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These Facebook Comments Show Users Are 100% Done With Sexist Ads

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By Shambhavi Saxena for Cake:

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.

Unfunny joke about duping your wife? Check. Unfunny portrayal of shopaholic wife? Check. And sure, it opens with both partners in the kitchen (they appear to be sharing the burden of household labour) but you’re left with the impression that the husband is sort of there by compulsion. In fact, that horrible patriarchal term “hen-pecked” comes to mind, especially when he ‘gives in’ and we see his wife ‘making him pay’ for his errors.

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!

Image Source: Payal Talreja/Facebook

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.


comment-1Many 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.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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