Why is it that we have top chef’s as men but in almost all the households it’s the women who do the cooking. It is women’s responsibility to cook at home and take care of children. The care-giver, nurturer, kind, loving are all synonyms to a woman. Never have you heard a man denoted with such characters. Men on the other hand are strong, brave, go-getters and the protectors of the other sex. Is it really biological? There are many scientific theories that have proven otherwise. We tend to play a certain role as our society has dictated rather than doing because it is in our genetics. Gender stereotypes therefore are ‘stereotypes’ and not something natural.
Have you ever seen a small boy playing Kitchen-Kitchen or a small girl playing with gun-toys or truck-toys? In fact there is a clear demarcation amongst early teenagers on the kind of comic books and the cartoons they watch. So simple and unseen are these demarcations that it is impossible to observe them easily. I remember when I was a kid, talking to a boy classmate about cartoons we watched and how he rejected the discussion of female superhero saying that the show was meant for girls only. It was strange for me to comprehend because I used to watch all superhero cartoons. This peer psychology plays a great role in shaping personality of children when they are growing up. The boy might have been inhibited to watch so called ‘girly’ cartoons because of peers (might make fun of him), or family must have oriented him towards gender disparity. But he definitely grew up to differentiate between girls and boys. There are so many social norms that are portrayed in form of social interactions with people and social media. There is another factor that affects us growing up which we hardly notice i.e. Advertisements. It not only taints the growing children but also reinforces gender bias among adults. Advertisements may seem harmless promotional strategies but the messages they carry can linger on sub consciously in our minds affirming the conventional rules to be followed by men and women. Here I will discuss, 5 most obvious stereotypical advertisements that clearly asserts on the roles of gender.
Dettol Soap Advertisement
It is not very surprising that most of the advertisements on cleansing agents portray small boys. Like surf excel advertisement, ‘daag ache hai’ where the boy child protects his sister, Dettol Soap advertisement is no different. Advertisement shows boys playing in the mud and getting their hand dirty. No girl is shown here playing in the grounds getting ruggedy clearly indicates that playing business in the ground is only for boys.
Perfumes and Sprays
Advertisements like Axe, Wildstone, Denver etc have all succeeded in showcasing deodorants not as odour relieving agents but more as sexual agents. The more macho the deo fragrance the more women get attracted towards you.
Advertisements are based on reality. In India, many households still have men as sole bread winners. The financial decisions are still in the hands of men. Max Bupa Family Health Insurance advertisements is a perfect example which asserts not just one but two stereotypes. The advertisement shows a daughter introducing a man in her life to her family. The advertisements unfold with five successive generations of father’s and the quote continues with every generation, “Mere liye okay hai… par Papa?” for the approval of the guy. The family however constitutes only of fathers. There is no mother to be seen for any approval either for the insurance or the guy. Just as is the financial decision completely dependent on the father, the approval of the guy is pertinently rested upon the father’s approval only. In normal circumstances also we see that decision making of the house is solely dependant on the male member of the house.
The Airtel advertisements- the boss and the wife
The advertisements though made a bold step, showing that women are doing better in professional sphere being boss of the husband at work but it failed right in the next moment when the boss became the wife. The professional growth however did not show any change in her role as a wife. To please the tired over working husband she made a home cooked meal. That’s the role of a wife, which the advertisement could not justify. The society might be ready for a high profile career woman but is still not ready for a wife who doesn’t do housework.
Imperial Blue-Men will be Men
‘Men will be men’- the catch line of the advertisement is in itself defines the word gender stereotype. There are series of these advertisements, which have shown the typical men behavior like forgetting wife’s name, waiting for a woman in the elevator. In the second advertisement the guy is getting late for work and a middle aged couple are also running for the elevator so he does not stop the lift for them. When he reaches his floor a beautiful women enters the lift and he pretends he does not have to leave the lift. He forgets he is getting late when the lady arrives showcasing the typical male behavior amongst beautiful women and they further go on by justifying it… “Men will be men.”
We never realize how this differentiation through social media, peers and cultural set-up creeps into our minds and habits and without conscious effort we just keep repeating the same things without making conscious effort to look into our actions and what they mean. However, the situation is not all black as gender sensitive advertisements have also started coming up. More and more advertisements have started showing couple as characters when buying household products like in Loyd Washing Machine ad the lady immediately asks for a Unisex washing machine. Many companies have taken up the effort to empower women and men through strong content ad like Vogue empower ad theme shows, boys don’t cry and message is entailes, boys do not make others cry and the campaign highlights to ‘start with the boys’.