Society will go gaga over Anubhav Sinha’s latest release Thappad, however, the same people will have a good laugh when a wife is shown slapping and ridiculing her husband on screen. Such was the depiction in a waterproofing Advertisement released by Asian Paints recently.
In the Ad, the husband is taking efforts to secure water leakage by chemical proofing. After two years of continuing problems with the house roof, the wife is seeing slapping and threatening the husband. The woman is shown reprimanding her husband to sleep on the terrace if he does not use Asian Paints waterproofing henceforth.
Many will argue that this was such a non-issue and the Ad could have been taken in a comical way. However, the matter was raised by several Men’s Rights Activists with the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) demanding equal responsibility when it comes to projecting domestic violence. Ambarish Bhusari, an IT professional from Pune, raised a complain stating,
The Ad glorifies beating by wife if the husband doesn’t listen. The same also justifies how hitting the father in front of a child is absolutely fine. The Ad trivialises domestic violence by women on their husbands. If the same was reversed, the Ad would have been taken down by now.
Amit Deshpande, President – Vaastav Foundation, too strongly objected to the objectification of the man as someone who can be slapped and mocked at any point in time. Deshpande also raised a complain with the relevant forum demanding that the Ad should be taken down.
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The complaint was considered by the CCC at their meeting. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) had approached the advertiser for their response in addressing the grievances of the complainants and forwarded the details of the complaints, verbatim, to the advertiser with a request to respond to the same.
The advertiser in their response submitted,
A humorous tone was adopted in their advertisement to communicate their brand / product benefits. At the beginning of the advertisement, the woman has served tea to her husband and is happily smiling when her husband responds to his neighbour that he is undertaking chemical water proofing. Further, the advertisement showcases the husband and wife going through their life journey while continually facing a problem of seepage.
As in a natural relationship, she seeks her husband’s attention by turning his face towards her while he is speaking to their neighbour. Once she has expressed her concern to him, she turns his face back towards their neighbour for him to continue their conversation, one which she had originally interrupted.
To the advertiser Oglivy India, this was a normal interaction devoid of any violence / mal intent between the couple and not at all a slap as alleged by the complainants. At the end of the advertisement, it is seen that when the husband applies Asian Paints – Damp Proof both husband and wife happily dance together in the rain.
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After reviewing the Ad online, the CCC did not agree with the advertiser’s contention that the situation was depicted in a humorous manner. The CCC further observed,
The woman’s face in the advertisement portrays anger, grimacing and is not light-hearted as asserted by the advertiser. The wife’s action results in the baby getting scared and starts to cry as well. The advertiser’s submission that the wife’s act was meant to catch the attention of the husband. It depicted a much more serious tone that not only was demeaning and disrespectful in nature but also resembles the act of slapping thus normalising violence.
The CCC agreed with the complainant’s feedback that if a similar situation was depicted by reversing the genders, the advertisement would have been considered to be in contravention of Chapter II of the ASCI code. In the context of the advertised product, the objected visuals could have been easily avoided.
The complaint was upheld and the advertiser has been advised to suitably modify or withdraw the said advertisement by May 27, 2020.
Story Updated As On May 27, 2020
The Ad has been suitably modified and the slap by wife has been edited out.
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However, while this may be a victory of sorts, there is a deeper problem rooted in the mindset of advertisers. Anil Kumar, Director of Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) decodes the same for us. Anil, an expert on men’s human rights has been tracking offensive anti-male advertisements since more than a decade now. He often wonders about audacity of the brands to get away with such anti-male ads.
Advertisers are normalising domestic violence (on men). An estimated 3 crore men have faced domestic violence in India sometime or other. Every year, about 1 crore men face domestic violence in India. When we find a slap against a man hilarious, we also increase the risk of it escalating to bidirectional domestic violence. The most prevalent forms of domestic violence has both partners directing physical and verbal abuse against each other.
In past, Anil had rallied men’s activists to call out anti-male advertisements by Gillette and Zomato. He says,
Advertisers and brand advertisement creators often get away with highly offensive ads. Some of these ads are very harmful for the society. For example, Zomato ran an advertisement in its initial days, in which wife slaps husband hard, for not booking new year’s dinners tickets via Zomato. The Asian Paints Ad is also in similar lines.
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Anil also wants Ogilvy India to be made accountable. He quotes,
Its time advertising companies educate their teams to avoid making offensive and sexist advertisements against both genders. If this is not stopped, criminal complaints must be filed against them for breach of peace and demands must be made to Ministry of Corporate Affairs to take action against the directors of these companies.
Recently, Bollywood actor Kartik Aryan had posted a fun video with his sister during lockdown where he mocked her for cooking. The feminists ridiculed and condemned him to such an extent, that he was forced to take down the particular video from social media.
Equal Rights have to be equal and cannot be biased towards one gender (female) only. If we as a society anguish and call out domestic violence against women, we must equivocally condemn the same when it is seen or shown in it’s reverse form.
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