Check out this latest ad. Keep in mind that this came out in year 2017. The year of pussy-grabbing Trump, the year of men associated with ruling party harassing girls and then others joining in victim-shaming instead… well just another year where patriarchy tightens its grip on the society and all we can do is impotently outrage at it.
Anyways, coming back to the ad. The way I see it, its a day-in-the-life of a mentally unsound family. The protagonist, the housewife/slave, is a thin gaunt woman who compulsively smiles at her subjugation. Smiling at the absolute disregard with which people treat her. Gulping down insults to her self-worth like they are inevitable pills for an illness that can only be controlled, not cured.
It’s a ‘normal’ uncaring, narcissistic household where the housewife retreats from imagination of people around her and she comes in forefront only to service their needs and desires. She could very well be a slave in 1700s of USA, of Indian caste system of all times, of smuggled adivasi children made to work as maids in Delhi.
It’s all ‘normal’ – true of the world we live in. Most of us know about people around us who live these lives. Some of us recognise this injustice and know the delicate nature of interventions – the futility of arguments, the futility of ‘rescuing’/ ‘making aware’. The strategy of acceptable increments and subtle nudges. Some people might see this ad in that vein, that this ad is bringing to fore what is a hidden but common practice. But it fails because it reinforces the injustice, it rewards the injustice, it makes no petition to conscience, it makes petition to tokenism.
The ‘identity’ of a ‘great hindu family’ is tied to subjugation of women at its core. There is no ‘tradition’, no ‘culture’, no ‘pride’ if there is no woman in the household to subjugate. The narcissism of the Hindu family is absolute. I imagine, a lot of middle class Indians agreeing, commiserating with the ad – feeling good along with the client, that indeed if they use one less utensil, they are doing a good deed. In their little regressive heads, they think that they are ‘good people’ to sacrifice the comforts of using more dishes. The complete absence of even suggestion of the man contributing to the chore is evidence of their lack of self-awareness. That there can be a world where men also contribute to the household chores. That children are not little inconsiderate assholes. That being elders does not mean being infirm. That individuals can and should take care of themselves.
No – that is an alien, ‘western’ concept, one that is against our Indian culture. It is easier to brush every injustice under the carpet of ‘our culture’, ‘our identity’ and then be smug about it. It is hard to look at ourselves for who we really are – narcissistic assholes who are subjecting vulnerable individuals who depend on us to inhumane subjugation.
In this narcissistic and ‘cultured’ home, the men are useless assholes who think their role in family ends at earning a living. Their career is an investment, the returns on which are paid by the housewife, over and over again, with her labour, her dreams, her identity and her soul. She must extinguish any shred of her identity if she has to be a ‘good wife’. That is our Hindu culture.
It is also our culture to raise our children into pampered dolts who can’t tie their shoe laces or even boil water. I know of men who say that they can’t cook with a certain pride. Apparently, they “simply can’t“. They are completely unable to. They say that they tried but they are handicapped. So essentially it is Indian culture to raise severely challenged and handicapped children who can’t take care of themselves, who can’t think independently. Anybody sound of mind would call on this bullshit – the faux inability is an excuse from responsibility. But it is not our culture to be conscious of the world around. It is our culture to be in denial.
The ad is wonderfully shot – it brings out the characters really well. I think the director understood the regressive nature of the idea and subversively directed a film that anyone can get revolted with. Kudos to the director. Its the client and the agency who are undoubtedly mistaken in their beliefs. Because they are trying to start a movement of ‘use one less dish’ in the hope of being perceived as a progressive brand. What they are instead making clear is that they are products and proponents of the very patriarchy that their ‘consumers’ – the women – abhor. I worry that women who suffer from patriarchy also subscribe to the same patriarchy for their own identity. They are good wives, mothers etc. And this ad talks to that terrible version of self-worth. The ad just might work – especially in the cow-belt, where a cow is more valuable than a woman. That is the worry – patriarchy winning unashamedly.
This is the India that I do not want to be a part of. Unfortunately also the India that is winning against the argumentative, secular, progressive India. 2017 is a sad sad year of capitulation of modernism against the onslaught of regressive patriarchy.
If you agree that this ad sucks, please do sign the petition to the advertising standards council to rein in the advertiser. Sign here. (A change.org link).