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As a millennial adult, it feels great to have seen a gradation of changes in technology. Through our different stages of life till now, we’ve seen video games, dial-up Internet connections to ‘camera mobiles’. 3G transcended into 4G smartphones in the blink of an eye & here we are, awaiting the pinnacle of 5G-IoT (Internet of Things) revolution to fully automate our surroundings & even realize driver-less cars shortly. But, for the sake of perennial convenience, two things will NEVER change – Indian advertisements & their toxic SEXISM.

Till this day, barring a handful of Indian advertisements, we have only the female model grappling with the greasy collars of her husbands’ shirts & somebody dictating to her husband to get it brushed well from the “Missus”.

Because: I really wonder if all bachelors staying away from their ‘Mom-ly’ homes wear the recently invented self-cleaning hydrophobic clothes or can’t afford a machine. Or are they necessarily so affluent to delegate the job to a laundromat on a daily basis.

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A man dressed in a suit tells a woman to go with a better dish washing bar; but doesn’t even bother to show the difference between the brands’ washing.

By the way, there’s an ‘expert’ dishwashing bar ad that glorifies the poor homemaker who, for courtesy sake, isn’t termed a ‘slave’. She is shown cooking & reheating food round the clock that leaves her with a sink overflowing with the day’s dishes to wash. Her husband only smirks when she puts him off on being asked to join him for an ice-cream, but doesn’t care to help her quickly finish the task. And the brand calls it their proud initiative to “Use fewer number of  utensils” so that “somebody” gets her share of personal time.

Because: The very sight of a man doing the dishes may prove fatal to the hearts of the Indian audience.

Equally absurd are the baby diaper ads, where almost none of them shows a troubled baby sleeping between the sleep-deprived parents. Well, in India, where co-sleeping is quite a norm until the child turns a tween, the father is usually as aware of the child’s sleeping habits, positions & patterns as the mother. In reality, a newborn baby is often seen as a threat to the parents’ sleep. And yet, we don’t have Indian advertisements showing a dad changing the diaper or even sharing his feedback on the brand.

Because: It’s part of the father’s duty to be completely oblivious of your children’s personal care & hygiene.

And then you have the same father (& here, not the mother) to discuss finances & life insurance schemes with the grown up son to help him build his career or business. Coming to life insurance policy ads, with a few exceptions, it is usually always about getting the daughter married off with well-planned & managed expenses.

How to deal with sexist ads with your kids

Because: As an influential emotional medium, ads need to cater to & reinforce the stereotype that as parents, your goal setting for the son has to be about his career & for the daughter, what could be bigger than marriage?

Yeah, most of us have already moved on from paying any kind of attention to the ridiculous ‘fairness’ campaigns. I’m sure those who even wish to ‘lighten’ their ‘skin tone’ would simply use a foundation/concealer or even further, laser whitening today.

But then we have a soap brand that has always preached a daughter to look up to her mom not essentially for her unconditional love & kindness, but for her beauty standards! Lately, this ad has gone too far hailing the mom user of the brand as the ‘lucky charm’ for the other kids too who flock to catch her glimpse just before a school competition.

Because: I mean, seriously! Ditch your own mom’s good wishes, because her face doesn’t have the ‘glow’ that your friend’s ‘fair’ mom does. And skin-tone shaming should start early! *Sarcasm Alert* (By the way, it’s funny that I take caution in asterisking sarcasm 🙂 )

*Insecurities Alert*  You see, sometimes, we don’t even consider growing beyond our skin tones or appearance. Do we?

So while some top-notch celebrities declined offers of endorsing fairness creams due to the rigged mindset behind such ads, they chose to up their game by removing the sexism part out of the fairness fetish & serving it to the men too with equal amounts of cringe.

And if you’re already thinking that I’m digressing from my take on sexism here, why don’t we have Indian advertisements featuring the ‘handsomeness’ quotients of dads? I remember around 2 decades ago, I related quite a lot to an ad by a popular cooking oil brand that had “MY DADDY STRONGEST” as its slogan. We all know an advertisement needs to imbibe exaggeration as the main ingredient & in that context, the slogan made perfect sense to project the cooking oil as the reason behind your father’s fitness. I remember cheering as a kid for my dad during any sports competition being proud of his athletic past & his physically active way of living. Decades later, we see lesser number of such ads & only the concentration of sexism increasing to ridiculous levels.

We don’t have car ads showing a female driver or car owner. But she may always be present to lust after the man who owns & drives that car. Indian advertisements for deodorants & body sprays are another sexist genre, where objectification is always the USP irrespective of how nauseating the fragrance is!

Then we have a ‘Oh-so-cute-he’s-a-jealous-husband’ adjusting his wife’s mangalsutra to assert the fallacy around the ornament that she’s taken, rather she’s his property. So, besides happily commemorating & cherishing your beautiful wedding moment, a mangalsutra is wrongly associated with the ‘ownership’ of a wife. And what can we say, it’s a well known brand reinforcing the patriarchal idea with its ‘cute’ sexism.

Let alone these, we have an instant noodles ad that has a teenager boy cooking different versions of the noodles, two of which are mild & hot & spicy versions for two different female friends subtly hinting at their hotness quotient.

But from all other Indian advertisements, the one that takes the cake home is the ad that clearly tells you that no matter how career-oriented as a married woman you are, the ONLY way to win your frustrated husband’s mood & approval is by getting home fast & cooking a sumptuous & elaborate dinner for him. And show it to him on a video call. If you don’t even do that, your relationship may hit the rocks out of regular frustration. Of course, I love cooking & seeing my family enjoy my food. Many women like me enjoy to cook. But when you show these on a relatively potent media, it starts conditioning young minds (like those of your kid’s) that these are the standards a woman & man have to ideally live by. That chores & household tasks are reserved for the 2 genders. And there goes gender equality for a lame toss!

Therefore, it’d be a great thing to productively discuss with your children about what’s wrong with such media in terms of reinstating gender stereotypes. Bollywood has been blatantly promoting sexism with its raunchy songs shouting,“Oh come on, she’s always asking for it!” And we need to debunk the mirage of sexism to our kids that these ads & movies serve hot to them  every single day.

What have been your thoughts on shattering gender stereotypes for your kids? I’d love to know in your comments.

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