Tag Archives: gender

Nike’s Pro-Hijab Campaign Is A Good Thing

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No matter what your views are on the Hijab, you should see Nike’s ‘What Will They Say About You’ campaign. Reserve your judgement about the fact that this is a woman in a Hijab – because there are two, diverse schools of thought about women wearing Hijabs – and no matter what side you are on, there is one thing to appreciate here and that is the fact that  a brand has taken a clear stand on an issue which concerns women and minorities (in a post-trump, post-Brexit, right-swinging world, I think it’s a positive step). Sure, it’s a great marketing idea, but my point is – if it’s a great marketing idea and is also a great one for women and minorities, then why the hue and cry? (there’s been a sort-of backlash on social media, but that’s hardly surprising.) In today’s world of, you-can’t-wear-hijabs-on-our-beaches, I think it’s a bold, positive step.

The fact is that there are brands that indulge in serious gender stereotyping and do that whole pink-blue thing till they go blue in the face, which is revolting, if regressive. Not to mention ads like the ones Gap released last year, which tell little girls how to dress like a “social butterfly” and little boys like the “little scholar” (ugh).

So, contrast that with a brand that’s taking a stand, a very visual, pro-women (Muslim women at that) stand in today’s xenophobic environment. Not sure what the problem with that is. Yes, there’s the argument that this reinforces stereotypes and the whole, should-women-wear-hijabs thing. But that’s not a straightforward issue – are some women forced to wear Hijabs? Do some wear it out of choice? Do such Hijabs encourage more women to get into sports? Like I said, it’s not a simple argument.

Not sure what you think, but comments, on both sides, are welcome. Just keep it civil.

 

 

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No GAP, Your Ad is Not A Mistake. It’s Really More Than That

gap ad

A lot has been said about the UK GAP ad – how it not only made a fatal error but also disappointed many when it released its latest ad.

I look at it a bit differently. To me it’s not an “error”. The ad, quite clearly, gives away a mindset – one that cannot be termed as a mistake, an oversight or lack of judgement. These are mere euphemisms that gloss over the real truth, which is that for an ad campaign to be created at a company like GAP (or any other company of this size for that matter) must require several layers of approvals, from the bottom to the very top. This revels only one hard truth – that somewhere the ideas of men and women are so firmly entrenched that it did not strike anyone as wrong. And that’s really the unfortunate part – that the ad did not seem jarring to anyone who was involved in its creation and approval. For all the politically correct rhetoric about equality and gender stereotyping, at the end of the day the best of us like to put men and women in boxes – women shop, men do the cerebral stuff.  That’s what it boils down to – cutesy girl, little boy – wham you have an ad.

To take this a little further let me add that it’s not about being politically correct either, or how GAP “let it slip”, because being politically correct means that there are compulsory checks and balances that ensure an organization does not make blunders. Call it utopian, but I believe that a company that looks at men and women equally should not, in an ideal world, need such checks.

But it’s not an ideal world, we’ve seen this before, and sadly, we’ll see it again. GAP is not the first company to have revealed its narrow-minded outlook though an ad. Nine West did it two years ago when it released a campaign showing animal print stilettos with captions like – ‘Starter Husband Hunting’ and text that read: “It’s hunting season. Whether you’re looking for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, we have a shoe for that” . Again, it was an inadvertent giving away of a mindset, not an example of a “mistake”.

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Like in the GAP ad, then too many said that the outcry against the ad was an overreaction. They asked women to “lighten up and take a joke”. Except it’s not a joke – this is about constantly reinforcing deep seated stereotypes that manifest themselves in intangible ways and feed regressive ideas about women and what they should be like. Such parochial ideas percolate deep into our psyches and contribute to creating the barriers women are finding hard to break through today – barriers that are created because of mindsets about women, mindsets that are fueled by ad such as these. So no, it’s not a joke and it cannot be taken lightly. It’s the reason why women are still not accepted into many so-called cerebral roles at work (finance, coding, IT, to name some); it’s why prominent world leaders continue to make derogatory remarks about women and get away with it – ads like these do nothing to help rid society of regressive stereotypes. And they must stop.

In my humble opinion, what GAP did was far worse than many other such ads and thus, unforgivable. By featuring children it’s basically telling every girl who sees the ad that she’s really a social butterfly at best, and must dress to be like one and it’s telling every boy that he is meant for all matters cerebral and must aspire to be like Einstein (which he would probably need to spell first, because GAP sure can’t). Unforgivable and revolting.

I’ve said this before, on too many occasions, that campaigns that feature women in stereotypical roles do irreparable harm and must be checked. Only last month I wrote about something similar I saw at ICICI bank when I saw a poster that showed a father saving money for this daughter’s wedding and son’s graduation – again – women social butterfly who aspires to be married, son – the Einstein who’ll go to a good university.  We don’t even realize the flaw in that thought, because we do it repeatedly, and worse, not many even notice it.

Brands have no business telling children what they should play with or wear or think like. Kinder Joy loves to tell boys that blue is their colour and that they must play with boy-toys and that girls must stick to dolls which are found in the pink Kinder eggs. Again, they are impervious to disapproval and continue to be irresponsible in the blind pursuit of sales. Another example of an unforgivable act by a company.

There will be more such ads, which will be termed as “mistakes”. No, a mistake is a spelling error (which GAP also made in the same ad). The ad, in itself, is a reflection of the real problem with our society today in its ideas about gender roles. I am not sure an apology can change that attitude.

 

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An Open Letter to Kinder Joy

Dear Product Design team at Kinder (who came up with the beaten-to-death idea of telling little girls that they like pink, and that they should stick to playing with dolls)

I am a mother of three little girls (awww, I know) and I want to tell you a thing or two about them. No, it’s not my idea of a great pass time to write to companies extolling the virtues of my children (I’d do that on facebook if I ever became insane enough). I write to you because I think you need this unsolicited advice, because you don’t really know the kids you claim to make happy.

Allow me to explain.

You see, your blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls idea is a bit – how do I say this? nauseating. Not to mention, so clichéd and trite that it makes me wonder how companies like yours arrive at such regressive and frankly threadbare decisions. It makes me wonder if you even know children at all. Actually, I can quite safely say that you don’t, which is why I want to tell you a little about mine. Please do hear me out.

My girls like pink, sure, but just as much as they like, say red, white, yellow and for that matter blue (surprise surprise). They play their doll games when they want, but they also like to cycle, run in the park, climb monkey ladders, swim, play tennis and build stuff, you know the kind you pack in the “for-boys” Kinder eggs – you do know the ones I am talking about? That’s right, those most predictably blue-coloured Kinder Eggs; the, you-must-like-large-eyed-fairies-because-you’re-a-girl and you-must-love-cars-because-you’re-a-boy, those ones.

Seriously Kinder Joy? Pink and Blue? This is your idea? This is what creative-off sites in companies lead to? I mean, I may not be a marketing expert, but really this baffles and disgusts me at the same time. Selling chocolates by gender? Wow.

Maybe it’s just me, but really, I am thinking why a company like yours would do this? Is it because you think that little girls would not like/ be interested in/ be able to put together a little puzzle or a want to play with a truck? That they would much rather have some fairy to pop out, which they can then take to their other similar minded friends (read girls) and proceed blithely into a soft-focus world of make-believe tea parties, which is where they belong? Because you think that building things is for boys, which, if your site is anything to go by, is what they do, with their dads by the way, because mommies would rather wear fitting tops and jog (yes, on your site too– them stock images, I tell you). Boys like to cycle wearing blue helmets and girls like to wear pink and kiss their mommies or hold soft and fluffy teddy bears. That’s your idea of kids (again, it’s on your site, do re-visit – all there).

Telling images apart, there’s also a lot of politically-correct sounding rhetoric on your site. But here I am reminded of the age old saying – that actions speak louder than words – you make all these tall claims about raising happy kids and all the rest of it, and then you climb on to your self-made pulpit and tell them what they should play with. You girls there, here are your pink toys, now run along, be off, sit like little ladies in a corner and do your girlie stuff, whatever that is.

I want to ask you Kinder, who gave you the right to lure my child with a chocolate and tell her what her idea of a toy should be? Who gave you the authority to instill in her vulnerable little mind ideas about gender? Do you even realize what you are doing? Have you no feeling of responsibility towards the very children you claim to aid in raising happy?

What I want to say to you is this – please look at children as children and not girls and boys on whose little backs you can ride all the way to the bank. You make chocolates all you want, but if you must club them with toys, do it responsibly. Go ahead, do your product re-launches, meet your quarterly targets and all the stuff companies do, but think of something better than this. It’s really a telling sign when someone like you feels the need to fall back upon the most overused and offensive stereotype in the world.

I am sure you can do better Kinder. Give it a shot.

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