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An advertisement for a mosquito repellent, almost blackmails mothers into buying their product, else they could be putting their child’s life at risk. Am not joking. This ad uses a sick child and a helpless crying mother, and makes us stare at our worst possible fear for four long minutes. What else could a mother be more afraid of than failing to protect her child from a life-threatening sickness? All this is burdened on our already troubled and guilty conscience, to “create awareness” about dengue mosquitoes.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • An ad for mosquito repellent uses a sick child and crying mother to sell their product.
  • Is motherhood a trope which ad makers can exploit to guilt trip us into buying products?
  • Numerous ads play on this emotion of anxiety and guilt that mothers bear, to be “better” at their job.
  • Such ads further reinforce that a child’s well-being is solely a mother’s responsibility.

What else could a mother be more afraid of than failing to protect her child from a life threatening sickness?

Using the tagline Mujhe Sab Nahi Pata, this ad is a weird mix of questions on how we do not properly initiate women into motherhood, that then spirals off flash scenes of a sick child and his crying mother. We expect a good mother to know everything. But in reality we all are just stumbling our way through this experience. You learn as you go, thus it is not possible for any mother to know everything. Which is completely okay, because there is no manual which can teach you all that there is to know about motherhood.

Mujhe Sab Nahi Pata- with this line the ad campaign aims to break the stereotypes which Indian mothers have to battle, considering how they are revered as being next only to god.

It could have been a campaign worth rooting for, had it stuck to that template. Yes, no mother knows everything and it is okay to ask. But when you see a mother crying, it is less inspiring and more intimidating. I don’t know everything thus becomes a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t know the little things like how dengue mosquitoes can breed in stagnant water. It becomes an advertising gimmick which feasts on our vulnerabilities and fears as moms.

I don’t know everything thus becomes a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t know the little things.

But that’s is not the only problem, as this ad, like many others catering products to Indian mums, once again puts the burden of keeping a child safe and healthy squarely on their shoulder. The mother in the advertisement goes on to say that she made a big mistake. Because if your child is sick, then naturally you as a mother must have done something wrong. “I don’t know everything.” Oh, but you must.

Or you must solely bear the burden of guilt if a dengue mosquito bites your child, because it is you who should have made sure that all the windows and doors are sealed shut after six in the evening. It is your responsibility to turn on the mosquito repellent to “active mode” whenever required. Isn’t this what all ads tell us, including this one? From healthy snacking to building immunity to even rash due to using a cloth nappies, ads for children’s products largely reinforce the stereotype that childcare is a woman’s duty.

Ads for children’s products largely reinforce the stereotype that childcare is a woman’s duty.

Motherhood isn’t a trope which ad makers can use to make us feel guilty or send us panicking. Being a mother is very stressful. And just like mothers, even ad makers don’t know everything about motherhood. Thus they should stop pretending like they do.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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