” Women empowerment” linked to ‘ Healthy Hair ‘ ? #WTF advertising


 

Advertising’s new poster girls: Feminists

Malini Nair | August 11, 2012, Times Crest

TRESS BIEN: Male bashing and hair care in one go

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TRESS BIEN: Male bashing and hair care in one go

An ad campaign for beauty products links empowerment to healthy hair – and sparks off a mighty ruckus.

As ads go it managed to do what ads are meant to do – made most of Kerala and Malayalees outside sit up startled. What was this? A feminist with all the trademark traits – big red bindi, cotton sari, a strong face and long, lovely hair – stands at what looks like a crummy small town bus depot ranting about men who harrass women in buses by pulling their long hair. Should we, she fumes, give into this and start sporting short hair like men? Come sisters, she exhorts, let us stand up for our long hair and fight eve-teasers. ‘Ulkaruthu mudikkyum manasinum (inner strength for hair and heart), Indulekha hair oil, ‘ intones a mellow male voice.

Feminism to push a beauty product and that too starring a feminist theatre actor Sajitha Madathil? How was this supposed to work? Wasn’t feminism supposed to be antithetical to long hair-fair skin stereotypes? Indulekha wasn’t done yet. Its second ad featured a harried housewife fed up of daily beatings at the hands of a drunk husband. “I took it for my two children, ” she tells you at home on a depressing evening, kids glued to television. “But now I won’t. ” And proceeds to bundle up her thick dark hair into a bun, looking ready to beat up the brute when he came home. Said brute is standing tottering at the gate, but then takes one look at wife looking a dark cloud and quietly slinks away.

What followed was a storm. 

The ads opened up a barrage of views and counterviews among Malayalees so forceful that Indulekha says it is now releasing a conventional set of ads – pretty faces, medical claims, surveys and so on, standard issue beauty advertising to be precise. But the debate has yet to die down. Can women’s empowerment be used as a tool for advertising, and to hell with the ideological issues? Or is it that angry, rebellious women make for more sexy models?

Indulekha and the creative heads behind the campaign are clear about what they set out to do, the flak notwithstanding. “The idea of any advertising is to break the clutter and we managed to do that. To that end it was a successful campaign whatever the reactions, ” says Sunil G of the Firewoods creative team that put the campaign together along with V Eye. “We were targeting ordinary middle class woman in Kerala, and maybe men as well. ” An Indulekha executive says the campaign wasn’t taken in the right spirit. “So we have decided to stick to the tested pattern, ” he says.

Ironically the campaign got flak from both quarters – feminists as well as Malayalee men upset at being portrayed as leches and wife-beaters. The latter let loose a stream of furious, sometimes obscene, tirade against the women in the ads. And, there were Facebooks spoofs. Feminist and scholar J Devika, whose blog post on kafila. org set off the debate on Facebook and the internet, says the campaign was patronising. “This whole brainy-despite-being-beautiful thing is driven by men who find it a very engaging idea. This woman figure is still controlled by them because for all her anger she is still hanging on to the long lustrous hair, ” she says.

Feminism has been used as an offbeat strategy before. In her essay for the New York Times, The Empowerment Mystique, writer Peggy Orenstein, says few feminist ads have any real substance. What they revel in is the “feeling of ’empowerment’ : an amorphous, untethered huzzah of ‘Go, team woman!'” Verizon, Sarah Palin‘s Mama Grizlies, Dove’s True Colours are some of the celebrated campaigns that focussed on ‘real’, strong women. There was our own Surf’s Lalitaji and now, Anushka Sharma‘s spunky Scooty gang. Rousing feminist rhetoric, however vacuous, is a tried and tested way to sell a product, says Orenstein.
“The so-called strong women, career women, superwomen who run businesses and households with the help of the magic mixie and magic cooker are a modern version of the karyeshu mantri, karaneshu dasi…prescription, the eight noble virtues of an ideal wife. The old Sanskrit poets stated it baldly, the modern man is more circumspect !” says Prema Jayakumar, writer and translator.

Rattled by the flood of criticism, Indulekha quietly wound up the campaign. Would it have worked if it had stuck to its guns? Kiran Khalap, co-founder of chlorophyll, brand and communications consultancy, believes that feminism is a tricky advertising tool. “There are other layers of retro sexism, reverse sexism etc that come into play in more aware societies and it is difficult to separate labels from reality,” he says.

 

Whiter, tighter and what else? Diamond-encrusted vaginas ? # Vajazzling #WTF advertising


Feel like a Virgin

Shrabonti Bagchi | August 11, 2012, Times Crest

In a country that places an illogically high value on virginity, can a gel that promises ‘vaginal tightening’ be sold as a sexually empowering idea? A new advertising campaign for a product that promises to give Indian women tighter vaginas is headed for probable YouTube superstardom.

In a household straight out of a Priyadarshan film set or a Tamil TV weepie, where various family members keep appearing on screen, urging you to play a kind of spot-the-relative game (guy shooting the proceedings on camera phone is the pesky but cute brother-inlaw;young girl in jeans and kurta is the college-going sister-in-law ), a shapely young wife in a pink sari is about to hand over a steel dabba to her headed-to-work husband (who is touching his parents’ feet). But instead of leaving the scene after exchanging the mandatory coy look full of sexy promise with the husband, she grabs him by the hand and starts dancing the salsa, crooning “I feel like a virgin”. “Oh yes you do, ” replies hubby encouragingly.

The other V-word at the core of this little drama – vagina – doesn’t come into the picture till the end, when a sophisticated voice announces that the product that has made this revirginated woman and her husband so happy, 18 Again, is a “vaginal tightening and rejuvenating gel”. In a country that places an illogically high value on virginity, a product that promises to make women “feel like virgins” is quite likely to have them queuing up outside medical stores to buy something they believe will miraculously restore their hymens. Feminists and web commentators are already questioning the ‘women’s empowerment’ argument put forth by the company behind 18 Again. While it may enhance sexual pleasure for both men and women, isn’t it feeding the patriarchal view that women need to be perfect and ‘virginal’ – because actual virginity is frustratingly for one-time-use-only, curse it – for men to find them attractive? It’s a toss up.

On the one hand, if you believe the stuff about tighter vaginas making sex more pleasurable for the woman, it’s easy to go with the empowerment argument and say this is a product women can buy for themselves to enhance their sex lives, and what’s not to like about that? On the other hand, the ‘virgin’ bit is clearly aimed at men.

Ultratech India Ltd, the Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company that has launched this patent-pending gel after three years of research, clinical trials, market studies and an FDA approval, is convinced this is a revolutionary product that falls in the feminine hygiene category. Rishi Bhatia, chairman and MD, Ultratech India, is firmly taking the good-forhealth route. He believes 18 Again is a “vaginal health” product that addresses several needs like preventing infections and toning vaginal muscles, which in turn has health benefits like preventing adult incontinence and vaginal prolapse. “We are not saying this will restore virginity. The name indicates that this will make a woman feel young, as she did at the age of 18 when she was just entering womanhood. Our market research, including interviews with gynaecologists, shows many women want non-surgical vaginal tightening, ” says Bhatia.

Priti Nair, director of ad agency Curry Nation, who created the TVC, has a lighter take. “We didn’t want to take a negative route, showing a woman cringing and crying over her husband losing sexual interest in her. We wanted to show a woman celebrating her sexuality and revelling in her womanhood, ” says Nair. Yet, coming right after a certain muchdiscussed product that claimed to create fairer vaginas, 18 Again is definitely in for a hard time from those who believe there is much too much pressure on women to have perfect bodies.

“Leave our vadges alone!” says Nikhila Sachdev (name changed on request), a 32-year-old Bangalorean who just gave birth a year ago. “First you’re supposed to be really thin. Then you’re supposed to remove every bit of hair from your body. Then you’re supposed to do something about those sagging boobs. And now you have to get whiter, tighter vaginas? What’s next? Diamond-encrusted vadges?” she asks indignantly. You’re not too far out, babe. Kim Kardashian, that possibly plastic goddess of frivolity, has already been heard boasting about her Swarovski-studded labia

Avengers’ slum scenes trigger anger in India


Actors in India have been voicing their disappointment at the portrayal of Kolkata in the film

Hulk in The Avengers played by Mark Ruffalo

Bad taste … scenes set in India of Bruce Banner – AKA Hulk – in The Avengers have been criticised. Photograph: Planet Photos/Marvel

The Avengers might be carrying all before it at the global box office, but inIndia, its healthy reported opening of INR110m (£1.3m) has been marred byhigh profile complaints over its portrayal of urban living conditions.

  1. The Avengers [also known as Avengers Assemble]
  2. Production year: 2012
  3. Country: USA
  4. Cert (UK): 12A
  5. Runtime: 142 mins
  6. Directors: Joss Whedon
  7. Cast: Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Cobie Smulders, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hiddleston
  8. More on this film

Exception has been taken in regard to two brief scenes showing Bruce Banner – AKA Hulk – (played by Mark Ruffalo) working as a doctor in Kolkata in an attempt to avoid the rage triggers that transform him.

 

Actor Rituparna Sengupta, best known for the Bengali-language films Alo and Dahan, told the Hindustan Times: “Kolkata has a rich culture and heritage, and a film-maker should respect that. There are two scenes about India and they only show slums. It could have been done in better taste.”

 

Neha Dupia, an actor in Bollywood films such as Singh Is Kinng and Dasvidaniya, said: “It is disturbing to see the murky underbelly of India in Hollywood films … we need to make efforts to change [the west’s] perception about us.”

 

However, the film-makers cannot be accused of “slumdog tourism” a laSlumdog Millionaire: according to the Hollywood Reporter, the Kolkata slums were filmed in New Mexico.

 

Meanwhile, Disney has reported that The Avengers’ box office figures for its US opening were even higher than estimated. On Sunday, the studio entered a figure of $200.3m (£124m) for its first three days on release. But better than expected figures for the Sunday’s takings mean the figure is now $207.4m.

Even with the lower estimate, The Avengers – renamed Avengers Assemble for the UK and Irish market – had comfortably eclipsed the previous opening weekend best, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s $169.2m. The Avengers has also become the first film to break the $200m mark for its opening figures.

Machismo is the Problem, Not the Solution #Vaw #Rape #NCR #Delhipolice


 

A number of campaigns against sexual harassment endorse the stereotypes they set out to debunk

By Kavita Krishnan


Misguided Posters for Delhi Police’s various campaigns against sexual harassment

THE STING OPERATION by TEHELKA brought to light several medieval myths that our ‘protectors’ nurture about women and rape. Embarrassed Delhi-NCR police officers have promised ‘sensitisation’ as a corrective to such attitudes. The trouble is: what kind of attitudes will be promoted under ‘sensitisation’? The Delhi Police ad campaigns suggest that even when they think they’re being ‘sensitive’ to sexual violence, they are promoting rather dangerous patriarchal notions of mardangi(machismo). A recent campaign against sexual violence has actor-director Farhan Akhtar, saying, “Make Delhi safer for women. Are you man enough to join me?”

Such misplaced notions of manliness are evident in many women’s safety campaigns. Another ad Delhi Police has been using for several years has a photograph of a woman being harassed by a group of men at a bus stop with some men and women simply looking on. This poster proclaims, “There are no men in this picture… or this would not happen” and urges “real men” to “save her from shame and hurt”. It suggests that 1) sexual harassers are not “real men” (asli mard), 2) women facing harassment feel “shame” and 3) only “real men” can protect them. Can such ideas of machismo reduce violence against women? Or are they the root of the problem?

Interesting answers emerge as one widens the lens. Campaigns centred on sexual harassment rarely feature women who express their anger and protest sexual harassment in public places. Perhaps if a woman is shown angry, it’d be difficult to sustain the notion that she is experiencing ‘shame’. Shame, in this case, conveys vulnerability and need for protection, reinforcing the need for a male protector. Publicly displayed anger or violent self-defence by women, on the other hand, is deeply unnerving.

The idea of an ‘asli mard’ too, calls for an intellectual inquiry. When men commit ‘honour’ crimes to put an end to their sister’s or daughter’s relationships, aren’t they being ‘real men’, fulfilling their duty of being a ‘protector’? Isn’t the ‘protector’ also expected to enforce ‘discipline’? When men harass women who challenge patriarchal norms (by dressing ‘like a slut’, visiting pubs and drinking, etc), don’t ‘real men’ see it as their job to teach them a lesson? Sexual violence too has a ‘disciplinary’ function — reminding women not to cross the ‘lakshman rekha’ of patriarchal laws.

It isn’t just the cops who believe a woman can invite a heinous crime such as rape. A noted columnist in the Sunday magazine of a leading English daily believes that women ought to be responsible for the way they dress. She writes: “Let’s say you decide that it is your right as a law-abiding citizen to leave your front door unlocked when you go out. Is this likely to attract the attention of your friendly neighbourhood burglar? Probably… If you dress to attract attention, then you must be reconciled to the fact that you can’t control what kind of attention you will attract.” The problem is that the list of behaviours that will attract rape is endless. If you have a boyfriend or a male friend and they rape you, would you say you left your door unlocked?

The same columnist suggests that women would “cry foul” if men were to “expose flesh” in public. But men can, in fact do, bare their chests in public, display ‘six-pack abs’, get drunk in public, have sexual relationships with women, and move at all times without being accused of ‘inviting’ rape! Their behaviour is never, ever compared to “leaving your front door unlocked”. Why does women’s behaviour carry a risk that an identical behaviour by men does not?

We don’t need patriarchal male protectors, nor do we need sermons on how ‘responsible’ feminine behaviour can offer protection from sexual violence. We need to reconcile with the fact that sexual violence is not caused by sexual attraction. It is an assertion of patriarchal dominance over women.

Kavita Krishnan is National secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association.kavitakrish73@gmail.com

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