Victories for women: Advertising and women’s empowerment

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Top: Dekh Le campaign; Below: Tanishq ad. Image credit: dna

By Samyukta Maindarkar | dna

(Part of Victories for Women 2013, dna of women’s Year End Special. Read the full article here.)

The media is perpetually at the receiving end for all that it does wrong. This year it got quite a few things right, especially in the context of women’s empowerment.

It is widely known that most Indians consider being fair a prerequisite for everything from finding the love of your life to achieving any measure of success at work, as the airhostess ad done by Fair and Lovely, and Shah Rukh Khan’s endorsement of the increasingly popular men’s fairness cream, Emami Fair and Handsome, would have us believe. However, 2013 witnessed some stellar examples of the media celebrating dusky Indian beauty. The Dark is Beautiful campaign, launched by Women of Worth in 2009, has regained momentum with its new champion, Nandita Das, an actress whose dusky skin colour has always been mentioned alongside with her accolades, as if her success is despite some great deformity. Nandita has previously spoken about how she thought she probably wouldn’t succeed in mainstream Bollywood, thanks to its preference for lighter-skinned leading actresses. Her support of this campaign has shines the light on this rather dark issue.

Tanishq’s latest ad for its wedding collection also destroys several stereotypes. The ad by Lowe Lintas deals with a whole host of sensitive issues, including remarriage, single motherhood, and a darker-skinned bride–all in one short one-and-a-half minute film.

Earlier this year, another series of advertisements that went viral was Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. Women are made aware of their real, natural beauty by comparing two sketched portraits of their faces; the first based on a description by themselves and the other by a stranger. The ad is a reality check on how women sell themselves short.

A year after the horrifying Delhi rape, Whistling Woods International aims to raise awareness through an ad called Dekh Le. This ad turns the table on Indian men and shames those who ogle at women, regardless of their age, cultural background or the way they are dressed, by showing them how ridiculous they really look as they letch at women.

Women in India have traditionally been blamed for most of the ills that befall them. While the debate about women’s rights to safety and security is only now gaining momentum, the success of these advertisements and campaigns is evident from the sheer number of people who have been talking, facebooking and tweeting about them. All in all, the media has made a significant contribution towards making 2013 a year of awareness for the Indian woman.

*This article is part of Victories for Women 2013, dna of women’s Year End Special, and was originally published in dna’s Mumbai edition and on on December 29, 2013