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Chicken And Babe: The Trials Of Being A Woman In India

Chicken And Babe: The Trials Of Being A Woman In India

Nandos ad

What do the Nando’s ad and the Girliyapa video have in common? Both think women like being manhandled.

 

This week began with Michelle Obama making a speech worth listening to while on a trip to Argentina. Speaking at the Let Girls Live initiative on March 24, Obama shared an anecdote about the sexism and objectification she’s faced. “As I got older, I found that men would whistle at me as I walked down the street, as if my body were their property, as if I were an object to be commented on instead of a full human being with thoughts and feelings of my own. I began to realise that the hopes I had for myself were in conflict with the messages I was receiving from people around me.”

 

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Like most right-thinking people, of any gender, she basically stated that it’s not okay to leer at women. Or treat them as a piece of meat. That women would like to be treated as people  and as equals, rather than be objectified.

 

One would think that this would be the commonly-held view, especially since we no longer live in the Twenties or even the Nineties. But not in the world of the advertising prodigies at Nando’s in India. On March 26, these fine folk put out an advertisement telling us exactly the opposite of what Obama had said. The Nando’s ad in large print screamed out to us that it was okay to equate a woman with a piece of meat. I’m not exaggerating. It literally said that.

 

In a full-page advertisement in the English daily, Hindustan Times, it read, “Try something you can grab with both hands”. The body copy of the ad said, “We don’t mind if you touch our buns, or breasts, or even our thighs. Whatever you’re into, enjoying any Nando’s meal with your hands is always recommended”.

 

Yes yes, we all know the jokes about cooked chicken, which include, “Would you like a breast or a thigh?” I’m not a shrinking violet or a politically correct sort, but how is it amusing to make light of groping a woman and her taking umbrage at you doing so without her consent? That’s exactly what the creative gurus of Nando’s are saying with “whatever you’re into”. The sexual connotations are clear, but that’s not what’s upsetting. It’s the statement that unlike women who “mind” if someone touches our breasts, ass or thighs, Nando’s is more permissive and won’t mind it at all.

 

Yes, stupid us for minding when we are felt up without our consent. That we only “mind” such groping hands when they’re using our bodies in a way we don’t want them to or touching us without our consent seems to have escaped the oh-so-clever wordsmiths and marketing wizkids of Nando’s.  Whatever sells the chicken, after all. Even if it takes projecting women as sex objects who kick up a fuss now and then.

 

That said, I give the Nando’s team full points for objectifying a woman without having showing a woman at all. Now that takes true skill.

 

 

nando-1

 

I must ask though, why is it that there are only three types of women in the world of commercials and advertisements? There’s the woman as sex object, as seen in various ads for deodorants and the occasional coffee.

 

Then there’s the emancipated but highly confused working woman. She thinks wearing a pair of earrings empowers her, like in the Tanishq ad. Or displays poor work ethic and ill-planned career moves because she’s pregnant and wants to show she’s evolved, like in the Anouk ad.

 

Finally, there’s the omnipresent mother. The one who wakes up in the morning with perfectly blow-dried hair and feeds her children Maggi Oats noodles for breakfast, or comes home to smile proudly at her husband/father and son because lo and behold, they learnt how to use a washing machine.

 

Keeping these stereotypes in mind, let’s cut Nando’s some slack. They aren’t the only ones who think that being leered at is something desirable. In fact, even when there isn’t a product to sell, the idea of desire and women confuses the best of us, it seems. A new video by Girliyapa does roughly what Nando’s did, but in moving pictures and over more than five minutes.

 

Titled “Why Should Hot Girls Have All The Fun”, the title suggests “hot” or attractive girls enjoy being leered at and hit on by rank strangers — even those they don’t find attractive — as do girls who aren’t hot. Also, there’s a little bit of reverse snobbery over here, because the “hot” woman in the film is shown to be both self- and selfie-obsessed. Which as generalisations go is about as sweeping as a pochha.

 

 

The film shows three young women who look like they’re in their early twenties, sitting in a restaurant. One of them is the “hot” one, and a stranger in a restaurant allegedly looks at her. The other two who aren’t as “hot”, decide to give him a piece of their mind. You think they’re going to tick him off, but they basically tell him that women “like them” feel neglected because no one leers at them. “Humein bhi toh stalk karo,” they say. “Humein bhi toh iccha hai, ki humein koi stalk karein, kharab angrezi wala message bheje”. (“Stalk us also, we also have a desire that someone stalks us and sends us smses in incorrect English.”) They want at least one boy to leer at them, another one to whistle at them, and the auto driver to ogle them in the rear-view mirror. They tell the boy, “Zara badtameezee se ghoodna, ha? Full thadak ke saath. Feel aana chahiye”. (“When you ogle us, do so in an ill-mannered way, as sexually as possible, so that we can get the ‘feel’ of being ogled at.”)

 

At first, it seems they’re being ironic but as the video goes on (and on. And on), it becomes unsettlingly obvious that they actually mean what they’re saying. Sort of. Unfortunately, “Why Should Hot Girls Have All The Fun” doesn’t work even as a joke.

 

Does the Girliyapa team think rapes and molestations like those reported in the Uber case or in other cab companies, is something to be laughed at? Do they really think that’s actually a situation in which women want to be? Is a spot of potential molestation always a welcome value-add when you’re being driven home in a cab or auto?

 

The final scene of the video is the clincher. The target of their diatribe runs away and that’s when the two non-hot women (their definition, not mine) notice another man in the restaurant. He’s staring at them in a suitably creepy fashion. While feigning disapproval, the two women keep talking about how happy they are that he’s looking at them. Because you see “no” actually means “yes”.

 

How is this amusing from any angle?

 

Since when did it become cool to be leered at? And since when did light molestation become something aspirational? Just because this video is made by women doesn’t make what’s being suggested either hilarious or awesome or insightful. It’s still convoluted and sexist to indulge in rape humour – even if you’re a woman doing so.

 

I don’t expect much from Nando’s. After all, just the ad given below should make it clear that subtlety isn’t their strong point.

 

 

nando-2

 

But Nando’s at the end of the day is putting out an advertisement and they will do whatever it takes to sell their product. To give the sexist devil its due, they did apologise on Twitter as soon as everyone started beating them with their own sexist drumstick.

 

 

But what’s Girliyapa’s excuse for this far from amusing video? Or do they actually believe that every woman wants to be the recipient of male attention, irrespective of who the male is and whether they actually want the attention? When women say no, is it simply token resistance – because hey, they’ve got body parts that are biologically engineered for groping?

 

Keeping with the vocabulary of the times, that’s truly chutiyapa logic.

 

This article was republished from Newslaundry.com.

 

 

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