By Rohini Banerjee:
Amazon India’s advertising campaigns for their fashion collection have never been very appealing (remember the annoying “Yeh pehnu, Woh pehnu“ advertisement?), but this time, they hit a new low with their recent campaign called ‘#WhenAWomanShops’. The advertisement begins with a bunch of men talking about how their wives are ‘shopaholics’, and love to splurge on clothes and makeup for themselves. But then, in an attempt to ‘break stereotypes’, the women are shown to be shopping not for themselves, but for their husbands; which they endorse as “[women] shop to show love.”
Further, one of the women goes on to justify this by saying that since her husband is always busy with work and has no time for shop for himself, she has to do it for him. To Amazon, this is supposed to be something revolutionary — that women don’t just shop for themselves all the time. But, is it?
First of all, what is wrong with a woman wanting to indulge herself and splurging on things that make her happy? Why does her desire to shop need to be justified by showing that she shops not just for herself, but for others too? This comes from an inherently patriarchal notion which shames women for loving themselves, for wanting to express and exhibit desires independent of a male presence, and for celebrating their femininity. A woman shopping for herself is seen as vanity, and not self-love. And in fact, through the advertisement, the act of shopping itself is gendered — men are too busy doing ‘important’ things to shop, so the onus falls upon the woman.
This falls dangerously within the territory of reasserting gender roles, which is harmful not just for women, but also men who do love and indulge in shopping. In fact, it completely sidelines men who actually enjoy shopping and puts them in a completely separate category, which shouldn’t be the case at all. Shopping shouldn’t be gender-centric at all. The advertisement is problematic to say the least, and in an attempt to break the stigma surrounding the term ‘shopaholic’ — which is often used as a derogatory label against women — it ends up revealing harmful stereotypes of its own.