We debate regularly to shatter gender stereotypes in our families and society. But what do we do when advertisements end up reinforcing the outdated understanding of gender and gender roles? Especially products that apparently aim to ignite self-love among women?

Can a woman love herself only when she is fair and flawless, with black and silky hair? Must advertisements sell self-care to women with the lure that it will help them find a good job, success and a compatible life partner? Why is the success of a woman related to her looks? Why can’t Indian brands stop using gender stereotypes and women empowerment as marketing strategies to bait more customers? And why are we still watching them without questioning the beliefs they endors?

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No doubt many self-care products are based on regressive ideas, while some aren’t. But almost every product targets its customers by peddling the stereotypes about a woman’s beauty through their advertisements. The basic plot of such advertisements is that if a woman who is initially jobless, feels insecure about her face colour or hair, applies certain cream on her face or washes her hair with certain shampoo, she becomes confident enough to shatter all the stigmas that hold her back and achieve whatever she wants. While it is a good idea to encourage women to claim self-empowerment, should such a progressive idea be wrapped in yet another toxic stereotype?

Not only this, but certain advertisements also project the idea that a woman needs to smell good to have a credible job, relationship and marriage. It is also important to note here that the smell that makes a woman attractive is also deeply rooted in the narrow idea of femininity which associates certain flowery smells with womanhood.

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Such advertisements end up normalising the stereotypes that we have been struggling for so long to defy. While on one hand, they show that they are supportive of women empowerment, they also perpetuate the patriarchy by using its sexist and misogynistic ideas as a bait to attract more customers. And the fact that these problematic advertisements go unchallenged shows how deeply engraved are such stereotypes in our society. Why does everything in a woman’s life come down to her sexuality and looks? What about her talent, hard work and courage?

Moreover, these advertisements normalise the flawed idea that women who belong to a well-to-do family and can afford such products are the only ones eligible to fulfil their dreams. The way these products are necessitated becomes instrumental in dividing women based on their class, caste and economic status. They trick women into believing that these stereotypes can never be exterminated so it is better for them to conform to them if they ever want to be empowered. But is it even “empowerment” if it doesn’t involve all the women?

Also Read: Despite Rising Awareness, We Need Ban On Misleading Ads

Women today have proved their mettle through their dedication and talent. Irrespective of class, caste or looks, women from every nook and corner of society are striving to fulfil their dreams. Which is why, there needs to be zero tolerance against any person, institution or brands that conform to ideas of judging women on factors other than her personal achievements, talents and creativity. Women are capable of achieving their dreams and much more and certainly for that they do not need to look or smell good.

The views expressed are the author’s own

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