A few days ago I came across a commercial of a luxury car brand that pitched new features and better comfort to interested buyers. However, there was something curious about the ad, of all the couples shown, it was men who were in the driving seat. Not a single woman was shown driving. Do women not buy or drive luxury cars? Why does women driving, for the exception of scooties, remain a rare sight in Indian advertising? Is it assumed that women don’t have the capacity to buy cars or make a decision as to which car should be bought?
- Advertisements for vehicles, especially bikes seldom show women driving them.
- Are women not seen as potential buyers? Or good drivers?
- Must a bike be marketed on its “masculinity” factor? Isn’t this gimmick too outdated in 2020?
- Women have to endure a lot of stereotyping as drivers. Such gendered ads only further this misplaced mindset.
Do women not buy or drive luxury cars? Why does women driving, for the exception of scooties, remain a rare sight in Indian advertising?
The worst-hit with lack of representation, when it comes to advertisements for vehicles are bikes. They are largely pitched with a dollop of masculinity. Not only do the ads of bike lack women driving them, bikes are often portrayed to be “chick-magnets” that catches a woman’s attention, titillating you with a rush that only a “man” desires, helping you one up a rival colleague, or getting you the opportunity to drop off a female co-worker because you drive a swankier or more powerful bike than those around you.
I don’t even have to step outside of my tiny town to know how riding a bike isn’t uncommon among women. It isn’t just professional female bikers who do that. I see college going girls, women wearing nauvari rid bikes now and then. They go to work, to pick up kids from school, or to run daily errands on a bike matter-of-factly. And yet, how many regular women find representation in bike ads? In fact, a leading two-wheeler brand is celebrating 18 years of its tag line: Definitely Male. Doesn’t it feel outdated in 2020? Do brands need to really cater to the hypermasculine tendency in Indian males to get them to buy their products? It isn’t as if people will stop buying bikes if you don’t play on their masculinity to sell it. People will still need their vehicles to get from point A to point B. Making your advertisements inclusive though will only widen your customer base.
By showing men in control of wheels or handles, advertisements add more fuel to this stigma, keeping women firmly rooted in the passenger seat or riding pillion.
What’s more, showing women as drivers will encourage more women to take up driving. Women drivers have to deal with horrendous stereotyping. They are labelled bad-drivers on basis of their gender. While a man making the same mistakes while driving will get away with verbal abuse, a female driver will incur a rant directed at the entire womenkind.
By showing men in control of wheels or handles, advertisements add more fuel to this stigma, keeping women firmly rooted in the passenger seat or riding pillion. Be it bikes or luxury cars, women need to be seen in control of these vehicles. They need to be shown buying them. But then change needs to happen outside of the screen as well and men can play a big role in it. Instead of discrediting a female driver as a bad one automatically, question your sexist gaze. If your wife or sister makes a mistake while driving, do not take the steering away from her, saying that being a woman, this isn’t her forte. Tell her what mistakes she is making and encourage her to take the wheels more often.
When more women are seen driving and buying vehicles, the trend to masculinise advertisements for vehicles will course-correct itself. As for women, do not let unnecessary gendered criticism deter you from driving. Take the control of the steering wheel because driving holds the potential to empower you and because visibility is the best way to usher in inclusion.
Picture Credit: indiatimes.com
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.