Can we ever #GiveItUp on Sexism?

BTW, have you heard the #GiveItUp ads on radio lately? Frankly, it is impossible to miss them because one is constantly badgered by them on all the FM channels. Before I get into the discussion on or about them, let me describe how the ad runs for the benefit of all those that have been ignorant about this great piece of social messaging.

At the start, we have a man sitting comfortable praising a woman (wife implied by the wayCDA_D3nUMAEeJ9p he calls her by first name Radha) for her “aloo ka paratha“. The women is thrilled at the praise, and in a tone that would befit a “bhartiya nari” — dedicated to the welfare and whims of her husband — duly states that she will bring him one more. The man obviously glad, feels not a pinch about the extra-work his dutiful Radha has to do. In fact, he ever so casually adds to her burden by ordering her to switch on the TV while she is on the way to the kitchen to cook. On the TV, there is our ubiquitous PM Modi delivering a small note on how if people were to give up on Hatheir LPG subsidy, he would provide the ‘gas ka chulha‘ to all the poor homes where women still use wood stoves, and kids are raised on smoke, and diseases are rampant. The PM’s speech touches a chord and the man starts fidgeting with his cell. The dutiful wife arrives with the paratha and on seeing her husband distracted with the phone, enquires (mind you just enquires, not irritated) about the reason for it. The man emotionally narrates the tale from his childhood, how he is reminded of his mother who used to burn her eyes on the wooden chula, and now that he is economically well off, he can help the numerous mothers by giving up his subsidy (through his cell). The wife all gooey-eyed and besotted can only exclaim with a happy sigh, “I am so proud of you“.

give itupThere is even a TV version of the same ad, with minor tweaks. But the overall script largely remains the same. Watch it if you care —

Being badgered by the same ad over and over again (they sure must have huge budgets to run the ads so many times a day on so many channels), I became kinda immune to the words and was able to notice certain things, all of which alluded to the parochial mentality of makers. I mean living in the 21st century, wherein we are sending missions to Mars, we still have a role-model of a man, who makes his wife cook for him and orders her around. Once, I started noting such thing, the whole ad seemed to be written by some guy, who sits in the Khap Panchayat in the day and moonlights as copywriter in the night.

Here are some of the things that were disconcerting:

1) It is the woman’s duty to cook, and a dutiful woman keeps cooking. Kitchen is her temple and the husband is her god. She should feed him till he is pleased, and always happily.gender-equality-scales

2) The man won’t budge his bum, and orders his wife even to switch on the darn TV. Some gall.

3) He takes a decision to give up the subsidy, on his own, without consulting or even bothering to inform his wife. And the dutiful dodo comes and listens to his story dutifully.

4) It is always he and his family for the man. The paratha (or the food) cooked by his wife reminded him of his mother, then PM Modi reminded him of his mother and how she raised him, and then when he is giving up the subsidy, it is all about his mother again. I mean, does the woman, who cooks, feeds, switches on the TV, count for anything at all?

5) Finally, the man, who is happily consuming the parathas she cooks, watches TV, and goes ahead making unilateral decisions, what does our Sita-like Radha has to say about him? “I am so proud of you”.

Sadly in our country, the roles of husband and wife are gender-defined. So, the man is the breadwinner, and the woman the caretaker. This #GiveitUp campaign confirms to the same stereotype. Reinforcing the same message, namely, that the man will make all the decisions, while the wife will only follow them. This ad would have worked 4 decades back, when 1865978things were so. But in today’s time when women can be seen in the forefront of everything, from leading MNCs to leading political parties, this ad seems discordant and unconnected with ground reality. If the indeed the #GiveItUp message needs to be effective, it needs to reach out to the decision-maker of the house today. And she doesn’t necessarily wear a salwar-kameez, but is equally comfortable wearing a pant-shirt.

It is really high-time we came out of this mentality, this stereotypical mentality based on genitalia one possesses. Can we first #GiveThatUp?

P.S. BTW, again, I am not even going into the merits of giving up the subsidy and the logic of how it will help the poor of the nation, when our honourable Members of Parliaments live a luxurious life in their comfy Bungalows in Lutyens road, with gardener and orderlies, travelling in sedans and free flights year round. And not to forget eating highly-discounted meals in their canteens. No, I am not even venturing into that argument. That’s for sometime else.

P.S.2 BTW,  yet again, I haven’t given up on my subsidy, because, frankly my ma never used the wooden chula, and more importantly my wife won’t allow me to do so. And then, since her (wife’s) Aadhar is yet to be linked to her LPG account, she ain’t getting any paybacks either. But then, I am waiting for a campaign which will make my wife all emotional  and heart-broken and she will #GiveItUp on it, while I make a bowl of delicious Maggie Noodles for her (I have stored some packs especially for it)..

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