When I was a teenager, I remember how some TV commercials were making me extremely uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do about it. Back then I had no proper understanding of objectification, male gaze, eye candy, patriarchy, and other problematic concepts. I thought it was okay and is normal. But the discomfort I felt was true but I was conditioned to believe it was fine and nothing can be done about it. Recently when I saw the outrage about a jewelry commercial, I realized what power we have and how we can actually change what we see. No! this article is not about that commercial but a lot of other commercials against which we had to voice out and we didn’t.
Body spray, deodorant, perfume, men’s vest, surrogate advertisement of liquor (not to forget the “men will be men” tagline) shaving blades or razors, bikes, cars, hair gel, and many other commercials had two things in common. One – they are all more often than not men focused products and always had women being impressed or portrayed in a sensual way. I mean, why? Is a man’s personality so limited that he lives only to impress women? Or his entire life is about earning validation from women? To be honest, it is not limited to male products only. We have all seen that talcum powder or a face wash advertisement where the products help her in getting a guy’s attention. How an underarm roll-on is required because you can’t let your body do it’s work when a guy is around. Some advertisements go to an extent of showing period smell. I think the only difference between these ads are, Men related products feed the ego of men, and women related products play with insecurities women face.
Let’s keep these absurd advertisements aside for some time and look at the other commercials. Food and food grains, utensil cleaners, household items, cleaning agents, kids’ nutrition, baby care products, washing machines, kitchen appliances, bathroom cleaners, and many other house-related and family-related products show women majorly. Why? Do we have only single moms in this world? No, this is not about feminism. It is about the subconscious conditioning that takes place. There are millions of people who get exposed to these ads and most of them don’t think through the ads. It is directly registered in our mind and we believe what is shown in the advertisement is normal. We will believe that looking after the house is a woman’s job and technical stuff are for men. Because I don’t remember seeing a woman talking about engine oil.
Amidst all these advertisements, there is a breeze of fresh air as some companies have taken up the initiative of overcoming these stupidities. Many products now show women as successful people, household work as ‘sharing the load’, perfume restricted to smelling good, and so on. Yet, the percentage remains very low.
The point of this entire article is not just about how advertisement conditions society but also about how we have failed to stand against harmful advertisements. It is not that we can’t because we clearly can. If a sexist, misogynistic, gender role conditioning, playing with insecurities advertisements does not seem problematic but an advertisement that talks about harmony and being eco friendly seems more problematic to an extent that fuels a tendency to ban it, then it is time we evaluate our thoughts.