Indian advertising has and continues to be chauvinistic. When will the portrayal of women in advertising ever change from the current stereotype? Let’s tackle this issue in the oldest known format: Q & A. Answer as honestly as you can.
Q. What do you think about women?
A. They’re great.
Q. Okay, women in ads, more specifically.
A. They’re unchanged, like Bollywood actresses’ expressions.
Q. Why do you say that?
A. Because in ads they do what our grandmothers did in reality. Smile vacantly, wash clothes, drop children to school, cook, serve tea and bathe babies.
Q. Why are they doing these things?
A. Because men are doing everything else - in ads at least - signing deals, buying cars, going to work, arranging money for children, amongst other things.
Q. What other things?
A. Playing dumb charade on the Indo-Pak border.
Q. So what are women doing in ads?
A. They’re busy getting fairer, working on adding a glow to half their face, protecting themselves from all types of sunrays, waiting for husbands to return home, colouring their hair, fighting early signs of ageing, protecting kids from kitanu, etc.
Q. Okay, why are women doing only this in ads?
A. According to advertising, this is all women do in real life.
Q. But why?
A. It’s simple. Advertising looks at a woman as an object - to be looked at, to be held close, to be kept looking good, shining, kept on the shelf of society. She is either black or white, she can’t have greys.
Q. Why does advertising think so?
A. Because clients think so.
Q. Okay, so why does the client think so?
A. It’s a cycle set by 60 and 70s Indians. Advertising waits for society to create change and then show it. Society hopes advertising will create change by showing it.
Q. So, what’ll change first?
A. The channel you’re surfing.
Q. Which means women will keep doing these things in ads?
A. At least till the Director calls for ‘Cut’.
Q. Who’s the Director?
A. We are. We stop looking at women as an object; they’ll stop
showing her as one. Ads are for us, not them.
Kitanu: meaning germs in Hindi, a dig at the commercials in which women wash away germs from their children's hands.
About the Author: Omkar Sane has written a book on Advertising - Welcome To Advertising, Now Get Lost. He has an art background.