Of late, we’ve been having some very creative and empowering ad campaigns that are challenging preset notions of beauty, and even broadening our understanding of gender. Yes, the politics behind marketing feminist thought are worth scrutinizing, but for the most part, there has been a clear pull towards advertising that is diverse, inclusive, and laying to rest cliches like ‘mom who does the cooking’ or ‘man who drives the car’ or ‘college girl obsessed with her acne’.
But it looks like some businesses just didn’t get the memo.
This week, we were greeted by two such ads. First, there’s Max Fashion, an Indian big apparel store that has chains in seven cities. They released a new ad campaign that’s downright annoying because it banks on a very, very problematic husband-wife relationship.
How a woman should deal with an erring partner is a discussion for another time. But why are we normalizing a culture where wives are simply out to extract ‘nice things’ from their husbands? And why do we act like this is somehow empowering yourself within an institution that relies on power hierarchies between two sexes?
These tired sexist jibes to get you to buy discounted clothing did not go down well with many people and with good reason. Facebook comments below the video brought in critique that was stern, and also super on point:
Obviously, the demand is that companies get more responsible and make better ads. But do they always do this? No. In fact, they don’t even spare children when it comes to pushing the stereotype agenda. The second offender that was duly criticised by users online was London retailer Pepe Jeans. For what? Well this ad, of course!
The OP (that’s ‘original-poster’) shared it on her Facebook timeline with a bold caption that asked “HOW YOUNG DOES IT START?” And it’s a pertinent question as gender-based socialization pretty much looks exactly like this – systematically training “boyish” traits out of girls, and training “girlish” traits into them.
Many called it “awful,” “sad” and a “negative marketing gimmick.” They also began to share everyday instances of children being forced into one of two gender boxes. And of course, the “makeover” or “before and after” trope did not go unnoticed. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and it’s practically the foundation of gender policing – getting an individual to change who they are to better suit their gender’s “standards” while also being made desirable. We’ve seen it in childhood faves like “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,” “The Princess Diaries” or “She’s All That.” And we’ve been told that a woman’s worth is how well she cleans up and acts the part – of a lady with her legs daintily crossed, that is. Even at a young age. And people are 100% done with this nonsense.
In a time when we scroll through internet content at the speed of light, it would be super easy for an ad like this to be ignored. After all, the sexism isn’t new here. What’s new is how more and more people online actually stop, look, and give it right back to people, groups and companies that insist on manufacturing and then rehashing the usual stereotypes.
It has gotten to a point where the average facebook user – and these are not activists or campaigner, just regular people like you and me – are sick and tired of it all, and aren’t going to remain passive observers. There is now a sense of collective responsibility propelling us to ask questions – if you’re marketing to us, why are you still making ads that we can’t stand?
So if the trolls and the it-was-just-a-joke crowd feel absolutely entitled to sharing their convoluted world views, then it’s encouraging to see another set that’s ready to pull the mat out from under them. Ad campaigns by fashion brands need to get a clue. And if they can’t, there’s more than enough people online who are willing to walk them through it.
Originally published on Cake.