This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Harish Iyer. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Offensive Myntra Advertisement That Wasn’t Myntra’s Advertisement

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By Harish Iyer:

Advertising draws a lot of inspiration from real life. Picture this. A woman is being disrobed in full public glare by a man. There is another man who wants to help the woman and restore her dignity by clothing her, instead of jumping in the ring or calling the police, he decides to shop for clothes to clothe the woman, through Myntra. This is a real advertisement that is doing its rounds. This is damn insulting to not just woman, this demeans men too. It shows men as incapable of any rational thinking and mute spectators to a gory crime. Men are shown as both onlookers and assaulters. Of course, this also demeans women and portrays them as people who would want to wear fashionable clothes after being disrobed in public and yes, they would need the assistance of a man to do that.

I purposely didn’t mention the name of the god in this ad, because we will get into the rigmarole of religion here. It’s a quick sand with no possible end. As an atheist, I draw a lot of inspiration from god stories. I learn about both – what we have to be, and what we should never be.

Now coming back to the advertisement, I was thinking… what was Myntra thinking when they commissioned this advertisement? Did they think that they would be hugely appreciated? Did they think this would be their version of “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”? What were they really thinking? I delved deep into Twitter to find out. Turns out that Scroll Droll had created this advertisement and had randomly put Myntra’s logo in it. They took complete responsibility for the creative with a public apology.

Yes Scroll Droll, you did hurt sentiments. Not religious ones, but human ones. But glad you apologised.

While I was hyperventilating in anger about this, I switched on the TV only to watch a ‘cute’ advertisement by Flipkart that showed children dressed as adults. Probably they thought that stereotyping a child as a Gorkha guard would make it inoffensive and cute. Apparently, it isn’t. People saw through it. People saw through the advertisement to realise the stereotyping of Gorkhas.

How easy it is, on social media, to screw up a brand so easily. I hope Flipkart takes adequate action and necessary steps to prevent such mishaps in the future.

And remember this advertisement? “Yeh toh bada toing hain?” They dared to use a woman (and no man) to advertise for a men’s underwear. The tagline was “crafted for fantasies”. While I have tried the underwear, it neither makes you feel ‘BIG’ or feel like you’ll ‘GET BIG’ after wearing it. I found this advertisement quite revolutionary. It shows a woman in complete control of her sexuality. A woman at a top position. Her movements suggest that she is either self-satisfying or getting a man to satisfy her. However she is in complete control. Which I found liberating. But I am sure there are many who saw this as “derogatory”.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOpuMf5q2KQ]

And who can forget this advertisement where the woman who is her husband’s boss in office, comes home to cook food for him. It reinforced the stereotype that outside you may be the sethani (boss) but in the ghar, you are always the naukrani (servant). The biggest disaster for the company who made this ad is that as a consumer, I remember the ad, but I cannot remember the brand.

And then there are advertisements where men are shown as these extremely virile species who would hump every moving object. Or men who are just interested in eve teasing. It does a great disservice to the good men who in our midst. Gender demonisation is never a solution to gender equality and is definitely not good for brand equity. And neither is commodification of men. Remember this?

Euro cock ad

In a nation already obsessed with cock sizes, (check my Sexolve columns) this advertisement takes it a step further. And I checked – this ad is misleading as there is no underwear in India that is customised according to the size of a man’s penis. Though it would be nice to go to a lingerie shop and have the male shopkeeper ask me “What’s your size? We have an undy for your size.”

And then there are examples like the recent Hilton advertisement. Brands who take a stand. When I was recently in Obama land (soon to be Hillary behen ka illaka), I had an opportunity to live in hotels that had the rainbow flag at the entrance. Most also had a dog bowl to state that they do not discriminate on basis of pet ownership and that pets as family are also welcome. The Hilton took it to another level by actually taking a strong stand on LGBT rights. Despite knowing that they’d offend a certain population of conservatives and religious bigots, they dared to say that all couples don’t comprise men and women, and that couples of all kinds are welcome to stay at their properties.

Hilton ad

Of course, we’ve had progressive Indian ones too. They need to be commended more, as India is not as evolved. Remember the Anouk advertisement with a lesbian couple? And this advertisement by Virgin Mobile that touched on the conservative mindsets of parents and how a woman uses the conservative thought to find her way to an outstation trip with her male friends? Or do you remember The Fastrack advertisement that took another clear stand?

We have advertisements and we have adversity-intents. Hope better sense prevails in the ruthless ad world, that is often stereotyped as all glamour and zero conscience. Advertisers have a lot of responsibility. They just don’t propagate their brands with the help of the prevailing socio-psychological sentiments. They sometimes, influence people enough to form new opinions. Hope ad companies realise how big a responsibility it is.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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