I remember sitting in class passively when it erupted into a fierce debate. The topic under discussion was an Airtel Ad. Everybody was restless to put their points forth. I sat clueless as I had not watched the commercial. Some of my classmates took offense because the lady was shown cooking for her husband after she reached home from office. Apparently, this reinstated stereotypical opinion that if a woman is working, she must know to manage both her office and her family.

A group of other classmates were quick to retaliate. One of them stood up and said that her Mom was a working woman who came back from office and cooked for her family. This gave her a break from work. Hence, to cook or not to cook at home after office can be a woman’s freewill or compulsion. Later, our professor decided to bring this debate to an end but encouraged us to keep thinking about it.

The debate shed light on portrayal of women in advertising. A few days later, I came across an article in Brand Equity titled with a word ‘Femvertising’ in it that caught my attention. It talked about how companies are increasingly focusing their media communications on women issues and challenging gender bias and stereotypes. Soon thereafter, I attended a one hour session by Lynn D’souza who talked about companies doing ‘Social Good’. I was quick to put two and two together that resulted in a series of questions –

  • Are companies resorting to ‘Femvertising’ because of India’s sudden piqued interest in the F-word?
  • Is ‘Femvertising’ a western trend catching up in India?
  • Are advertisers simply cashing in on women insecurities?
  • Is ‘Femvertising’ here to create a sustainable impact or a fad that will wear off with time?

‘Feminism’ has always been under debate because it means different things to different people. A teacher once told us that Feminism has more to do with equity than equality; equity being equal access to resources and opportunities. Often, feminists have been accused of treading into another territory called Feminazism- putting down men in order to give an impetus to women. The recent rant by AIB’s Tanmay Bhatt has cleared the air about the meaning of feminism and we could not be more glad!

Moving on to another ad by Anouk – an ethnic wear brand on Myntra called ‘The Visit’ about a lesbian couple. It catches you off guard. No doubt it is a step, though a small one, towards change. Afterall, ‘Small deeds lead to big changes’. We all know how companies carry out a follow up once a new ad campaign goes on air. I ask, what parameters are used to measure the outcome? Sole increase in sales and brand awareness or increase in sales and brand awareness in addition to the change in attitude towards the cause under concern (in Anouk’s case, same-sex marriage)

After reading through everything, you might say I am getting a little too critical on this ‘Femvertising’, but that is the point I would like to make. In this 21st Century, we audiences need to empower ourselves. We are no dummies and media is no gun that fires information that pierces our brain without any opposition. In the end, if you take anything from what I have written, it should be that the next time you come across any ad, you try looking through it instead of what’s there on surface.