This is an old issue, as old as advertisements. This is an attempt to draw the society’s attention to the issue of whether women should allow themselves to be used as titillating objects to promote products whose actual appeal comes from the women that are shown in the commercials in the print or the electronic media. There are so many commercials available in the Indian media today showing women as persons of loose character, getting attracted to weird men just because they wear a particular shirt or use a particular perfume or deodorant or a particular cloth or a particular vehicle. The list can be endless, but the issue is clear — whether the women themselves should allow others to use them as cheap objects with suspect morals and integrity.
In fact, in over 90 per cent of commercials, women are the central figures — from cars to condoms. And in countless cases, these women who appear in commercials wear only scanty clothes that are aimed more at titillating than as a matter of beauty. The trouble is, nobody is really bothered about this aspect. Nobody seems interested in concerning herself with the issue of the loose morals that generally hold the sway in the commercial world. Of course, there are good advertisements as well. But their number is abominably small, while the bigger chunks of commercials are using women as objects of attraction, in various clothing and in various conditions, some of which are engaged in suggestions of suspect morality.
It does not matter if the times are changing but human definition of morality has not changed much. The standards of decency in civilised societies have not altered at all, no matter the newer trends in display of women in commercials. But, most of us — men and women, boys and girls –from the middle class you would agree, would never like our mothers or wives or sisters or friends to conduct themselves in the manner in which the women in the commercials in the print and electronic media do.
This is the real issue.
Why should we allow such a display of womanhood for commercial purposes? We will have to look for a correct answer to this issue. If we fail, then we will fail in the resolution of a major social issue.
It is not a question of being a traditionalist ‘adarsh Bharatiya naree’. It is not a question of being modern or of wearing western clothes etc, but of clothing one’s body and of the body language signals that are sent. All of us with sensibilities would cringe when you see a woman who has bared her body for purposes of senseless titillation as we find in commercials. I do not understand why women (in the commercials) should be dressed so skimpily in winter. I also find it difficult to digest that in many garment stores, what is available in the name of women’s clothing is nothing but less and less cloth for more and more price.
There is no doubt that even in flowing western dresses, women look graceful, just as they do in the traditional salwar kurta or a saree. But what is being passed in the name of modernism is something the women need to resist. For, when the women are being portrayed as the ones with suspect attachment to correct conduct, then things require a rethink.
The issue which I wish to raise here is serious, by any standard. The issue relates to the women’s willingness to be portrayed in a wrong and undesirable manner. If the women appreciate what is being done to them in the commercials, then my case becomes all the more strong because any society that allows such values to dominate its thinking will make itself available for the doom sooner than one can imagine.
Here, the stress is not just on the woman’s use in commercials in print and electronic media. The issue is about the women’s collective willingness to be used by undesirable elements in an undesirable manner.
This is not being prudish at all. This is being concerned about the negative effects of this objectification of women in the minds of the youth and on the minds of men. Commercialisation of women’s bodies in advertisements and the portrayal of women as senseless, mindless creatures ever willing to do anything to sell, sends wrong signals to society.