’s merely reassignment of his own capital from one form to another. His sacrifice, if any, is that he will LET her drive one of his cars. OH BUT THAT IS A BIG SACRIFICE BECAUSE GENERIC WOMEN DRIVERS SEXIST JOKES! At this point, you could go on and tell me that maybe she was not financially able to buy a car on her own money. Ok, maybe, but so what? Did she ask him for a handout in the first place? She just said she was more independent before marriage. So, whether she could afford a car of not, she was managing just fine. So why can’t she do it now? Since when did independence imply owning a car? I can even live with the husband having dibs on the car because he owns it. But what kills me is why did she have to wait for him to tell her to take a cab anyway? Why, for the love of me, could she not just have texted back “It’s OK, I’ll take a cab. Maybe next time let me know a little ahead of time” or something, right at 6.30 when he first told her he’s running late? No, obviously not, because a good wife is one who is makes sacrifices in a marriage and WAITS for her husband till he tells her she can do otherwise. Oh good! I’m glad we clarified that!

I wonder why advertisers are so terrified of portraying real change. Would it kill them to maybe show the wife driving her husband to work? Or, show her participating in the financial decision to sell the current car and buy two new ones? Maybe make the down payment herself and if she does need him to help her out with money, offer to pay him back? Will that be so bad? Or is it so hard for us to think of a woman taking charge in any way whatsoever?

Now, here’s where I want to come back to the “(maybe) unintentional” bit. I’m seeing a trend of these seemingly “empowering” ads which go horribly wrong almost every time. You saw it with the Biba ad and you saw it with Whisper’s new campaign. The feeling I get is that the only reason these corporates make an effort to have any kind of misplaced inclusion in their communication is the need to cash in on the current “women empowerment race” in advertising. It’s almost like a mandate in the creative brief from the client to the ad agency which says (cue dreary middle aged male voice) “TVC must show women empowerment to make the brand seem progressive and appealing to urban women”. Well, if that’s really why they’re doing it, then maybe hire more women to be on and lead these teams. Maybe pay more emphasis on having people who understand gender and sociology on the teams. Really, just one such person per communication / brand team will go a LONG way in improving the quality of the advertising we see on a daily basis.

I hope someone who has a say in hiring at one of these corporate is reading this, because this half assed faux empowerment is getting really old. So OLX, maybe you should sell it on your own portal and upgrade to some real inclusion. And Nitin, thanks but no thanks, dudebro. You don’t need to save us. You can keep your big fancy car, because we can go to work, and come back, on our own.

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