You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

“Advertisements are a society in microcosm”, it is often said, mostly be me.

It is either plain bad luck or an involuntary reaction against the gaining of knowledge that, despite it always having turned out to be an educational experience, I have not indulged in watching TV often enough.

My recent experience of watching the Hindi movie “PK” on TV was no different. Lady luck also seemed to be smiling on me that night. The movie was frequently interrupted by commercial breaks.

They were eye-opening.

Efforts made by our leaders with their frequent lip-service and seat-of-the-pant implementations for upliftment of women in society, through initiatives like for-women-only pink autos driven by males and rented mostly by male passengers, a still-to-be-launched-as-it-might-not-make-sense women-only bank run by males and efforts at the integration of the two genders such as a coach exclusively for women in the Delhi metro train, are bearing fruit. And how.

In the first commercial break, we came across a lady who has to feed a husband who multi-tasks. And, if that was not enough to handle, she even has to feed her son who also multi-tasks. It may be difficult for youngsters to imagine, but, being the age I am, I can tell you that the housewife of an earlier generation would have struggled.

But not the housewife of today. Faced with the situation, what does she do? In order to feed her multi-tasking husband and multi-tasking son, the woman of the house feeds them chapatis made of multi-grain atta.

Thankfully she is a single-tasker, focussed on the task of making sure her multi-tasking husband and son get adequate nutrition to go about their multi-tasking ways. And she is dressed smart. In a salwar and kurta. Not in a scruffy sari as the struggling housewife of yore would have been.

Barely had we got the chance to digest the monumental change this represented, the second commercial break came on. And brought with it a big car with 4-wheel drive. Of an American brand. With a man at the wheel and a woman in the seat next to the driver’s. Driving to a magical destination with lots of hot-air balloons going up in the air, chosen by the man, it seems. The man, as usual, in full control of the situation, as his smile indicated. As soon as he turns the power-steering with all his might by lunging left, the woman covers her face in wonder and amazement at the sight. And this woman is smartly dressed in western attire. And, what’s more, she seems willing to undertake the hot-air balloon ride. Tell me honestly how many of us can visualise a woman, say thirty years back, in a commercial, willing to go for a hot-air balloon ride.

When children come home dirty after being children, she cleans their clothes.

“So, what’s new?”, you might be tempted to ask.

Gone are the days when you would see a mother handwashing clothes, wiping sweat from her brow,  and advertising for bars of soap which clothes had to be scrubbed clean with. Today, nothing less than a washing machine will do. And they are not stopping there. Some mothers in commercials even have a choice of electric dryers instead of hanging the washed clothes out to dry on a line. Even brands of detergent are par for the course for these mothers of today. No mother ever advertised either a washing machine or dryer or detergent before these devices were invented.

Women are no longer confined to the house. They are mostly engaged in staring enviously at other women whose clothes are whiter than theirs. When pushed to the wall, they even engage in streetside speed-washing contests. Can we ever inmagine a woman of an earlier generation doing a street-side washing test to prove her soap or detergent is better?

When children come home hungry after being children they feed them. With healthy choices like instant noodles and frozen fries. Can you imagine a mother in the seventies doing that?

The time for reaping the dividend from this change has also arrived. In an FM commercial the same day, I heard two children talking animatedly as they came back home hungry.

Does your mother allow you to eat French Fries?

Of course. In fact, the frozen fries my mom uses have 50% less calories.

But I am so hungry. I cannot wait for the fries to be made.

Don’t worry. These fries take 70% less time to cook.

Wow! Such knowledgeable 8-year olds could only be the progeny of the modern, empowered woman.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, it used to be said. Husbands and fathers are rarely to be seen in these commercials, except occasionally replacing children as the cared-for subjects.

It has seeped into the consciousness of society. This change is irreversible. So engrossed was I in the commercials and their messages, I forgot that they were the side story. Each time the movie came back, I would wait eagerly to the next break for more educational commercials.

The times, they a changing, as the latest Nobel prize winner for literature once said.

31 thoughts on “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

  1. It is so great to see so many improvements in the status of women and all these the products that either let women to get back to the kitchen faster or make their time in the kitchen more enjoyable.

  2. Oh, you forgot one–laboring over the ironing board, ironing out wrinkles from jeans, tshirts, and boxers. Me, I haven’t used my iron in years. I only buy wash-wear, always use the wrinkle-free setting on my dryer. And if clothes are still wrinkled, I just wear them anyway.

  3. I agree that the ads are often more fun to watch than the shows they interrupt. Here in the USA we’re not doing the feminist thing anymore… laundry and kitchen duties are just as likely to feature males as females. Now we’re all about prescription drugs. Did you know there’s a prescription drug for everything, now, from psoriatic rash to toenail fungus to depression? And that’s not to mention the ones for more dramatic malaises like diabetic nerve pain and male impotence. The ads tell you to tell you doctor to prescribe the drug for you!! And the list of “side effects” (from nausea to headache to death) for each drug are given in speedy caveats that match the fine print of questionable contracts.
    But there are a lot of very witty commercials, too— usually about banks, insurance companies, new-fangled technology or pet food— that have me convinced some of the best talents that would have gone into music, painting and literature in the past are now employed in the advertising world.

    • What? Sharing familial duties? I knew there was a good reason I am not in America 🙂 Fully agree about the ads. Ads tell a story in ten seconds that would otherwise take minutes, if not hours.

  4. I’ve often seen the kind of adverts you describe: the ones with women staring enviously at the spotlessness of some other women’s blouse or whatever. The other thing I always find amusing is the way people in advertisements talk with such knowledge and excitement about shampoo, toothpaste, detergent, or whatever. I think the longest conversation I’ve had about toothpaste in the last 40 years was along the lines of:

    A) We’re out of toothpaste.
    B) There’s a new tube in the cabinet.

  5. Commercials. Uggggh. USA TV show of one hour has half hour of commercials so how can it be a one hour show ? And the same several monopolize the ad time. I want to kill than man selling his alleged magical pillows, that jerk telling us to by silver and gold(to protect our wealth) but if we bought any we would have no money to pay basic bills and those criminals pawning off health insurance that barely pay for anything deserve public hangings. Before cable we thought that this thing of the future would have no commercials since we would pay a TV cable fee. Man o man, were we ever taken for a ride on that. Then the advertising psychologists posit that the three best things to include in ads are babies dogs or cats as such images subconsciously draw approval of the product. That means every one that has a dog or cat or baby is an idiot. I do not buy any products that invade my house through TV as a boycott protest. Don’t they see that this saturation breeds only contempt for their product ? I will also make my own hamburgers and pizza and buy more books and watch very little TV.

  6. OMG…………..Ekdam Zakkas. Sorry, read late as was busy. But enjoyed to the last. How is life? I am fine and am associated with a big paper mill in Saudi Arabia, leaving behind the banking career of 30+ years. Enjoying time. Happy to hear from you. What are Kabeer and A…(forgot his name) doing? And Shalini ji? My regards to her. I still remember the night I had spent at your place. A memorable time, that was.

    Best regards.

    Mahesh Anerao

    Date: Mon, 31 Oct 2016 10:40:30 +0000 To:

  7. Haha! Oh my goodness. Another amazing piece of satire.

    “No mother ever advertised either a washing machine or dryer or detergent before these devices were invented.”

    You said that right.

    We were being taught “Gender Sensitization” in class. I wonder how and when and if things will actually be put into perspective. Our hopes (?) seem to have construed reality.

    P.S. Quoting the latest Nobel Prize winner for Literature seems to be “in.” Or, maybe someone is just following in your footsteps.

  8. This post of yours, just like others, completely do justice to your pen name. 😀
    I never observed these advertisements the way you have done, and the conclusions you drew out of them. That’s really..what should I say..Witty!
    I loved few of your replies too to the comments on this post. You never fail to amuse me, neither through your post, nor comments. 😀

  9. “Anything a man can do, a woman can do better. Of course in addition to her job of cooking and cleaning.” You’re ace in my book!

    It’s a shame that we’re losing the grace and art of home cooking and the good things that take time. Convenience food isn’t food, and nothing replaces the love and energy that go into well-prepared meals.

    Happy new year, AM.

    • Thank you for the great line, “Anything a man can do…”. I fully agree with you. We seem to be trying to make life’s treadmill go faster and faster all the time, without realizing that we are staying in the same place. And business sales driven lifestyle choices which single us out as being “losers” if we don’t adopt, food being one example. It takes courage to do the right thing.
      Thank you and wish you a happy 2017 as well.

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