“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
- Alphonse Karr
‘Pandeymonium’, the semi-autobiographical book by Mr. Piyush Pandey fleetingly mentions an incident that probably deserved an entire chapter.
Apparently, in 1983, a television commercial for Vicks Cough Drops was pulled off the air, simply because the two year old girl winks at her father.
Rules at the time didn’t allow women to wink on television.
Pause for a second and let that seep in. Keep in mind that Bollywood was still seven years away from its lowest, colourful, loud, sexist phase known as the 90s. Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan and Akshay Kumar were yet to start their eve teasing antics on the silver screen, which to be fair to them, was the norm those days (Five songs, four murders, three fight sequences, two rape scenes – One helluva superhit).
The point I am trying to make here is that as far as the mainstream media is concerned, the seeds that germinated to that twisted time in the nineties were probably sown much earlier, earlier than the eighties probably.
The media constantly depicted women as mere sex objects, winking or not. Television told us that women were good-for-nothings, bimbettes.
It was as if the sole aim of the female species was to look glamourous in order to catch an unsuspecting mate. Not too glamourous though, else the girl risked getting raped, and of course she deserved it; good girls didn't wear revealing clothes.
And when women weren't getting their husbands/boyfriends/brothers into trouble, it was probably their sons/grandsons.
Luckily, better sense eventually prevailed. Public perception of what was acceptable and what wasn't, changed, for the better.
Cut to 2016. Ajay, Aamir and Akshay may not be playing gentlemen on screen, but their perv playing days are certainly over.
So all is good, right?
True, the times have changed; the in-your-face-sexism is no longer prevalent. The message is more subtle these days, and from what I can make out, the men are now at the receiving end.
It probably started with the ‘my choice’ ad. Here, have a look:
There are so many things wrong with this video. It pretends to be progressive, tries way too hard to look cool, highlights non-existing issues, etc. etc. It ends up being a shallow, unimpressive attempt that merits a second viewing only so that you can do a double check on whether she really said what you thought you heard.
I thought feminism was about equality and not superiority.
It's sad that this is a part of the Vogue Empower campaign, as the other advertisements in the series were so well made ('ladke rote nahin' featuring Madhuri Dixit and 'Going home' featuring Alia Bhatt).
Then I saw the OLX advertisement which was, for the lack of a better word, disturbing.
The girl in the ad says 'Shaadi se pehle main zyada independent thi', apparently because she doesn't have a car of her own. The husband promptly sells off his own (big) car and gets two smaller cars. Makes sense, right? Well, at least they had the 'equality' bit covered here.
On a serious note, is having a personal car the criteria for achieving independence? What's wrong with taking a cab home?
The third and final ad is one that I caught a couple of weeks ago. It's called 'Ariel - #ShareTheLoad'.
This is actually a pretty good advertisement and makes way more sense than the others referred to in this post. Until you stop and think about it for a while.
The scenario is unrealistic.
The wife in an urban DISK ('Double Income Single Kid') upper-middle-class family as depicted in the ad, is about as likely to wash clothes after returning from office as.....words fail me, this basically never happens.
Yes, a woman is more likely to do household chores, but don't demean a homemaker. Being a housewife is a full-time profession that doesn't earn pay in monetary terms, but ask the men, it is rarely unappreciated.
I felt that this was a well-made and well-intentioned advertisement, but it sends a wrong message in these confused times where the definition of feminism and equality has been lost somewhere between Miley Cyrus's twerking and Indrani Mukherjea's marriages.
I repeat, these are confused times, people mistake feminism for something else, advertisements that declare women as the sole stakeholders in family matters not only miss the point but inspire an entire generation who believe everything that they see on the internet.
Tread carefully, we know what happened last time.