It is not surprising that a 90 second ad can cause enough furore to be reported on mainstream news(at least on their website). But it did. Why? Lets see the ad first:
To quickly summarize, woman gives man tough deadline at work, then heads home and gets cooking. Man’s wife calls him later asking him to get home, he reasons too much work. She then video calls hi, and lo and behold, the boss is the wife! She’s cooked (what looks to be) a grand dinner for him and tells him she’ll wait for him to get home. The advertiser trying to convey how modern tech like smartphones, video cons etc can keep lives closer(blah blah)! End of ad.
Or was it.
It seems feminists took issue with this ad. Their major gripe is that it is representative of a stereotypical Indian working couple where the wife is expected to get home after work and still cook a 2 (or 3 or 4) course meal for the husband. I will quote a comment describing this opinion crisply:
That cooking is still a women’s domain. We have made progress to the point that we accept women in traditional men’s role, but not the vice versa. So we now have modern parents who’d say “I would raise my daughter as a boy” but you’d never hear someone saying, “I’d raise my son as a daughter.” The aspiration is still to be the Man as if masculinity and being man is a superior trait. Now the aspiration is to be a like a man while not losing touch with the feminine side. So while women are working, and perhaps taking higher position than the husband, but they are still cooking because that remains their domain and that is their expression of love and caring. This is the problem in the ad.
There are many things that are wrong here. First and foremost is the illusion that the woman is cooking to fulfil years of societal indoctrination that it is her job to cook. Does such indoctrination exist in the modern Indian society? Of course it does. It exists because the reach of the modern thought process is still limited to our major metropolitan cities. The devices of a modern age have reached deep into our country, but the thoughts have not. There are countless women who are studying and learning how to cook from their mothers. But with all that perspective in mind, is it fair to think that the Indian woman cooks only to fulfil that stereotype? I don’t think so. I’ve seen my mother wake up at 5.00 am every morning for more than 20 years(& I’m sure she’s still doing it), cook a portion of veggies and rotis for dad & herself to take to work and for us to take in tiffins to school, then get ready herself and rush off to work. I’ve seen her hustling back after work straight in the kitchen to make hot lunch for us hungry kids running back from school before her tuition kids came along. For years I thought of it as slavery, and felt sorry for her. But her perspective on all those years stunned me. She said, I do it out of love. It gives me deep satisfaction to see you gobble up all that food I cook for you. Could it be this? I have a really close friend(back from my college days) who slogs in an IT company in Bangalore. Her husband slogs too. But at the end of each day, she insists on cooking food on her own. I have asked her why she does not keep a cook, she can easily afford it. Her husband agrees. She doesn’t. For her, this is the expression of love that brings deep seated satisfaction to her. Sure, it is a lot of work. But it felt good, said she.
I thought, why don’t I try it. So recently, I went back home from work and cooked a nice dish of paneer for my wife. Then I helped her make rotis and we sat down and ate together. I was tired after a long day from work, yet I did all the prep and cooking(from scratch). I then understood that if I thought of this as a burden, it would’ve felt hard to do, like it was slavery. But if I wanted to do it(like I did on this day), I got nothing but joy. And that deep seated satisfaction these women kept talking about.
Perspective is an interesting beast. Perception, more so. It is easy to perceive what situation a third person may be in, but it is hard to understand their perspective. Being judgemental is a flaw that the human race carries and some of us make more pointed use of it than others. Put these qualities in a mix with inequality and you can have a perfect storm. Feminists feed on inequality. They murdered chivalry, how, by claiming that it was somehow offensive for a man to open a door for a woman. “What does he think, that a woman can’t open a door for herself? “, they said. Feminists pretend that they want equality between the two genders that are fundamentally unequal by design. And since such equality can never be achieved, they are assured a perpetual existence. As it is impossible to exist without portrayal of the said inequality, the fodder for these feminists will continue to exist. The reactions to this seemingly harmless ad are proof of this.
This does not mean stereotypes are justified. Stereotypes are equally bad. I’ve seen excellent woman drivers and I’ve seen excellent male cooks(not chefs). There isn’t any field where a woman can’t be as good(or as bad) as a man can be. Of course, men are really shit when it comes to carrying a baby in their bodies for 9 months, so women do have that advantage. They do have stuff going on in their bodies(hormonal crap and whatnot) that men know nothing about. On the other hand, men too have a different way of thinking that women don’t know of too well. It might as well be true that men are from Mars and women from Venus. We are never going to be equal, we will always be different in our thoughts and actions. But lets not make it worse than it already is.
There are several real issues plaguing women in our country. Female foeticide hasn’t stopped, trafficking of women is a major problem, crimes against women are on the rise. Not a single one of these issues will be resolved by claiming misogyny and wanting to open a discussion over the “female stereotypes in Indian society” every time you see a woman cooking on TV.
And if you are a feminist reading this, you need to allow room for perspective in your perception. There are a lot of women out there who love what they are doing. They love being stay at home mums to raise their kids, they love to not pursue a career but to pursue life, they love cooking and cleaning. As far as they do it because they want to, out of their own free will and not because they are being forced, you have no right to force your way of thinking and your life choices on them. They are already free, don’t make them slaves of your perception of female equality and freedom. They are already living it. Perhaps you could learn from them and leave them alone.
On a different note, this ad is a missed opportunity. The ad-makers should have shown the man as the boss in the office, but then make him head home early and cook all that dinner for the wife. A lot of modern men do it, and what better expression of modernity than to show role-reversal of a traditional stereotype. That would have been something!