We talk about etiquette, manners, tact, sensitivity and the right thing to do till our head hurts. Yet, our mass media does not comply with any of the above. It suddenly seems like the advertisement industry has decided to fuck with Indian minds just because they can. They said, “Screw it, we’re gonna be politically incorrect in the grossest manner. We are gonna make fun of serious things so that the serious things look not so serious to the uninitiated and well, maybe sell the product in between. Oh wait, product yeah, how do we fit that into a narrative we have in mind?” True story.
Be it with the Tanishq ad that says ‘Jewelry that makes you want to marry’ or one where earrings empower a woman or the Nando’s print ad that objectifies women without even having to mention them (Good jobs guys. Much witty. So fun), the ad industry has learnt a new trick, “Piss off feminists to sell products”. Not just in the feminist space, in a protest, debate space too, ads are rushing in to leave their imprint on people’s minds. In mine it left a giant headache behind. The recent Yatra ad went one step further and mocked an important student movement by mocking Kanhaiya Kumar and the still ongoing student and academic movement against unfair usage of power and silencing dissent. The ad features a guy who looks uncannily like Kanhaiya Kumar, who starts a rhetoric in public and asks for azaadi to choose his window seat when he is denied one by the airport official. I slow clap my amusement to the ‘creative’ person who came up with the brilliance that this ad is. To you, I tip my hat. Market a travel site by making fun of a movement. Market a travel site by mockingly insulting a student leader and his articulation. Market a travel site by making protests a thing of mockery, because, why not, right? If any of these things seem wrong to you, welcome to my hell, please have a seat, it’s gonna be a long ride.
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The other ad that was way too pointless as it does not relate to the product, was the recent Havell’s ad which showcased anti-reservation sentiments while trying to sell a fan. Yes, a fan, a ceiling fan to be precise. It was in bad taste and caste apologetic while still trying to sell you something you barely look at. This required a special kind of creativity and I tip my hat to the adman here too. Talking of things that totally make no sense, how about that super awesome OLX ad huh? The woman waits for hubby to pick her up, hubby doesn’t show up, woman says she was more independent before marriage, hubby sells car to buy two small cars to empower wife. It made the feminist in me cringe. So many things wrong with the narrative while all the poor adman was trying to do was market a second hand products e-store. Why couldn’t the woman take a cab? Why didn’t the hubby send a text sooner to let his wife know he was gonna be late? Why did the man have to buy her a car? Have they heard of public transport? Was this really empowering? Well, what do I know, I’m a feminist. We burn bras and criticize people. We also eat chauvinist babies and drink sexist blood. Us man hating lesbians I tell you!
Are you beginning to see the awful pattern here? Increasingly, ads are taking up real issues as their subjects and screwing them up so that it conveys a completely different message. All in the name of faux empowerment. Why only ads though? Have you checked out the new TVF web series Girliyappa? Their first episode was the bomb I tell you. It is titled ‘Why Should Hot Girls Have All The Fun’ and takes a stance on harassment. The stance I think is that guys should stare at non-hot women too because…feminism. The episode shows a ‘hot girl’ drinking green tea and taking food photos while the ‘fat one’ and the ‘rough one’ eats a lot of carbs and just are peppy. The ‘hot one’ says that a creep is looking at her and it’s so annoying so the other two go up to him and asks him why he is staring at the hot one and not at them. Yes, why not? Why not make harassment fun by claiming the right to be harassed?
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They even say that the hot girl the guy was leching at is a ‘LG Flatron TV’ and that it’s all dhoka in her bra. Applause What a satire sirjee! Yes. Girliyappa claims it’s a satire, because…feminism. So, while validating harassment, they are finally given what they want, and a creep leches at them too. Yay! I love happy endings. The episode made every feminist bone in my body ache. There is no justification for harassment, and yes staring at someone with open mouth and a titillated brain is harassment. It’s not a compliment. It’s not to be joked about. It definitely isn’t about who a guy leches at. It’s the fact that he is leching at a woman and that is not okay. But then again, we feminist gals tend to dissect everything and we feminazis ruin all the jokes. Maybe I’m on my period.
The ad space has immense influence and reaches millions of people on a daily basis. What these ads do is validate a pattern of behaviour, a mindset, a narrative that is harming important movements. When a channel that reaches so many people decides to mock a fight or empower people while taking away their agency, it is worrisome. More and more ads are trying to hop on the feminist train and show how progressive India is, how progressive the brand is. What’s more is that people are eating it up. They fail to see the holes in the narrative. They fail to see why faux empowerment is putting more false ideas in people’s heads than actually selling products. Be it vogue with their #MyChoice campaign or the innumerable ads that show women in traditional gender roles only slightly modified to suit the product’s needs, it is a display of desperation in creativity. C’mmon admen, you can sell a product even without taking up a feminist agenda. Go on. Try.
Also read: 17 Ways Popular Media Like Television & Cinema Could Be More Gender-Sensitive