How Unconscious Gender Bias In Ads Continue to Contribute to Misogyny

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For all those Delhiites listening to the radio, early morning should be familiar with Delhi Police’s famous radio public service advertisement which emphasises on the point that playing around with women in Delhi is like playing around with Delhi Police and warns men not to take “Panga” with women.  The way the Delhi police have been campaigning and bringing about various ways to curb issues such as street harassment, cat-calling, abuses, rape and other women related security issues have been quite progressive and effective.


You can frequently spot police patrolling areas day and night. This change has come to effect with the increasing cases of women’s issues. In the wake of the issue, newspapers, posters, radio advertisements are swamped by various campaigns of Delhi Police.

This is historic as to how seriously the issue has been taken and various measures are being devised but still, there is a problem.

Skimming through the newspaper early morning on 11th October 2017, something caught my eyeballs. Oh! This is giving out a positive impact on the sentence. Let me rephrase it. My eyeballs caught something on the newspaper and it has eventually led me to vent my thoughts on the same.

publive-image Pic Credit: The Times of India, 11th OCT,2017

The picture above is one of Delhi Police’s advertising campaign against street sexual harassment.  When I showed it to a couple of people they were absolutely delighted. How the police have been taking steps and it’s wonderful to see such campaigns every day on the newspaper. It’s time to take a close look at it with our magnifying glasses. Is there something that is disturbing in the poster?

The answer is a big, fat, YES! The sketch of the women is gratuitous. The depiction of women in modern clothes, make-up, short hair-cut is indeed bold but the context in which it is used is needless.


Does this poster emphasise that women face street harassment, only when they carry a bold look? The message needs to accentuate that men cannot misbehave under any circumstance. This poster is supposed to provoke men and urge them not to behave in a way that becomes a threat for women. Unfortunately, what this has transpired into an unprovoked message for women that they will be harassed if they wear modern clothes.

Simran Khosla, 19, student from Lady Shri Ram College for Women also throws light on this issue. She says, “There is a general perception that if women wear covered clothes then they are not seen as an object of prey by men but unfortunately, news every day is a testimony to the fact that being harassed, abused, stalked and assaulted has nothing to do with clothes. Rape case of a 1-year-old child has no link with her clothes. It’s misleading to have a poster like that which portrays women in a peculiar way. Women dress up as they wish but that does not mean men can do anything to them. The structure and the highlight of the sketch are very odd and very offending”.  The overpowering insistence on the lips, cleavage and tight-fitted clothes are overwhelmingly taxing and vexed.

All women do not wear clothes which are considered revealing and too appealing by the society. Women’s way of dressing is overrated, hyped and given undue prominence which is quite inessential.

Kavitha, 40, a resident of New Delhi finds this poster absurd and funny. She says, “We all know the condition of women’s safety in the national capital. It’s just muddling as to how even after knowing the stark truth, people still blame women for men’s irrational acts. Irrespective of what one wears, say a kurti, saree, jeans or cover ourselves up in winters with layers of clothes, the act of men continues due to their mentality. Having a daughter who goes to college and listening to all her tales in the metro, rickshaw, auto, cabs or walking around college, I’ve got a reality check that the problem is with men and only men, nobody or nothing else. It’s time that every gets this reality check as well”.

This natural perception that women’s clothing or the so-called "modern way of dressing" attracts eyeballs is foolish and to some extent a way of defending men’s actions. It’s essential to understand the real issue and bring about an awareness, rather than reinforcing ideas that are considered conventional!

Also Read: Nobel Prize Winners: What’s the count of women laureates?

Reshma Ganeshbabu is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed in this column are author’s own.

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