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

7 Horribly Sexist Ads From 2016 That Made Us Cringe

More from Rohini Banerjee

Even though 2016 is nearly over, it seems as if Indian advertising is still labouring under highly sexist strategies to market and sell products. Yes, we’ve had quite a few progressive ads this year, but unfortunately, these have been far outnumbered by the ones that have objectified women, reduced women to gender stereotypes, or portrayed them in a terrible light overall. Throughout the year, there have been many ads that made us facepalm, but here are seven that really got under our skin:

1. When Amazon Thought Shopping Was Only A Woman’s Prerogative

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


Beginning with a bunch of men complaining about how their wives are ‘shopaholics’, this ad tries to ‘break stereotypes’ by showing that women don’t just shop for themselves, but for their husbands too! Except, this isn’t a breaking of stereotypes at all. It ends up gendering the act of shopping – which is ridiculous in the first place, because it is completely valid for a person of any gender to love to shop. But not only this, the ad endangers a woman’s agency when she’s shopping – because it implies that splurging on oneself is ‘vain’ while splurging for the man in your life is a means of ‘showing love’.

2. When Max Fashions Thought Women ‘Make Their Husbands Pay’


Speaking of ridiculous stereotypes surrounding women and shopping, here’s another ad which ends up reinforcing the same. It portrays a lying husband, who is ‘made to’ make up for his errors by taking his wife shopping and buying her clothes. Disturbingly enough, the ad ends up attaching a price tag to this, calling it the ‘cost of damage control’ – as if a woman’s self-worth and value in a relationship could be reduced to a monetary amount.

3. When Pepe Jeans Tried To Force Gender Binaries On Kids

“Give Your Kid a Makeover”, this ad proclaims, as it depicts a young girl initially dressed in conventionally ‘masculine’ clothes and, post-makeover, in ‘feminine’ clothes. To have binaries of gender, femininity and beauty imposed on a kid this young (and by a brand that sells children’s clothing) shows how deep patriarchal conditioning goes and how severely we need to question it.

4. When A Nando’s Ad Horrifyingly Objectified Women

This particular print ad by Nando’s India blatantly objectifies women – comparing parts of the female anatomy to meat – and in doing so, it promotes rape culture in disgusting ways. It reduces female bodies to something edible, something up for display before the male gaze, and the imagery used is distinctly reminiscent of assault. Even though Nando’s ultimately issued a public apology after the significant outrage surrounding the ad, that, in no way, dilutes how messed up the ad’s message is.

5. When This HT Classifieds Ad Was Casteist, Colorist AND Sexist

Matrimonial ads in India have never been the most progressive, but it seems like ads for matrimonial services aren’t either. This ad for ‘HT Classifieds’ – the matrimonial section of The Hindustan Times – goes to show that a ‘fair, convent educated Brahmin girl’ is still the ideal standard of beauty in India. This is not only casteist, classist and colorist (i.e., privileging fair skin) but, also reduces a woman to her physical appearance even though, ironically, the point of the ad seems to have been to assert the opposite.

6. When A Karachi Brand Used Honor Killings To Sell Pizza

Honour killings have plagued Pakistan for a while now, and the recent murder of model Qandeel Baloch only served to illustrate how terrifying the reality still is. In light of this, to have this Karachi-based pizza joint, The New York Pizza, use honour killings to advertise their product not just trivialises the issue, but is in ridiculously bad taste. More than a thousand women have lost their lives to honour killings in Pakistan alone, and that’s only a fifth of the global figure – hence, to reduce this issue to a marketing strategy is deeply problematic.

7. When Jack and Jones Encouraged Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Not only does this billboard ad objectify women, but it normalises sexual harassment in the workplace – an issue that too many working women face in India, and it doesn’t help that it had Ranveer Singh’s face on it, who is one of the most recognisable and impressionable figures in India. If our public figures continue to gloss over sexual violence, and disregard consent, then it sets a disturbing example indeed. Though Ranveer Singh eventually issued an apology, and the billboard was taken down, that doesn’t make this ad’s message any less sexist.

What does it say about us as a society when the media that we consume on an everyday basis can be so deeply misogynistic? Since advertising is something that has such a widespread reach, it needs to become more responsible, needs to stop pandering to the heterosexual male gaze, and needs to start giving women and minorities the respect they deserve – and we hope that in the coming year, we are able to see that happen more often.

You must be to comment.
  1. Debabrata Nandy

    In a country where people worship the likes of honey singh and salman, these ads are no surprise….
    In my opinion songs with disturbing lyrics and superstars issuing misleading statements cause more damage than such ads.
    After all, ads are for selling products. As long as these are not breaking any law or violating constitution, these shouldnt be as big problem as the other examples i cited.

  2. Himanshu Chachra

    I don’t believe the HT ad was trying to support any stereotypes. They just picked up the most used phrases in all matrimonial Ads and tried to bring upon a new point of view

  3. Aman Srivastava

    https://youtu.be/RYHBD9RF2dk
    Pretty outrageous content at 0:40.

  4. SHASHANK SAXENA

    Why women can’t say NO, to roles which are objectifying them….
    See the model (I guess Rakul Preet Singh) is giving a shameless smile in Jack and Jones Ad.
    Criticizing men every time is like showing fire to petrol and blaming petrol for burning, after all my personal experience is :
    WOMEN LOVE TO BE DEFINED BY MEN (which I myself don’t like as we humans must have free will)…..after all 10000 years of psychological enslavement will not go so easily….and with this demeaning approach of women themselves which many of them believe freedom and empowerment, misogyny will only grow.
    Empowerment of women as per now is a conspiracy of elite men to victimize more and more women along with destroying the bond of respect between the 2 genders causing troubles for both good men and women.
    For real empowerment make all vulgar fashion, sex industry, porn industry illegal, lift up moral values in both genders and reserve jobs for women and men in which they are better……..(EG: An army with lots of women will perform poorly in battlefield and women soldiers/officers will face brutal sexist torture by enemies if captured.)
    Nature has created men and women with different mental and physical specifications so don’t try to equalize/compare them in every term and aspect ….cars and trucks have different use so comparing them is meaningless.

More from Rohini Banerjee

Similar Posts

By Poornima Mandpe

By pratyush prashant

By Gulraj Bedi

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below