Havell’s Advertisements, Boys Don’t Cry and Feminism

Look I know that I am wading into dangerous territory talking about feminism but please bear/beer/bare (choose as applicable) with me.

By nature, I am anti “-ism”…in fact the only ‘ism’ I support is prism (geometry and optics not NSA). However, I do understand the need for feminism, especially in a country like India, where female infanticide is still prevalent and domestic violence is as common as breakfast.

What I do find weird is the execution.

A few cases in point

The clamour for 33.3% reservation in parliament. Just what exactly will that achieve? The idea behind it about empowering women is good, no doubt about that. The voiceless need a voice, especially in a country like India, where in many places cattle have more value than women.

But will merely handling out reservation help the cause?

India already has some of the strongest female politicians in the world – Sonia Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, Jayalalitha, Mayawati, Didi, Brinda Karat to name a few (am deliberately living out the likes of Supriya Sule, the Munde sisters, Kavitha etc who joined politics because of their fathers). With the possible exception for Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, none of them were handed anything, they fought and struggled from the lowest level to reach the heights that they have reached.

On the other hand, we have the likes of Rabri Devi,  Prathibha Patil, Shikha Mitra (Somen’s wife), YSR’s widow etc. Its quite clear to everyone, even to those of the lowest intellect with IQs below 50…or in other words Arsenal fans….that these ladies are nothing but political puppets at the hands of their husbands or sons.

And unfortunately, the majority of the women Councillors and MLAs fall into this category. So what is going to happen when we have that reservation? We will have more than 100 women MPs who will have all the responsibilities and liabilities but none of the power.

So how does that help anyone, least of all the women representatives?

Look we already have examples of reservations not really working. For example, we have had reservations in schools, colleges and in government workforce for scheduled castes and tribes. It has definitely improved the conditions of some.

But the Dalits are still being maltreated everywhere in India, the tribes, especially the ones in central India are being massacred and their homes and livelihoods are getting destroyed.

So have the reservations really helped them?

You may argue that it has helped some of them and I will agree. That brings me to another issue, I agree that due to historic exploitation, certain backward sections of the society deserve some special privileges, but the question is for how long?

Say person A, a backward, gets privileges in his school and college and get a government job. Fair enough, his son or daughter also gets the same. His grandkids will get them, so will his great grandkids….but why? What crime has your great granddaughter or son done that she or he will have to suffer when compared to a girl or boy of the same age who come from a privileged background?

The point I am making is that blanket reservations do not really help, especially in the long term. It hasnt helped in the matter of castes and tribes and will likely not work in the matter of genders.

[The reservation will only make sense if we have a complete overhaul of the political system, especially when its about parliament elections. Universal franchise is needed when ti comes to councillor or panchayat elections or even for the state assemblies, but when it comes to matters on national interest, it is stupid. We are basically trusting the judgments of illiterates, idiots, insanes, inebriateds  and Arsenal fans (in Arsene they trust)  to know what is best for the country. There should be a rule that you have to be a post-graduate or at least a graduate to be eligible to vote in parliamentary elections.]

Now lets talk about those Havell’s Ads. The message here is Respect Women. So far so good – though I am of the opinion that you can’t give respect willynilly; respect has to be earned through your actions, that’s why people like Jyotika Khullar deserve all the respect in the world whereas Mr. Are You Serious Vadra or Mr Kejriwal deserve none.

Should I respect the woman who killed her babies or the one who strapped bombs to herself and blew up schoolchildren or all those morons who are flocking to join the Islamists in Syria or the hunters/poachers or all the mom in laws who torture their daughter in laws for dowry or for that matter Arsenal fans (in Arsene they trust) or the women who all went and supported the murderer of Jimbo, because its only a dog?

The answer is a resounding no. And I stand by this even though you may call me a chauvinist or a sicko or a pervert or a douchebag (most of you have already called me these, so nothing new).

But still, there is nothing inherently wrong in the message Respect Women.

The problem I have is in the way the message is being conveyed, especially in the case of the Havell’s Ads.

In 1 ad, we see a man getting ready for office, looks like he is late, and there is something wrong with his tie or shirt and thus he requests his wife to iron it. He does not demand or order, he makes a request. The wife angrily hands him the iron and informs him that she is the stree (wife), not the istiree (iron).

Now, I am not suggesting in any way, shape, size or form, that ironing is a wifely duty, far from it. I just think that if two people are together and if one asks the other for some help, and if the other can do it, why not do it? And what exactly is so degrading about ironing anyway?  How is this disrespectful to women?

In another ad, we see a man wistfully reminiscing about his mom’s chutney. This angers the wife. fair enough….but where is the disrespect? How is it demeaning to the wife if the husband prefers his mother’s chutney? Why is this a respect women issue? Was the man’s mother not a woman?

I just feel that these stupid half-arsed ads do more harm than good (kinda like the Arsenal doctors) and give people a very wrong idea about what feminism is.

All of which bring me to the final ad – the Madhuri Dixit starred Start with the Boys. In fact, I should not call it an ad, its more of a campaign/infotainment. And in my personal opinion, its quite a good and effective one as far as the message goes (irrespective of production qualities or the impact on the male ego)

My only issue, a tiny issue, with it is that for a long time it looked like a campaign about depression in boys, and as a perennially depressed man who, on many days, goes off to sleep crying, it attracted my interest.

However, the message is that we all need to teach the boys that hitting girls is a strict no no. And self-defense aside, there is no excuse, no justification. None.

It is one of the first lessons my father taught me (along with never do drugs and never support East Bengal) and in fact it is the duty of every father worldwide to drill that into their children’s minds.

Now I know that most of you consider me an irritant, a nuisance, a pervert and a douchebag (I still don’t know what a douchebag looks like btw) but can you recall even one instance where I have hit a woman or have verbally abused a woman? Of course I have argued, quarreled and debated but have any of you ever heard me use an abusive term towards a woman?

I am not beating my own drum, am just making the point that if a loser like me can be like this, then so can be the rest. All it needs is the proper education – and no I don’t mean (a+b)2 kind of education but actual education about what it means to be a human being.

Education is the only panacea available and feminism should look into this rather than fight for women’s reservation.

There was a time feminism fought for the right to vote – now everyone can vote.

There was a time when feminism fought for equality in the eyes of law as well as in the public sphere and workspace – more or less achieved (I mean if we apply for the same position, nobody will pick me over Jyotika, Runa or Pallavi even though we are all similarly educated and have the same background and I am the man.)

So basically feminism fought for the truly important issues and made the world a better place.

But now?

Well know, for some reason, feminists in Toronto and New York fought for the right to be topless in public – and they got that right as well – anybody can be legally topless anywhere in these two cities.

And feminists in India are fighting for women’s quota in parliament.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of 10 other areas where feminists can focus more on….

  • Compulsory education for the girl child, at least till graduation
  • Toilets in all houses
  • Ban on dowry (social, not only legal)
  • Training the mothers to be better trainers of boys and girls so that they can grow up and be better human beings
  • Ban on the caste system
  • Equality in pay
  • Enabling all women to be financially independent
  • Boycott of all media which encourage stuff like the recent deepika padukone controversy
  • Boycott of films which have item numbers
  • Abolition of East Bengal football club

But hey, what do I know

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12 thoughts on “Havell’s Advertisements, Boys Don’t Cry and Feminism

  1. First – You are not a looser.
    Second – The slogan ‘Respect Women’ means treat them as equals or respect their rights and not bestow on them your admiration. That kind of respect has to be earned.
    Third – I also decry the 33% reservation, but this quota I have come to realise, is a stepping stone and therefore is required for a few terms.
    Fourth – Agree on the need for educational qualification pre requited to contest in elections
    Fifth – If you look a closely at the Havell’s Ads the wives are doing something else or are otherwise engaged and the husbands are not requesting for help they are actually assuming that their wives would drop everything and run to their aid. Hence the I am not an appliance but a person routine.
    We live in a world where the woman is still fighting for her fundamental rights – Her right to live, her to her body, her right to her privacy, her right to safety. So adverts that say Respect Women are crucial. Again they don’t say stand up when she enters the room, they say respect her fundamental rights, she is human just like you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you or the comments mam, much appreciated…and thanks for raising the points
      however,
      agree on point 1, am not “loose”
      agree on 2nd too, though the Havell’s Ads do not make that clear
      third, disagree, stepping stone to what? just what will having 100 prathibha patils in parliament achieve?
      as for the fifth, i did say that message is crucial and i have no objection to the message but my issue is with the execution…if you look at the idly ad, the woman is actually not doing anything, she is just sitting beside the husband who is eating…in the ironing wala ad also the lady is doing something with clothes…..ur point would have been more apt if the only ad was the one where the lad ywas going off to a morning jog when the husband rudely demands fresh juice….

      Like

  2. Welcome
    third – for every Pratibha Patil, there are 3 Sushma Swarajs, Kumari Shelajas, 3 mamta Bannerjees, 3 Jayalalithas, 3 Vasundera Raje Scindias etc. We need more female participation and the reservation is a good way to attract them.
    Fifth – In the iron advert. It looked like the wife was also getting ready. She was holding a red top against her. She too was on her way to work. The Hubby could have either ironed his own shirt or picked out one that was already ironed. In the chutney advert the wife sat down, perhaps she was going to eat too, She was happy with the soft idli comment and then the hubby went on about his mother and her 3 chutneys. Making sambhar in the morning is difficult he could have been a little appreciative. The Adverts were suggestive of the indifference that the wife faces. She is expected to do everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 3rd – In the current scenario, that’s not the case, and its unfortunate. I totally agree that more female participation is needed, but merely having reservation would ensure the presence ofthe former and not the latter. You see the Sushma Swarajs, Vasundhara Rajes and Didis of the world came through because of their own merits, they are strong leaders and politicians, irrespective of the party. Women leaders like these will continue to come through because they deserve it. But merely having reservations would ensure that a lot of women will come to parliament just because of the fact that they are married to some party strongman. My issue is not with the women here but with the situation where these women will have all the responsibilities and liabilities but because they are married to strong party leaders, none or very little of the powers, whereas the husband politicians will have no responsibility but all the power…..that’s the ground reality as it is now. 50 years from now, in a better India, where more women are educated and financially independent, then a reservation such as this might make sense.
      5th – iron ad, the message getting conveyed here is that i am the wife and thus above such menial tasks; i am sure that the intention is not to convey such a thing but to convey what you said, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired, she could have easily said that am also busy, pls take another shirt or something instead of being rude about it….
      but i cant agree with the idly ad, that one makes no sense

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  3. one example – panchayat elections.. before the 33% reservations came in women hardly had any position in panchayats. After the reservations, as expected, the men started getting their women to stand in their stead for elections. Most of these women were rubber stamp for their men for a long time and then surprise surprise… a lot of them started taking their own decisions. There have been studies suggesting that these women did a lot more work for betterment of their villages than men had done in ages.

    Hence a stepping stone! 🙂

    But i really hope we don’t clutch to these reservations for ever!

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    1. my whole issue is that its parliament, where matters of national security are there, which is why I am also against universal franchise for parliament elections….I would support the reservation if there is a proviso that only post grads or grads can contest

      Like

  4. Mostly tend to agree on all points. I often see a very warped idea of feminism among the bright women who are in a position to be feminists. Or maybe i don’t see their pov. Most are too focussed on tokenism – reservation, bra burning, not using husbands surname, etc.

    At times I found this piece a bit too long and winding before you came to the point nicely. This would be a nice speech or a chat script tho. If you couldve cut out all the Arsenal and East Bengal parts, youd have saved yourself about 100 words 🙂

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  5. just out of curiosity, is non-universal franchise in a democracy practised anywhere these days? (i don’t mean under-age cut-offs). would be interesting to know if there are examples for this. i thought the very nature of democracy makes it impossible to leave out people from the “right to vote” group.

    Like

    1. China
      Democracy, as the ancient Greeks practiced it (and they knew a thing or two about a thing or two) meant no votes for women, slaves, children, landless, poor etc. I don’t agree to something like that. Noone should be banned from voting by virtue of their gender or race or colour of skin or language. But every democracy already has the ‘fit and proper’ mechanism which prevents the lunatics from voting. All I am advocating is to take it a bit further. People who get a say in matters of national interest should be educated enough and intelligent enough to make such decisions.
      You want a say in matters of national interest?
      Get yourself a degree

      Like

  6. This post is good in parts, but it would have been really good if you had split it into two. One dealing with reservation, and the other dealing with the Havells ads and what they depict.

    Any piece of writing should have a central message that it sticks to. Digression is good. It helps give interesting insights to the reader. But too much digression takes away the central focus of the piece. It confuses the reader.

    Like

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