Friday, October 6, 2017

What About a Man’s Self-Esteem?



Advertising & Media



Alright girls of this world, from Mumbai to Delhi, this time I’m going to bat for the new age urban man. Tell me, should a man be made to bowl under-hand to help a woman score a century? Confused? Stick with me and I will tell you what's on my mind.

So, I am at a lifestyle mall, DT City Centre to be precise, shopping for Diwali gifts. As I browse for gifts, a young lady calls her partner assertively, ‘Listen, get me a trolley.’ The partner, I’m assuming the husband is looking at bath mats but obliges promptly. After a few minutes, she calls him again, ‘Come here, I’m buying these lamps.’ To which he says, ‘Fine baby. Buy whatever you like but can you speak thoda pyar se? People are watching.’
She gives him a quelling look, ‘Who cares?’ and moves towards the payment counter.
Contemplating the same bath mat, I catch the young man’s eye. He gives me a sheepish grin and then follows the love of his life like a puppy.

The above incident made me watch some advertisements closely. If advertising is to be believed, Indian home maker is a confident liberated woman who makes informed choices. She knows which refrigerator has a freezer at the bottom, which insurance policy is best for her family and which water purifier gives sabse shudh paani. She controls the spending habits and takes proactive decisions when it comes to consumer goods, kitchen appliances and home decor. Which is great.

Now look at the new Bosch ad where the wife is washing clothes while her obese, rather clumsy husband is working on a treadmill. When the husband worries about the shape of his shirt to be washed in the washing machine, the wife strikes back very sweetly, ‘Shape shirt ka nahi, kisi aur ka kharab ho raha hai.’ 
Flip the coin. Let’s say, for instance, imagine an advertisement where the chic husband fat shames his wife in a television ad. Distasteful, right?


You think it's much doo-doo about nothing? Perhaps it’s all about the need to make women look good, decisive, and smart while selling household goods. But, but but.  Should this come at the cost of body shaming men? Or making them look like incompetent bumbling dimwits?

Image from here


Take the Haier advertisement about the bottom mounted refrigerator with features of convenience, accessibility and visibility. The husband comes home, assuming late, and remarks cheerfully, ‘Arre wah naya fridge aa gaya, very nice.’
Rather miffed with his coming late, the wife retorts, ‘Fridge to time par aa gaya.’
The husband says, ‘Baby ye kuch ulta nahi hai?
She quips, ‘Ab to ye bhi seedha ho gaya.’
The tagline goes - Aa gaya hai ulte refrigerators ko seedha karne, Haier ka Naya Inspire. 
The jibe is aimed at the husband, of course. The advertiser is motivating women to buy a Haier refrigerator by portraying men as ‘good for nothing’ late comers.




Samsung ad from 2013 where the man is shown as lazy, filthy couch potato

Exercising influence on the female psyche by making them feel good about themselves and their choices is a basic tenet of advertising. My simple point is - why pump a woman’s self-esteem at the cost of making young urban men look like losers? At a time when the urban man is devoting time to his family duties, he needs a more accurate description. Also, when advertisers sell mobile phones, cars or bikes to men, do they make women look lame, worthless and incompetent? Since we keep harping about equality, shouldn’t the same latitude of respect for choices apply to both genders irrespective of the product?

For centuries, our society has placed men on a higher pedestal. It’s a man’s world, goes the cliche. Truth is, most women in rural areas and small towns have little or no say in household decisions when it comes to spending big money. Forget making economic decisions they aren’t even allowed to decide the names of their children. 
But the profile is changing in urban areas where women are independent, educated, informed, and almost the same age as their partners. For advertisers, urban women are a business opportunity. This could be one of the reasons why advertisers feel the need to push the envelope. However, lowering a man’s self esteem to make woman look good is lazy advertising. Even insensitive. Portraying all  husbands and dads as clowns who make it worse for the woman is not an urban reality where most couples work as a team. 

How about making the woman look good without making the man look like an idiot? If you wish to pander to the rising female consumer power, how about giving her positive reasons to buy?

Like the Samsung QLED TV advertisement where the father watches his daughter score a goal and they share an emotional hand gesture. Or the Amazon ad where the wife calls her husband and says, ‘Amazon per naya fridge liya’. To which her husband says cheerfully, ‘Theek hai, theek hai.’ The husband acknowledges the fact that his wife knows what she wants, and that he is happy with her decision. Simple. No questions asked. It’s refreshing, even sweet. What say? 


30 comments:

  1. The insensitivity narrated by you comes from the advertisers and is certainly in poor taste.The 'poor men' have not reacted as yet.
    Taking your cue further,we women should be sure whether we want equality or special treatment.There is often a contradiction in the demands sometimes made and the principles professed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think women approve of this strategy, perhaps the advertisers need to read this and the comments. :)
      Thank you for your views Indu.

      Delete
    2. Certainly women would not approve of this.I was thinking of other areas where we demand equality as well as privileges.

      Delete
  2. Yeah.This is definitely not in good taste.just like ads, there are sometimes jokes and forwards too which make the woman feel superior at the cost of the man.Swinging to extremes on both sides is bad.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your viewpoint is in order. Self-esteem and mutual respect is equally important for both males and females. None of them has to gain it at the cost of the other's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You said it. Thank you for stopping by.

      Delete
  4. Art (yes, even the TV commercials and debates) has more than one functions. Apart from its avowed goal in which all marketeers are alike to the point of being ruthlessly brutal, they serve as reflections of the times, and then they serve as a tool of social control by setting morals and norms —you may check the fact with our doughty PM. The incident of the doting husband you have narrated is a case in point. Recently, I watched a movie called 'Toilet: Ek Premkatha', which goes on to highlight the rise of women even in the backwaters. Perhaps the pendulum will swing to the other extreme before it will retrace its journey. I enjoyed the post immensely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right, balancing the pendulum is the key. And Toilet Ek Prem Katha underlined that women in small towns are also asserting themselves, which is great. As long as the pendulum doesn't sway the other side.

      Delete
  5. :) you have voiced my very concern and thoughts, I seem to trod on the feminist toe when I do it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad we are on the same page Sharmila. Good to see you here.

      Delete
  6. Very well said, Alka. In the quest for pandering to female egos, advertisers are going overboard and mocking men. I wish more advertisers will focus on being fair to both the genders.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right Rcahna, be fair. Thanks for the share on Twitter.

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Alka, I completely agree with you. Insulting any one to show the other in a good light is wrong. There are some ads that make me see red, might do a post on them :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hmm. Lagta hai iss baar KC par kafi accha present mila hai.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haan, Nau Lakha Haar.....you are antaryami RK.

      Delete
  10. It’s when you use feminism as a marketing gimmick you miss the point by a whole mile.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Its worse when you see women actually get influenced by such ads and develop a totàlly incorrect idea about feminism ...Men and women have unique qualities that need to complement each other nicely

    ReplyDelete
  12. Another example of misconstrued feminism. I agree with certain few points in here....but the advertisers have done this all along and continue to do this even now. I don't see this changing lest there is parity, everywhere else, which by far is a mammoth task.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These are just a handful of ads, thankfully it's not a trend. Most ads are positive and balanced. I don't want this to become a trend, hence the post.

      Delete
  13. I too felt the same while watching the washing machine Ad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So I was not the only one. Thanks, always good to see you here.

      Delete
  14. A little late in reading this fine piece! The advertising has either got too smart or I have become dumb as half the times I cannot make out what is the product the advertiser is trying to promote. The genre you mentioned are not in the best taste. I am all for empowering women and would love to see them grow in stature especially the rural ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to see you here Rahul, woman are growing in stature even in small towns, albeit slowly. It was evident from the movie Toilet Ek Prem Katha which is based on a real incident.

      Delete
  15. Unfortunately, a lot needs to be done to bring an equal shift in mindset and the problem is more with our attitudes to both men and women. Appreciate your voice and narration in touching insensitive aspects in ads and brand appeal. There are so many interesting points where shame someone, men and women are unhealthy where we need to work more on our relationships centred on mutual respect and dignity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've summed it up well.
      Thanks Vishal.

      Delete