Playing on the insecurities of women seems to be the daily sport of society at the moment. Patanjali’s latest beauty product ad highlights it with a big bold spotlight.
The ad features two good looking women. The voice-over narrates how one of them uses a Patanjali product and remains beautiful, while the other one uses ‘chemical’ cosmetic products and thus, loses her charm. She then tries to look ‘beautiful’ by putting makeup and is mocked for it. The ‘beautiful’ woman introduces her to the saviour, that is, the Patanjali product.
Well, for starters, let me assure you my problem does not lie with the Patanjali product or a ‘chemical’ product. Frankly, I am more of the opinion of staying as close to nature as possible, and I strongly believe that neither the latter nor Patanjali products are that. Once a product gets into a commercial space, it is bound to have certain industry standards, irrespective of whether the spokespersons and fans of Patanjali agree or not.
My problem lies with the premise of what the advertisement is standing for. I have an equal amount of problem, if not more, with the advertisements of the supposedly ‘chemical’ based beauty products, especially those of fairness creams.
What the market is basically doing is playing on women’s insecurities created by society, leaving them in a state of constant paranoia regarding their looks — because hey, nothing else matters more!
Women are constantly told they are not beautiful, and that their natural state is not wanted, or attractive, and that they constantly need to be a certain way. They aren’t nudged to try; they are instead given ultimatums. “Ghar se bahar kaise jaogi? Sab log kya kahenge? Tumse shaadi kaun karega?” (How will you go out of the house? What will everyone say? Who will marry you?) On the other hand, if they do try, they are mocked. “Papdi ki tarah makeup utar raha hai tumhare muh se.” (Makeup is peeling off of your face.)
Why the society can’t appreciate diverse women is beyond my understanding. Women come in all shapes, sizes and colour. What I do understand is that these notions that have come into existence and are enforced every day. It only makes it more difficult for the women to exist in society. Women have impossible standards shoved down their throats and have no option but to adhere to them. And if they don’t, they are shunned out.
Lady, the skin tone is so much more important than your qualifications if you want a job! The moisturisers that whiten your limbs, because why just the face, eh? The deodorants that whiten your underarms. Hey, that’s what one uses a deodorant for, right? And who could even do without fair underarms? Don’t forget the cleansers that even give you a fairer genital area. The logic just surpasses me on this one!
Yes, I hear your argument that it is the advertising agencies that are doing this and not the society. But what that argument fails to understand is that anything put on television, and quite particularly in advertising, is either the reflection of the society or an effort to change the repressive elements of it. And this does not seem to be the latter at all.
So, lets come back to this Patanjali ad. As the introduction describes, the ‘beautiful’ one, Saundarya, is “paramparao ka palan karne waali” (the girl who observes traditions.) What’s quite obvious an indication here is that the cute smiling girl is inherently a submissive Indian bahu. On the other hand, Aishwarya, the one who uses ‘chemical’ products is a “Bindaas, wannabe type of a girl.” Due to whose moral policing a seemingly outgoing girl becomes the centre of negative conduct is beyond me.
Coming to where the plot intensifies, once Aishwarya has pimples all over her face, she covers them with make-up. They both go to the outside world, that is their college. Saundarya, the goddess, glides past, others mock her sister for using makeup. Now, what exactly is wrong with makeup is not a question we must ask. We must also not ask how visibly both the women in the ad are wearing makeup, while the ad ironically is supposed to be anti-make-up.
So, all in all, what the ad is doing is ridiculing women for not looking naturally nice, enforcing a standard on them, and one which defines beauty. They do try and are ridiculed for trying. What kind of a paradox is this? And what impossible standards are we setting for women?