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March 18, 2008

Keel(ing) Haul: Why ‘foreign’ girls are easy (prey)

Advertising is a powerful tool. It can exhilarate, educate, strike a debate, titillate and definitely irritate. As far as irritation goes, the prize goes to the latest Vodafone ad – four generations in a family end up singing kabhi kabhi mere dil mein song – which puts my hair on edge. I hear it and my synapses short circuit themselves.

Or maybe it has something to do with Vodafone: I have been suspicious of the company ever since they took over Hutch and put that cute pug in a kennel. While the Hutch ad touched many hearts – what with the little dog following the little boy, stumbling over steps, sleeping in his bed and all – the Vodafone version gave me nightmares. So here was the faithful little pup looking for its master, searching, seeking, hopelessly lost…

And what happens next? His master deserts him and he ends up in a kennel. Chop, chop, finito. Downright despairing and should have warned us of what to expect from Vodafone: Bad connectivity, bad customer service, bill goof-ups and fraud and too many calls from too many people on all bad times. Anyway.

As much as I love good ads and will watch them without changing channels –compulsive-channel-changing is anyway a man-disease, they just LOVE pushing buttons me thinks – bad ads seriously put me off. Like the stupid ads on sanitary napkins that show women having this sudden urge to perform furious acrobatic feats just when they are having their period. Dude, it does not happen, even if said napkin is more comfortable than your girlfriend’s bosom, there is something called period cramps. Had even written a post on stinky pad ads (pun unintended) three years back – called the Period Piece – you can read it here.

Ads are powerful because they have the ability to influence thinking. Whether you buy a product or not, ads leave behind an impression. Or create and propagate one.

So it’s somewhat disturbing when driving down the road you see a billboard with an Indian guy posing with two semi-nude women, both ‘white’ chicks. Turn a magazine page and you will have another ad with a woman suggestively licking an ice cream, again a ‘white’ chick. An advertisement for a deodorant where miraculously the guy gets many girls after he sprays himself (er, with the deodorant that is); the girls are all skimpily clad and white.

Or for that matter event invites on Facebook. ‘Come to the expat night’ at so-and-so place and the invite-image is that of a white girl’s torso, lots of thigh and cleavage. Or profile pictures and party pictures where most DJs will be seen posing with ‘expat’ girls; most of them white, drunk and showing skin. Or the photographer who pastes his ‘work’ on the Funwall: “My job is to click beautiful women” his message reads. All pictures are those of anorexic, suspect-age (under 17) ‘models’, all white and barely clad. The venerable Amitabh Bachchan does a music video (Eer, Beer, fatteh anyone?) and shimmies with white girls. Akshay Kumar’s videos from his fun movies have ALL ‘foreign’ chicks in negligees and negligent clothing. WHY just the white girls? I have white girls as friends and most come from families that could have been mine. I also know Indian girls who do things that would put a whole lot of ‘coloured’ (and I mean other colours than brown) to shame. So while certain Indian ads and movies promote the ‘white girls are easy’ image, our glorified item-girl Shilpa Shetty becomes the epitome of Indian womanhood. Ah what grace, what beauty, what culture.

Even as I am writing this piece, there’s a news flash on my computer: Three Indian Army officers detained in Kinshasa, South Africa for the rape of a woman. Meanwhile the investigation into the Goa murder of 15-year-old Briton, Scarlette Keeling continues… Apparently she was into drugs, sex and a ‘fast’ life: Recipes for asking for rape and murder if you ask certain Indian authorities.

(News update: The army officers have been cleared of charges. News report here.)

CNN-IBN’s prime time show, Face The Nation, posed the question: ‘Are foreign tourists victims of an image trap’? The survey result: 94 per cent said yes, and 6 per cent said no. Meanwhile officials and ministers say that foreign tourists coming into India, especially women, should be more careful. “There are women lying naked on the beaches”, says one minister. Since Goa does not have nude beaches perhaps that is pushing the limit. What about bikinis and beachwear? Won’t saris in the sea/ocean cause more drowning? What about the women who are molested even when they are NOT in beachwear?

What ‘image trap’ are we talking about? Is it against white women? Skimpily clad women? JUST women? Is it the advertisers and movie industry that are promoting this? Or does it have to do with the fact that you can do anything to any woman and it will become prime time news and nothing beyond that… because we always end up blaming the victim? She ASKED for it? It’s not just India or Indian ads and movies. Check this ad (now withdrawn) by Dolce & Gabbana. Women, kids and dogs sell products. Apparently even gang rape does.


Rahul. said...

I think the Vodafone 'Kabhi Kabhi' ad has been done nicely and puts across their point very well. Same with 'the dog finding a new place to live' ad, they took a character - the dog that everyone instantly recognized as the Hutch dog and used it to convey the message that Hutch is now Vodafone. Done in a very sensitive and beautiful manner. Maybe your bad experience with their service is negatively influencing your opinion about their ads.


Anonymous said...

Yes yes ads are powerful tool. and women in ads, we can go on and on and on about it...
your take on the vodafone ad was interesting :) i don't completely agree but it was different like maggi sauce...
seen the miracle cream of lakme (i think) ad where they show a doggy (i like dogs, i have no problem with dogs)and then a woman...NOT so subtly implying that an older woman's skin is like a dog. now whether you like dogs or you don't the message is clear...
and it is disturbing.

Lucifer said...

And did you see the pictures of Shilpa Shetty doing a Paris-Hilton no-underwear routine? Now that's what I call a news flash.

Anonymous said...

There talks a postfeminist idiot. After a long time, Jhoomur gets one good point across. Not that usual mumbo jumbo on this blog.

Shady said...

White Women - For men dig white skin , then Brown women and then any women heck , We just need excuse to rape and murder. Drugs sex fast life or just any other excuse and if rape and murder is not a possibility there is always the friendly acid throw.

Espèra said...

Given the Indian obsession with white skin, it's obvious why they use so many white women in the ads.
It's the thinking that just because they're white, they don't mind baring skin. However, it's not proper for an Indian woman to go all skimpily dressed. Oh no. They must stay at home and cook and bring up the sons.

Ads of such kinds are just attempting to address the ultimate male fantasy. At whatever cost to the women's image. At the end of the day, it's a man's world after all, especially the Indian man's.

Then again, when haven't the victims been blamed? Especially rape victims?

Mystique said...

ah yes, once again, the eloquent espera strikes it.
Let's see. You are right about period cramps. My mom says you can be free and all, I tell her, No Way.
Just not comfortable. At all.
Yes, Indian men are obsessed with fair skin, as can be seen by the number of fairness creams in the market....Indian women are eager to please, therefore good customers.
Indian men will not mind having flings with white girls, but for marriage? no, we want good bhartiya nari who can cook.
It's not about the skin. It's about the upbringing and status given to women.
Maybe these guys think Non-indian girls will be kinda fiesty or whatever, that's wrong, if she's been brought up in a conservative family she'll be just the same as any Indian girl, you're right.
Men. You never know how the world thinks.It's wrong, it's unfair, but........how can we change these preconcieved notions?

Anonymous said...

Hey eve
wanna give you a diff side of view
When I was in London and having a smoke at the bus stop on a friday evening a brit teenage girl approached me for a cigarette. I knew it was a criminal offence to give one when I refused the girl offered a blow job!!! coming from a conservative south indian background I was embarassed and had to leave. just wanted to say the white teenage girls just get away with everything and so do most of men in India (for violence abuse against women) so when these two meet you know what to expect

Lucifer said...

Speaking as a white man, I always preferred brown chicks. Such passion!