Friday, July 29, 2011

More pernicious ads

In my continuing tirade against bad, misogynistic and pernicious advertising (click here for more), I have two more that i have discovered that enrage me as a woman, and worry me as a parent.

Picture this. Harried wife and mother, presumably a homemaker, is rushing around in a dressing gown, getting the child ready for school while the father gets dressed for work off-screen and upstairs. He suddenly starts calling down to her for his black socks. The woman grumbles her way up the stairs, goes to the chest of drawers right in front of where he is sitting, pulls out a visibly well organised drawer, picks up the rolled up socks which are sitting right in front of the drawer, and hands them to him. The voiceover takes over at this point telling the woman how a fiber rich bran flake breakfast will clear her system and stop her from being irritated with such “small and trivial” things, and make her happier. What’s wrong with this picture?

A fully grown man, (35 according to the ad) can’t, or won’t, find a pair of socks out of a highly organized drawer right in front of his nose, expects his wife to drop everything, stop whatever she is doing, neglect her other work in order to come all the way upstairs and retrieve them for him, and it’s the WOMAN who has to change????? It is HER problem that her husband is a total incompetent and so callous he cannot be bothered to even TRY to do his own work for himself? SHE is the one who is irrational to be irritated at this obvious display of self centered nincompoop-ness?
She is the one who is unhealthy to be angered by this display of a total disregard for her and her work/energy/comfort?

What a horrible country I live in, and what a horrible place to bring up a daughter! The message is clear. It is a woman’s place to serve, and a man’s to demand, no matter how meaningless and over the top that demand may be. It is perfectly fine for him not to bother to lift a finger to open that drawer in front of him and pick up a pair of socks, but it is irrational and horrible of her to complain or even fume to herself (as she does in the ad) for having to drop whatever she was doing and to come all the way upstairs just to take them out and hand them to him! SHE is the one who has to fix herself, with an all bran breakfast of all things, so she can continue to serve his every whim with a smile! Good lord! Now THAT’S a message I definitely don’t want my daughter to learn, because these are the messages that have, for centuries, forced women to be mere slaves or chattel in their marital home, to be taken advantage of, abused, tortured, and even killed.

And here’s another picture. Mother constantly on her feet, doing all the housework, running errands, going vegetable and grocery shopping, suddenly groans aloud with severe backache. Her pre-teen son snatches the heavy shopping basket out of her hands and runs on ahead. At this point you realize that the father is with them, and the son goes up to dad and says, “dad, why does mom have to do all the work.”  So far so good, one would think. More power to the son for noticing mom’s pain, and recognizing all the work she puts in, and curses on the father for not being MAN enough to at least carry the heavy shopping basket for his wife. The voiceover says something like “don’t let your pain hurt your loved ones” and I am warming to this ad! Seems to be going the right way, I think.

Cut to, the child and the father – later that night – massaging a popular pain relief cream into mum’s back (enough in itself to get the father branded as Joru ka Ghulam – or slave of his wife, a highly denigrating insult in India). And then, the ad joins the ranks of all those brainwashing, misogynistic subliminally conditioning ads with the mother back to shopping with the same basket the next day, albeit with a spring in her step. So, the message is, its ok to be metrosexual and apparently caring, in the privacy of your bedroom where no one except your wife can see you, because that’s a nice way to keep the woman functioning, so she can do all the work everyday. Don’t have to help her in public, don’t have to stand up for her or share her chores where (god forbid) people can actually see you, don’t have to carry her burdens, definitely don’t have to share her workload, simply have to be “nice” enough to massage pain relief cream into her aches every night! Five minutes of comfortably private effort to ensure that you don’t have to make ANY extra or public effort to improve her life all day! How convenient!  

What does it say about our combined national values and ethos that these ads pass muster, that no one even notices that there’s something wrong in the basic premise? What does it say about our ideas of a woman’s place and her social role that these are seen as not just normal but “good” ways of selling popular products? And what (I shudder to think) is my five year old girl subconsciously absorbing about what is OK and NOT OK for a woman? 

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