When taboos start making business sense
We now live in a world where it is fine to not conform to norms anymore. Sure, some people may still raise an eyebrow. But, if there ever has been a time, it’s now, more than ever before in the past, when asserting one’s individual identity is acceptable.
As a woman, today, if you don’t feel like shaving your underarms or your body hair, there is a movement somewhere in the world that justifies it or, in fact, will encourage you to grow it.
“Body hair is a really simple double standard in the way that men and women’s bodies are treated in our society, which reflects a deeper inequality, which we experience in all aspects of our lives as women,” Alex Andrews, who started a month-long campaign Get Hairy February in Australia, told an Australian newspaper. Over 450 people participated in the campaign.
Likewise, if you don’t feel like wearing make-up, there is no compulsion.
Actress Anushka Sharma chose to wear minimal make-up when she got married in December. At the biggest night of the motion picture industry, actress Frances McDormand got up on stage to accept the Oscar for best performance by an actress in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri wearing no make-up.
Even talking about our mensuration cycle is not taboo anymore. There are at least two commercial movies on the subject. One of which, Padman, directed by R. Balki with Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor also created a huge social media stir with its Padman Challenge campaign encouraging everyone to get over their periods stigma by clicking a picture with a sanitary napkin and posting it online on social media sites such as Instagram.
In fact, Procter and Gamble, the maker of feminine hygiene brand Whisper, went a step further to take up the issue of gender stereotypes with its #LikeAGirl campaign.
In the India edition of the global campaign, the company partnered with Nielsen for a survey which revealed that there was a tremendous drop in a girl’s self-confidence on having reached puberty. This is on account of the various societal norms and restrictions that they are expected to conform to.
Similarly, cosmetics, accessories, lifestyle and fashion clothing companies are also responding with relevant advertisements to this new generation for whom asserting individualistic expression is a given.
What this means is the use of real imagery or minimal photoshopping; a push towards gender equality and even doing away with the rampant practice of objectifying women.
Earlier this year, CVS Health, an integrated pharmacy healthcare firm in the US, committed to stop modifying the beauty images on marketing materials in its stores and online.
Moreover, it’s asking its brand partners to do the same.
Recently, in an ad campaign, New York-based designer Alexander Wang went all out to ditch models and, instead, focused on ‘the spirit’ of the women who wore the clothes.
Advertisements for the designer’s clothes did not showcase the models but instead carried descriptors of what the people did while they wore the clothes.
This included model Behati Prinsloo sharing ‘drinking a fat burger chocolate shake’ and Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s daughter saying ‘at a birthday with tight-knit crew’.
This is in contrast with just a year ago where a scantily clad model was depicted alongside the merchandise.
To be sure, a lot of the stereotypes impact women. Yet we have not even scratched the surface on issues where it matters the most.
Women still lag behind their male counterparts when it comes to recruitment and salaries at workplaces. A recent study conducted by the World Bank pointed out that India has among the lowest women’s participation in the workforce in the world.
At 27%, India is below the global average of 52% and even behind South Asia’s 29%.
Even when it comes to hiring, recruiters prefer men --six out of every 10 advertisements explicitly state that men will be given a preference in hiring over women, said the study, which was based on data from over 800,000 advertisements on online job portal Babajob.com, now merged with QuikrJobs, between 2011 and 2017.
Yet, there are small milestones to be celebrated. In the past decade, the top-selling image for the search term ‘woman’ in Getty Images’ library of stock photographs was a naked woman lying on a bed, gazing at the camera with a towel draped on her lower half. In 2017, the top-selling image of a woman for the American stock photo agency is a woman hiking up a rocky trail, depicting adventure. It’s a powerful change.
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