After the Delhi Gang Rape case, there was a huge public outcry about women’s plight in India. People put the blame on various sources from government to police for creating an environment that’s unsafe for women. However, the systemic problem of woman mistreatment goes deeper than that; sexism in India is institutionalized.
The first day of my Women’s Studies class was an eye-opener. The professor pointed out that, while browsing through a magazine, the human brain processes images even if we don’t stop to read. It’s subconscious. She handed out a few magazines and asked us to look, really look, at the ads. 8/10 ads in the magazine showed women in a patriarchal, misogynistic, or objectified way.
Ever since then, I have been aware of sexist imagery in almost everything. Naturally, I took this viewpoint when I returned to India and so I immediately noticed a trend when I saw ads like that of Nirma, Vim, Harpic, etc. All those ads feature women and only women as those products’ consumers.
In a 5 minute ad segment on Sony television while writing this post, 4 out of 7 ads featured household products, while the rest were fairness products’ ads (which is another issue altogether). All of those 4 ads had women as their consumers. At the same time, I received a text from my sister saying that her husband cooked dinner for her tonight. Clearly, there is a discrepancy here.
Are household products like washing power, dish soap, toilet cleaner, etc only used by women? Why do only Jaya, Hema, Rekha, and Sushma have monopoly over washing clothes? Because at my home, I am in-charge of operating the washing machine and last I checked, I am biologically a male.
So, if we are blaming the police and government for not adequately protecting women, we should also put the blame on (print and electronic) media for perpetuating the stereotype of women as house-workers. Sexism in India is structural, systemic, and institutionalized. We are confronted with it every day; we just don’t see/realize it.
Served with a pinch of salt and a hint of lemon by,