One of the most predominant forces that the Indian media and the media globally have in their arsenal is advertisements. It exerts an everlasting effect on the minds of its audience and also creates the image of the concerned brand, at the same time. It often leads to creating certain societal norms, perceptions and reasoning which may affect different sections of the society. One certain example is ‘gender inequality’ which has been prevalent in the Indian media for a very long time. One of the most debated accusations of the Indian media and its advertisements is the presentation and delineation of women. They have been portrayed differently as compared to men across time. Men have always been portrayed in prominent visual and auditory roles, while females have always been depicted in stereotypical ways. Nike aimed to break the shackles by tackling two issues that have had the most retaliation and criticism with the help of the ‘da da ding’ campaign. Representation of women in various areas of sports and profession and giving them a status which depicts that they add more value to the society that just adding beauty are the above mentioned issues. Nike decided to portray a relentless and enthusiastic group of young women who are hard working and are breaking the previously mentioned gender stereotypes attached to them. It is evident that most of the Indian media has played more part in building the foundations of these gender stereotypes rather than representing women in our society as equal to men. But, Nike which is mostly a brand that has men who occupy most of its share of sales decided to break free from the clichéd regulations of the media world and used its power of reaching mass media to give its fair share of treatment to the young women in the society.
The advertisement involves a part where it depicts that women are now taking part in sports which were stereotypically men dominant. Various young women are playing the sport of Cricket which has been always known as a ‘genteleman’s game’. Boxing is another sport which demands aggression, physical strength and durability- in short masculinity. But, yet again young women are seen entering into the ring with their gloves and head gears on. By this varied representation Nike breaks the everlasting impression that women are just homemakers. Indian media has always represented women as mothers, sisters and wives whose main purpose are to take care of the house, look after their family and their men. They have been delivering the message to the audience on mass that a women’s best place is at home and that it is in her best duty that she obeys to her husband. They’ve also been shown as heavily dependent on men in terms of requiring protection from them and having no purchasing power of their own. Credit is mostly never attached to them as they are never shown making any important decisions or doing any important things. All of this has led to the mass believing that women lack diversity and are limited. They have been very rarely shown as professionals or sportspersons and intellectuals. The ad has helped in proving a sense of belief and an image overall that women are no longer restricted to their house duties and are now conquering the world of sports and are delineated as a free lancer, independent of all the norms and as individuals who are determined, hardworking and destined for success.
There’s another scene in the ad where women from different segments of the sporting world, be it runners or footballers are running with a sense of freedom and with a smirk on their face so as to say to the entire world that they are now free of their shackles and are ready to achieve their dreams. By portraying this, Nike tries to break the lasting stereotype that women are only suitable for decorative roles in advertisements. For decades now, women have been shown in advertisements as sex objects who are only portrayed for their physical beauty. Ladies are regularly sexualized—commonly by indicating them in meager or provocative dress. Ladies are additionally subordinated in different courses, as shown by their outward appearances, body positions, and different variables. (Rebecca.L.Collins) This derivative also created a diversification between advertisements that have men and advertisements that have women. Women are often represented in advertisements of toiletries, personal car or beauty products and cleaning products while men are represented in advertisements for telecommunication, electronics, technology, mobiles, computers and cars. Women’s body and her body parts are unnecessarily presented in advertisements which further points to the argument that they are represented as sexual objects. The women portrayed in advertisements are often ultra thin models and promotes other women to be like them. This makes women who are watching the advertisements at home uncomfortable and are left with wondering what is wrong with them. This particular representation of women lacks diversity and does not represent all women. Advertisers often portray women as delicate individuals, representing this nature by showing women touching themselves and their parts of the body. This yet again leads to giving out this image that women are far from aggressive and are dependent on men for activities that require physical presence. (Madhusmita Das)
The most sickening and surprising thing in this entire state of affairs is that there is no efforts, no encouragement and no signs of hope or change from the public and the society as a whole. It has accepted this stereotypical representation and delineation as it’s a part of daily life and believes that there will be no repercussions. If this is to be continued there will be no chance of a society which promotes woman as there will be no respect from the future generation for their sisters, partners and mothers respectively. To put an end to this, advertisers and media as a whole must portray the diversification of women and not limit them to certain roles. They should represent them as freelancers and individuals who are capable of anything and the sky is the limit for them. They should be further represented as individuals who are equal to men in all forms of demographic, be it socially, politically, financially, physically or ethically. (Himashree Patowary). The Indian media and advertisers as a whole have failed to reduce this prejudice and stereotypical representation of women. According to various study and reports, it is seen that they have contributed very little if any to legitimising gender equality in advertisements and in the society as a whole. Some would say that they have further created the disparity between men and women and have added fuel to the fire.
Nike with this idea of celebrating the free lancing and independent spirit of woman gave an image out to the public that the way people perceive sport and women in general is going to change. Their advertisement featured several athletes including the likes of surfer Ishita Malaviya and renowned national hockey player Rani Rampal. It also featured the famous Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone in her badminton attire, who is also known previously as a competitive badminton player. The main objective of assembling such a cast was to provide a message that anyone could be a sports person, ranging from stars like Deepika to common women. With the help of this campaign it has delineated woman as the central characters of its advertisements. It shifted their traditional roles as homemakers and mere sex objects to non traditional roles and progressive occupation. On witnessing all of this, it can be said that the advertisement has legitimised gender equality in the society but to an extent. If it is to be said that this has caused gender equality in a uniform and large scale, then it would be an untrue statement. India is often known as patriarchal society where generally men are placed over women at various different levels. Advertisements on the other hand, are the mere reflection of the society as a whole. Hence, it is easy and convenient for the advertisers to portray women in the stereotypical manner as that is how the society as a whole looks upon them. Going against the societal norms and regulations would mean hampering their business strategy and products. To really legitimise gender equality advertisers must put importance on the values and image their advertisements would put forward to the society. Whether, they are contributing to something greater as whole must be looked upon. When business strategies are placed as the same importance of addressing social issues like gender equality, the world would be such a better place to live in.