Advertisements off lately, have stirred up a lot of controversies – some of which have been unfounded while the rest were fairly obvious. They have been critiqued based on religious and sentimental rights and liberties and also on gender-based discriminations.
But, amid all the controversies, advertisements portraying subtle or explicit violence towards men have hardly gained the potential momentum and are rarely covered by media houses.
What are these Advertisements?
This particular ad (name of which I kept undisclosed) shows a girl slapping the boy several times over deciding which show to watch. There have also been ads that show comparing the longevity of boyfriends to that of long lasting shoes.
This is not the first time such a thing has happened. Several sexist ads, both in Hindi and in regional languages, over the course of the years have had to be taken down after several complaints were filed showing normalising of violence towards men. Fortunately most of them have been taken down.
Like movies, advertisements are a direct reflection of the society that we live in. So is it just the problem of advertisements normalising violence towards men, ridiculing masculinity or does this problem run deep? To begin with, in India, rape and domestic violence are perceived as gendered crimes where the victim is usually female and the perpetrator- a male. While we stand in solidarity with victims of sexual violence, the reality is that even men are dominated and taken advantage of sexually and emotionally. Unlike the stereotypical mindset, every man consents to it or always likes sex.
Even if administering such beatings are taken as borderline romance or a practice of BDSM, the foundation of the likes need to be well documented and a platform needs to be built before showing the same, which a one minute ad may prove to be insufficient to provide.
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Criminology suggests no one is a born criminal and that criminal behaviour is learnt. It also says that no crime per se is gendered but some communities/ groups of people circumstantially are more vulnerable than the other. This does not eliminate the possibility of other groups of people not being subjected to it, thereby sufficient laws need to be provided for the same.
Normalising domestic violence on men through movies or ads is worse, merely because there is no justice available, let alone the psychological damage of it. Section 375 of IPC fails to provide justice to male rapes and even refuses to recognise them as victims, let alone providing remedies to it.
Section 498A again recognises only women as victims of domestic abuse.
It was just a couple of months back that an engineer at Salt Lake, in Kolkata, was videotaped being beaten by his wife that received much backlash after covered by media. The Delhi Commission for Women in a report claimed that over 50 percent of the rape cases filed were false.
The interpretation that bulk of these cases did not go into trial may be perceived as insufficiency to provide evidences or faulty investigations or even consensual sex for years criminalised by parents since an accused is innocent until proven guilty. The social trauma of being labelled as rapists whenever an allegation is made is another indication of how gendered this crime is perceived to be.
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In such sensitive issues like these, false rape cases do nothing but dilute the gravity of the real victims and cast a shadow of doubt in the minds of the people.
So to use violence on men, especially when there is no remedy to it, as comic relief in 30 second advertisements and other movies is both distasteful and disastrous, since even when the conviction rate of rapes against female is around 32 percent (admittedly not good enough), the conviction rate of rapes against male, however sparse they may be, is ZERO.
Art & Artists
Just like poets and writers have poetic licenses, artists of all kinds have artistic licenses too. Many times, to show what is moral and right, the concepts of which vary over time and geography, the art itself takes a beating.
Are we being too sensitive then about certain controversial issues when an art itself is a reflection of the society? Do we have no space for rhetorics left? Artists certainly must be given spaces for their expressions of art but issues which are discriminatory and cause disharmony – wherein the crime is plain to the naked eye yet there is no positive reinforcement and justice available – must best be left alone unless showed with substantial background establishment.
It is a shame that in lieu of a Men’s Commission in India or proper statistical data or investigation available, we reach at conclusions about the accused and issues like Male Rape. It is more disheartening that entire spectrum of false rape cases in India have been highlighted largely by western media such as BBC while Indians themselves live in constant denial.
Given the wide landscape of the damage it can do along with deep regret, shame, loss of masculinity and a serious blow to the confidence as psychological effects of it, we must be more responsible as citizens to disallow such things to happen.
We are all victims of someone or of some institution or the other. Let all victims have equal access to justice.
About the Author
Parthiv Chakraborty is an award winning public speaker and has columned articles across several platforms on law, society and politics. He has worked on men’s rights issues in association with activist groups.
*Views expressed by the author are his own