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Selling The Idea Of “Women As Property”: My Problem With Dabur Honey’s Ad

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By Rangashree Thirumalai:

I write this now in the hope that most of you reading it would have watched the recent Dabur ad about a married woman making her husband ‘jealous’ when she goes out (upon her transformation after consuming Dabur honey) and having to show her Mangalsutra to reassure him that she is still all his!

Of course, at the first instance, you would think this is one cute married couple still trying to make each other jealous, yet proclaiming their love (aka loyalty) for each other. So, he takes a strand of her hair and brushes it away to makes her Mangalsutra visible. How cute, right?

I’m afraid not. So, what’s wrong here? This is just another ad in the long list of ads that sell the idea of women as property. Yes, to be protected and possessed by someone and in this case, the Mangalsutra, is her identity proof, or proof of ownership.

Let me begin by telling you that I am not against the idea of a marriage. It’s a loving partnership between two people and a cause for joy and celebration. However, I do believe that such ads take away the real sense of how marriages ought to be. Encouraging the entrenched patriarchal idea of having to show her husband (and the world) how committed she is to him, time and again, just goes on to show how little we have progressed as a society. Is he insecure because his wife looks good? Well, that’s certainly his problem, and does not mandate that he expects her to prove her loyalty to him each and every day. Private property, eh?

I know a lot of people who are very much in love with their partners, in happy marriages, but do not find the need to wear ornaments or any of the countless symbols to show this to everyone, including the obligatory sindoor for a married woman or the ceremonial details of Karva Chauth entailing the belief that going hungry for a day will aid the longevity of your husband (of course, it has become fashionable for men to keep a fast too, but I’m not sure if they go to the extent of touching their wife’s feet and seek her blessings as many times as a woman must do during her lifetime). The countless Bollywood songs perpetuate such beliefs and have enabled my understanding of what all of this really entails.

Oh, but what if she decides to show her commitment on her own? Have we heard of ‘free consent’? After centuries of subjugation and subordination, maybe the Chomsky-an idea of ‘manufactured consent’ may not be too far a reach. The mass propaganda done by all forms of communication, including ads, point to a deeper issue in our society – the lack of equality between women and men in the domestic realm. No doubt, we have countless achievers in various walks of life, many of whom are women, yet, they face discrimination and unequal treatment at home. Male privilege all the way, right?

Before jumping into thinking that I’d ask for a ban on such ads (if I had my way, I would- considering they propagate some or the other form of discrimination based on gender which is outrightly contemptuous), I’d like to think that it’s high time each of us, in our personal capacity, reconsider what public perceptions of women we carry and what needs to be done about it. Not just this particular ad, but there are countless others which push the stereotypical notion of girl-boy roles in society (including the obnoxious one that says that a particular candy in blue is for boys and pink for girls). It’s time things changed. For advertisements play a crucial role in shaping public opinion and must seek to take a step forward by being progressive and encouraging social change, even when favourable conditions do not exist. How else do we assert the norms of equality at home and breakdown deeply entrenched ideas of patriarchy and private property? This must seem like a small beginning, but, it is a beginning, nonetheless. Better late than never, don’t you think?

There are many others who feel the same way, and I’m glad they’ve decided to talk about it!

Disclaimer – I don’t mind if both women and men wear love bands or chains or any other ornament/object of their choice to proclaim their love for each other, as long as it is not a part of a centuries-old propaganda of furthering archaic and stereotypical gender roles which violate their right to dignity and autonomy, especially when we are trying to push for reforms that uphold the dignity and freedom of all women, irrespective of their religious, cultural or social backgrounds.

Here are two tweets from Dabur’s  ‘#jealoushusbands’ campaign, as well as an audience reaction to the ad:

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    Women certainly don’t complain when men have to spend their entire lives earning for women, pay alimony, child support, give their property in divorce cases, propose, when men house their wives, let them drive their car, take them to restaurants, on vacations, holidays, buy them jewellery, flowers, gifts, take them shopping, spend on their clothes, cosmetics, sandals, purses, spa, beauty saloons, pedicures, manicures, etc.

  2. The Game

    From the Swayamvara in ancient India to the current dating scene, men have had to propose, and required to see who is available. Men have always been the pursuers, and women the choosers. That is why the mangalsutra, sindoor etc to show that they are not available.

    – TempleTwins

  3. Batman

    A man spends his whole life working for his wife, but that is neither slavery, nor bondage. However, the poor wife is so oppressed, she has to wear a manglasutra.

    purushatma.wordpress.com

  4. The Joker

    Mangalsutra is necessary for Kamasutra. 😀

  5. Spider-Man

    Hmmmmm….the only discrimination occurs when, for a marriage proposal I am asked how much I earn, my salary, savings, what car I drive, what kind of house I live in, how ‘large’ my bank account is, where I will take my prospective wife for the honeymoon, etc.

    Men are not ATM machines. Stop the misandry. Stop the discrimination.

  6. Jigsaw

    I would have absolutely no problem in touching my wife’s feet and wearing some beads around my neck if she can work for her entire life to support me, while I sit in front of the TV all day.

  7. The Joker

    THE HUSBAND STORE

    A store that sells new husbands has just opened, where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates.

    You may visit the store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the attributes of the men increase as the shopper ascends the flights. There is, however, a catch: you may choose any man from a particular floor, or you may choose to go up a floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

    So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband…

    On each floor the signs on the doors read:

    Floor 1 – These men have jobs.

    Floor 2 – These men have jobs and love kids.

    Floor 3 – These men have jobs, love kids, and are extremely good looking. “Wow,” she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going. She goes to the fourth floor and sign reads:

    Floor 4 – These men have jobs, love kids, are drop-dead good looking and help with the housework. “Oh, mercy me!” she exclaims, “I can hardly stand it!” Still, she goes to the fifth floor and sign reads:

    Floor 5 – These men have jobs, love kids, are drop-dead gorgeous, help with the housework, and have a strong romantic streak. She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor and the sign reads:

    Floor 6 – You are visitor 3,261,496,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.

    1. Avinesh Saini

      The above sexist joke is deeply offensive.

  8. Batman

    20 instances of female privilege:

    1. Lifeboats are reserved for women.

    2. Seats are reserved for women on buses.

    3. The media only focuses on women’s issues.

    4. World’s most dangerous jobs are worked by men.

    5. News channels announce deaths of ‘women’ and children.

    6. Juries discriminate against men in domestic violence disputes.

    7. Women have special quotas in the parliament, companies, and colleges.

    8. Women receive lighter sentences for the same crimes committed by men.

    9. Child custody is given to women is divorce courts, in the majority of cases.

    10. Men have to earn for women, but women are not under any obligation to earn for men.

    11. Domestic violence and dowry are seen as women’s issues, while men are the prime victims.

    12. Men give women child support and alimony, not the other way around. Men are ripped off their life savings.

    13. Men are used as ATMs. Women always marry men who are richer, earn more, ‘well-settled’, and better educated.

    14. Men die on jobs daily. 95% of work related deaths are of men, but that is neither an issue, not something that women and children are grateful for.

    15. Draconian laws where women can land men behind bars with little evidence if any, giving a rise to false cases of dowry, rape, and domestic abuse. Police readily believe women, even though they lie more.

    16. Men have to propose, buy roses, flowers, chocolates.

    17. Separate compartment and reserved seats for women in metros.

    18. Men have to earn for women but no such obligation for women.

    19. Men have to leave their seats for women in public but women never leave their seats for men.

    20. Children are handed to women in family courts in the majority of cases.

  9. B

    Brother: Why do you always have money and I don’t?

    Sister: That is because you have a girlfriend and I have a boyfriend.

  10. G.L.

    They are not selling that idea. YOU are selling that idea – to break families, create divorces, and wreak havoc in peaceful societies.

  11. Niraj Bahadur Pal

    What’s wrong in this? and where this ad hurt the feminism? Didn’t get it?

    1. Avinesh Saini

      I am quite astounded by the fact that nobody has disliked your comment till now.

  12. Ravi Kumar Rana

    I am not against this advertisement. It is showing the care and his love towards his partner which is good. Even we do take care of our female friends, Sisters and mothers. We always ask our sisters and mothers to come early at home to avoid any inconvenience. It doesn’t mean that we control our friends or family but we are more concerned about them.

    Even in this advertisement the lady was going to office which means she is allowed to do whatever she want (sign of freedom) She is wearing western clothes another sign of freedom and yes she intentionally done this just to see her husband’s reaction which means they have good and healthy relationship. I don’t think that we should go against this advertisement.

    on the flip side, If any men is asked to put DP with his wife or asked to change his relationship status would it be count as the same “Property”? If husband is looking good and he wife is asking him to avoid talking to girls then would it also be same as above?

    C’mon guys think before spreading negativity.

  13. Shruti

    This is so stupid! What if this was about a girl who did something similar to her husband because she thinks he looks too good looking.. Would just be funny and nobody would give a damn. ITS A DAMN JOKE where he’s trying to show that his wife is married so other guys should back off.. That’s it. And BTW,she IS his property -_- This is so not what feminism is about. How is this de-empowering a woman?

  14. Ashish

    That moment when you can’t reply to a person so you just dislike their comment….

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