Masculinity and Feminism: a story in ads...

By Shefali Takalkar , BBH India, Mumbai | In Advertising
Published : March 12, 2019 05:22 AM
Our guest author discusses gender parity - through the advertising lens.

Shefali Takalkar Shefali Takalkar

While the conversations around gender parity are becoming more purposeful and meaningful, with each passing day, the subject is causing some discomfort to a segment of society. Gillette's The Best A Man Can Be campaign and the debate that followed its release, is just one example of the unrest that it can create.

What is so threatening about a campaign that tells us to raise our boys well? How does it become sexist stereotyping or feminazi man-hating agenda?

Yes, not all men are rapists, bullies, and wife beaters. And yes, being masculine does not make you a bad man. But what does masculinity mean? What does it mean to 'be a Man'? There is a need to redefine the word and re-learn its meaning. Here's how Titan defines masculinity for us in their 'Be a Sport' ad.

As a society, we have made a mistake by burdening our boys with the toxic notions of masculinity; by expecting them to be strong under all circumstances, by making them believe that it is a man's responsibility to fend for his family. It is time we take that load off them and avoid further damage to our society.

Vogue India's short films on the adage 'Boys Don't Cry', Fanpage's Slap Her and Always' Always' Like A Girl are still relevant today, even after years of their release. These videos and ads are a reminder to us that something in the way we bring up our boys and girls needs to be fixed.

As we inch closer to initiatives like #BalanceforBetter, we must address the issues that cause the imbalance in the first place. And every ad, message and initiative towards this counts and needs to be valued.

Biba's campaign 'Change for Progress' is one example that highlights the imbalance in our society and leaves us with a thought-provoking question - 'why ask a woman what you wouldn't ask a man'? And Titan Raga's 'Break The Bias' ad encourages us to change our perspective.

While a lot of brands have time and again touched upon the subject of gender-parity and questioned the stereotypes, off-late the conversations have become bolder. The recent Women's Day campaign by the fashion brand Max 'Behen Kuch Bhi Pehen' is a wonderful example of how brands are not shying away from taking a few issues head-on. And why not! Why should a certain section of society decide what a woman should wear?

ALSO READ: As Gillette slams misogyny, mansplaining, machoism...

Nike's Dream Crazier is another powerful example of how women are now more ready than ever to change and drive conversations.

Content platforms are making this change even more relatable for women across the country by creating content for women by women. Content that breaks the stereotypes that challenge them. Content that encourages them to be fierce and fearless and break down gender norms. There is a paradigm shift in the way women are portrayed in this new and loved world of content. TVF's Girliyapa is one such content platform that has successfully changed the narrative for women.

Things are changing. Conversations are becoming more real and relatable. Women are speaking their mind, living their dreams, designing their own lives. Our society is witnessing a much-needed change. There is a need for more people - both men and women - to join the revolution. We need more conversations and debates around gender-parity, more initiatives towards women empowerment, a sincere effort to reduce the pay gap, and everything else that holds us back from being an equal society.

And nothing about this change should be a cause of concern for the progressive man. Because it is not about men vs women. It is not about women overtaking men. It is not about hating men. It is about people with equal rights and bigger dreams. We must fix whatever needs fixing - men as well as women.

Yes, it is discomforting and difficult to adjust when things around you are not the usual. When your beliefs are questioned and your every action is scrutinised. But the men who have understood and embraced this change are some of the strongest advocates of the cause.

Gender parity is not just a family or a societal issue, it is an economic issue and we must, together, strive to #BalanceforBetter.

(Shefali Takalkar heads BBH India's Content Studio)

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