After seeing 30 seconds of Officer’s Choice Blue’s new advertisement, I feel, it definitely is a product of the ‘side effects’ of a terrible hangover.
Now, I understand that the makers of this ad of this particular brand- Officer’s Choice Blue, had an intention to promote their recent campaign – “RAISE YOUR VOICE FOR WOMEN”. But, I’m disturbed by the nature and content of this ad especially in the name of “standing up for women’s rights.” After all, It’s a “man’s drink” for many, hence, I understand their necessity to come up with such a script.
It shows a woman seated in a compartment of a local train concerned about her safety as she looks at a group of “not-very-trustable-men” who are laughing and talking amongst themselves. She passively looks around for help while spotting a “well-dressed” and “good looking” man seated on the other side of the aisle. As she sighs with relief, trouble dawns over princess’s paradise as this only ray of hope she had, exits the compartment leaving her confused and tormented. Then, Ta-da, he returns to the compartment from the other door. This time he stands near “the men” and saves her day.
OFFICER’S CHOICE BLUE:- Because consumption of alcohol makes you classy and courageous.
How ignorant are we, to not notice the classism in this advertisement? How are we tolerating the portrayal of visibly well-dressed man from an upper middle class background to be trustworthy and men from not so well to do backgrounds to be worthy of doubt? We are branding people based on their clothes, appearances and class every day of our lives which is absolutely detrimental to any form of social cohesion in our society. This is the reason why a well-dressed, well-educated and well-paid man like R.K Pachauri gets away with any shaming related to his sexual harassment case. This is also why many cases relating to child sexual abuse within the family, isn’t even reported, because the suspect is “too nice” or “too decent” to even commit such an act.
Having travelled through public transport all my life, I very well aware of the sense of fear, the uncomfortable atmosphere, a feeling of helplessness and restlessness in such situations. None of these things are alien to us. Aren’t we all accustomed to those stares at nights which shout the words: “You shouldn’t be here at this time?” Don’t we all picture the back up options in our heads in case something happens? I’ve carried stones in my hand just to go to the kirana store outside my house at 9 PM. This happens all the time and is a constant problem. But, I wonder, what is the most logical solution to this?
We live in a society that puts the onus of safety on the women. “She shouldn’t have gone so late” or “She shouldn’t have worn that skirt” are some of the common excuses given to avoid tackling the real problem. There is negligible talk about how better mechanisms adopted by the state, law enforcement and active participation and control by each and every citizen can ensure safer spaces. There is a fine line between mitigating factor and finding the easiest way to solve a problem, I’m afraid to say, shutting the hostel doors at 6PM falls in the latter.
The major problem I have with the video is their sexist portrayal of the woman and the respective knight in shining armour who couldn’t care less about the her safety if not the guarantee of a “salute”. Not only does this show a regressive mentality of how women should be in constant need of help but also puts an unwarranted and unnecessary role for a man to save the day. This isn’t standing up, this is heroism uncalled for. I was deeply saddened by the content of this advertisement. Not only because it trivialises the situation but most importantly because it aggravates the already existing patriarchal structure prevalent in our society.
Men should contribute to ensuring the safe spaces for women by calling out other men, but not because they’re obligated to their respective gender role, but because they too are instrumental in making a difference to the existing mentality. Of course, there is a thin line between this and being the benevolent saviour. But that line needs to be drawn and women shouldn’t be projected as being too weak to require protection.
How long will it take to create a change? How long should I wait to feel safe in the public spaces of my city? At this very moment, whose turn is to stand up?
Standing up is when we all, as a society, take down an assaulter who is bred amongst us. Standing up is when we don’t fear the judgements of others while actively supporting a victim of such oppressive gender roles. It is a well known fact that most women in India are never taught to live alone or travel alone, in such cases, don’t you think it’s high time we start working against our conditioning?
This isn’t about shifting the onus, it is about changing the system by taking individual responsibility. Ladies, you can take help from your loved ones, but how long will you take your brother/boyfriend/friend to walk across the road at 10PM? How long will we be under someone’s notice to feel independent? The only way we can feel confident and secure about ourselves is when we take charge and do something to change the structure and change the system. Draw the line now! Knight in shining armours aren’t the heroes we need, its our buried sense of courage and bravery that we have to retrieve and carry with us all the time. Carry it in your mind, your soul or maybe in a peg of whiskey.