We've all got those ha-ha jokes on family WhatsApp groups about women and shopping. While some of us grit our teeth and ignore these, others enthusiastically forward the jokes, believing that they are "harmless fun". But is benign sexism really as innocent? Or do they contribute to a culture of gender stereotyping?
On Tuesday, online shopping site Snapdeal posted a sexist ad borrowing a shot from the Aishwarya Rai film Jazbaa. The visual showed a panicked Aishwarya running, and the accompanying text read, "Running to the door before your husband finds out how much online shopping you did."
Slamming the ad, actor Rahul Ravindran – who is married to singer Chinmayi – tweeted, "My wife filed higher returns than I did last year and pays for her own online or otherwise shopping. She ain't gonna run anywhere." The actor included the hashtag 'Sexist' with the tweet.
When one Twitter user defended the ad, claiming that Rahul was reading too much into it, the actor went on to elaborate why such advertising was harmful.
It's no where mentioned that she's spending husband's money. I spend for my own shopping too but my man always cautions abt...(1/2)— Abhinaya (@nayatweets) August 15, 2017
Instinctive, unnecessary spending which is perfectly alright to me. Classic example of reading too much into a simple ad & going offensive.— Abhinaya (@nayatweets) August 15, 2017
In a series of tweets, Rahul pointed out that "such seemingly harmless jokes keep reinforcing unhealthy stereotypes and make sure women are largely thought of in such terms."
Such seemingly harmless jokes keep reinforcing unhealthy stereotypes.. and make sure women are largely thought of in such terms. I know as..— Rahul Ravindran (@23_rahulr) August 15, 2017
...many men who spend unwisely on shopping. How can such jokes are never made on men or grnder neutrally. Ask ur self. Such conditioning...— Rahul Ravindran (@23_rahulr) August 15, 2017
...has for long made women the butt of such jokes... and ensured they're always portrayed like this in pop culture.. and often also...— Rahul Ravindran (@23_rahulr) August 15, 2017
..understood like this. Fight it.. call it out.. and people will stop. So that a couple of generations later kids won't have such...— Rahul Ravindran (@23_rahulr) August 15, 2017
..conditioning when they grow up. And you women will have the equal respect that is your right.— Rahul Ravindran (@23_rahulr) August 15, 2017
He noted that men also spend unwisely on shopping but that they're not made the butt of jokes like women are.
He also pointed out the irony of the ad featuring Aishwarya Rai, who is "one of the highest earners in the entertainment industry."
Facepalm only... and look at the irony... the gif features one of the highest earners in the entertainment industry.— Rahul Ravindran (@23_rahulr) August 15, 2017
Rahul's views resonated with many Twitter users, not least his wife Chinmayi, who said, "This is the kinda man one should be with, ladies. I hope you (and your parents) choose well. Happy Independence Day."
This is the kinda man one should be with, ladies. I hope you (and your parents) choose well. Happy Independence Day.— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) August 15, 2017
How I wish all men were like you Rahul!— RJ Vidya (@vidyasivalenka) August 15, 2017
True, I pay for all my shopping things too. This is such a silly ad.— sangeetha devi (@Sangeetha_Devi) August 15, 2017
And mentioning that openly - not to a few ppl but to the public - in social media is admirable.. not all men do that.— Chithra Ramesh (@chithra_ram) August 15, 2017
After the negative publicity, Snapdeal deleted the ad from their Twitter page.