This post is a continuation of my previous blog on daring the advertisers to join the conversations by being proactive and stop perpetuating the stereotypes by offering alternative storyline to sell us their products.
The recent article in Slate asking for Ford India to fire its advertisers after autoblog highlighted the “downright lascivious” sensibilities at Ford India’s marketing partners. This is a breath of fresh air given that often such a criticism is levied by women’s rights or some activist group and not industry peers. It is an opportunity to be reflective and I hope this is not just about sacking the marketing partners (though that would be a good start) but self inspection within the marketing and advertising folks on their role in perpetuating stereotypes and even objectification of women in their pursuit to sell products and appear “in” or cool. There needs to be a redefinition of cool in marketing. It should be someone who is socially conscious. It is someone who will challenge the deeply entrenched biases that make them the norm.
In the most recently concluded Commission on the Status of Women’s Agreed Conclusions (PDF) state (emphasis is mine):
(vv) Recognize the important role the media can play in the elimination of gender stereotypes, including those perpetuated by commercial advertisements, and in promoting non-discriminatory and gender-sensitive reporting, including by preserving the confidentiality of the identity of victims and survivors where appropriate; and, to the extent consistent with freedom of expression, encourage the media to improve public awareness on violence against women and girls, to train those who work in the media, and to develop and strengthen self-regulatory mechanisms to promote balanced and non-stereotypical portrayals of women with a view to eliminating discrimination against and the exploitation of women and girls and refraining from presenting them as inferior beings and exploiting them as sexual objects and commodities and instead present women and girls as creative human beings, key actors and contributors to and beneficiaries of the process of development
There needs to be a move to building greater “self-regulatory” mechanisms that would hold the advertisers accountable and perhaps even make them stop and reconsider the way women are presented in the stories they weave to make us buy their products.