Dear Amazon, women’s empowerment doesn’t come in the shape of a whimsical gift ordered off the internet.

Amazon thinks women can become girls again with the click of a button heres why they are wrong
Features Gender Stereotyping Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 13:44

Advertisers, especially those selling to high-end consumers, are increasingly turning to ‘women’s empowerment’ to tug at the heartstrings of their target audience and create brand value.

This is certainly not a bad thing – just as regressive advertising reiterates and magnifies gender prejudices, progressive advertising can contribute towards breaking stereotypes and facilitating a culture of equality.

However, while it is easy to dream of utopia, it’s harder to make the journey to get there.

Amazon India recently launched a series of ads with the hashtag #MomBeAGirlAgain.

The ads focus on women and encourage them to pick up from where they left off before they turned into mothers.

In one, a single mother’s daughter tells her that she knows her mother has had to give up many things because she was busy being “mom and dad” – “juggling home and business”, “teaching Maths and skating” – while other kids had their fathers to do all of this.

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This may sound like nit-picking but considering the ad is selling us ‘women’s empowerment’ in an Amazon box, the neat cleaving of “mom” roles and “dad” roles is troublesome. The video also shows the woman changing a lightbulb, suggesting that she’s had to “man up” for the family.

Another shows a middle-aged woman whose son has left home. She appears bored and dispirited. Then she receives a package from her son and it’s a camera!

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The gift is to encourage his mother to “be a girl” again because she now has a lot of “free time”. She no longer has to cook food for her son, clean his room or wait for him to come back. 

Since she is now “free”, she can go back to her old hobby of clicking photographs and becoming the “different” girl for whom his father fell.

Where to begin? If the son knew that his mother had given up her interests to look after him, why didn’t he contribute to the housework when he was old enough to understand and spare his mother some “free time”? Ah, yes, it’s far easier to order a camera off the internet than actually get your hands dirty doing your own laundry.

The father, who in the opening shot, walks into his wife’s room and demands food, magically transforms into a roti-making husband the minute the camera arrives in the household.

What were these two men doing all these years? Do women have to wait around till the men in their lives decide they can now have “free time” for them to turn into “girls” and pursue their interests?

The third one shows a much younger woman. A PV Sindhu who fell off the path after becoming a mother.

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The husband in this ad says he knows his wife does not have the time and energy to play badminton anymore because she has to manage the house, her work and their child.

While she was running behind the shuttlecock earlier, she has to run behind the child now. She has forgotten to flash her “little girl” smile that bowled him over when they were courting.

And so, he entreats her to become a “girl” again by gifting her a racquet. The wife then starts playing to entertain their daughter to make her eat.

Nowhere does the husband enter the picture. We see a house-help aiding the woman but there is nothing to suggest any attitude change from the husband. He doesn’t, for instance, say, “Why don’t you practise badminton in the evenings? I’ll come back early and look after our daughter for a while.” Or “Why don’t you play in the mornings? I’ll take care of breakfast.”

Maybe he could have ordered himself a nice pan from Amazon to get the process started. But no, that’s too much work and effort.

Dear Amazon, women cannot turn into carefree “girls” at anyone’s whim and fancy so long as we’re so hell-bent on confining them to their traditional roles and so long as men remain uninterested in participating in domestic processes. And no, participation doesn’t mean clicking a button and spending a few thousands.

 If you cannot bring yourself to address that in your advertising, at least give us the freedom to hold on to a healthy bit of resentment and not simply smile like naive little girls. 

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