A screen grab from the new Bata ad.
A screen grab from the new Bata ad.

What Bata could learn from a fashion magazine about being a feminist brand

That a company like Bata thinks that being contrarian and telling women to just go shop and not be a feminist is a great brand manifesto speaks volumes

Aren’t you glad you were born a woman?

That you get to wear makeup?

That you get to wear heels?

That your strength doesn’t come from muscles or the surface of your body?

But from a place way deeper than that?

Aren’t you glad you get free club entry?

That you aren’t shy about crying in public?

And if that doesn’t help

Therapy is just a shopping mall away

That these things about you don’t make you a feminist

A non-feminist, a pessimist, an activist

It just goes to make you

What no man can ever be

A woman.

Bata Woman.

Me. And comfortable with it.

This is Bata’s clever new ad. Eschewing feminism. Because hey hoo, who cares about all this feminism rubbish when you can wear makeup and buy shoes and get free entry to clubs while all the while primped to the T, right? The ad is accompanied with the strapline— “With our new brand manifesto, we are proud to call out all the women worldwide to observe and act on our new stance #ComfortableWithIt because aren’t you glad to be a woman?"

I was, till I saw this ad. Which made women look like brain-dead, pretty clotheshorses. Great way to set the bar for women so high.

Not just in what is being said, tripe. The ad also tries to be über creative. There are white horses, women in flowing chiffon dresses with wind-tousled hair, everyone moves in slow motion, everyone is tall and slim and fits a certain fashion aesthetic—and all the while, these horrific words are spoken in a faux sore throat female voice. Because if anything convinces you not to be a feminist, it’s someone who sounds like they desperately need to gargle and give their voice a rest.

That a company like Bata thinks that being contrarian and telling women to just go shop and not be a feminist, is a great brand manifesto speaks volumes. The only saving grace is that only 9,500 people have viewed this video.

As a saving grace, a couple of days back, Glamour UK magazine released a video. Which I’m assuming the boys and girls at Bata would find infra dig, as it’s titled “We should all be feminists". It featured some of the winners of the Glamour Women Of The Year Awards, speaking to camera. Some are wearing makeup, I’m sure some are wearing heels, there’s even a woke man in it. But most importantly, none of them are deriding feminism or reducing women to shopping machines who should not question stereotypes or break the glass or botox ceiling. The words in the advertisement are an extract from a Ted Talk given by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, known for her feminist writing.

From Nicole Kidman to Amy Poehler to James Corden to Jennifer Hudson, celebrities wearing the same outfit—a white shirt—look into the camera and say the following words:

We teach girls to shrink themselves. To make themselves smaller. You should have ambition - but not too much. You should aim to be successful—but not too successful. Otherwise. You will threaten men. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now, marriage can be a source of joy, love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage? And we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors. Not for jobs and accomplishments. Which I think can be a good thing. But for the attention of men. We teach girls that they can’t be sexual beings in the way that boys are.

Feminist. A person who believes in the social, political, economic equality of the sexes. A feminist is a man or woman, who says yes there is a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it.

It ends with the words—We Must All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It’s a simple, beautiful video. 1 minute 50 seconds long. Spoken in the clear modulated voices of each of the celebrities. There’s no artifice or sugar-coating or white horses. All of them understand the importance of feminism. And the need for equality.

Most importantly, this is how a brand needs to position itself. Let’s not forget that Glamour UK is a fashion magazine, far from any cerebral tome. Filled with celebrity gossip, fashion trends, sex tips and pictures of models and actresses, often selling us an impossible beauty ideal. But a simple video has pushed them—for whatever amount of time it be—into the position of standing up for women’s equality and women’s rights. Not reducing women to just a pretty face. Of course, it’s all a branding exercise. But at least it’s one which doesn’t insult women and feminism in the bargain. Not too much of an ask, frankly. Or so you’d think. Till you remember that travesty of feminism—and advertising—which is the Bata ad.

I keep repeating this ad nauseam, as do many other women. To film makers, advertisers, just people who have a voice and a public platform—please stop speaking for us women. Don’t stand up for us. Don’t tell us how to think. Don’t tell us what to wear in the guise of emancipation. More often than not, you end up insulting women. And all the work that feminists have done for centuries—which allows women like me to be able to work for a living, live on my own, be single or not. It’s an insult to women who kept bashing away at the walls around them till they made a chink in them, so as to allow women in future generations to have the freedom of choice. Without being scared that we’ll be ostracized or placed on a funeral pyre next to our dead husband.

It’s a pity that brands like Bata would rather stomp all over this feminism and place us right back in that image of being a gender who only wants to shop, wear makeup and heels and not clear our throat while speaking. My advice, concentrate on what you do best —make shoes. Leave the feminism to feminists. With or without heels.

You can watch the Glamour UK ad here .