For many brands in our country, the festive season from October to November is the time to release advertisements for product promotion. Many of them come up with creative content to attract the viewer's attention. For some, this is the perfect time to experiment as well. This involves showcasing a progressive side to our culture, that have patriarchal and heteronormative aspects.
A month back, FabIndia started a campaign called 'Jashn-E-Riwaaz', adorned with beautiful outfits that define this season. Dabur's bleaching product, Fem, aimed to break the glass ceiling by showing a same-sex couple celebrating Karwa Chauth. Popular designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee released a Mangalsutra campaign showcasing a dark-skinned woman in a low-cut top embracing a man. The ideas behind them are extremely progressive. They question the age-old custom, with the aim of making them inclusive in nature.
The Art Of Getting Offended
While many may consider this as a welcome step in right direction, it has not been so. All of these campaigns drew ire on several social media. Many felt that this 'maligns' our culture and does not uphold the 'Hindu' ideals.
On top of that, political gatekeeping of such media content has been on an all-time high as well. BJP leader and Madhya Pradesh's Home Minister, Narottam Mishra, objected to the Sabyasachi ad, stating that this will 'offend' a certain section of the society. He also asked the designer to withdraw the campaign otherwise legal action will be taken against him. He also raised his concerns about the Dabur campaign as it's 'objectionable' in nature. After much uproar, this campaign was taken off the media as well.
This recent flurry is doing more harm than good. A lot of questions were raised about where we are headed as a country, when it comes to freedom of speech. Over the years, a lot of debate had ensured about how tolerant we are as a society. While the majority says that they this is a myth, these instances prove otherwise. BJP MP Tejasvi Surya was irked by FabIndia's recent, calling it a 'deliberate misadventure' that resulted in Diwali's 'abrahamisation' because it used an Urdu phrase to describe the festival.
Is Intolerance Really A Myth?
We, Indians, call ourselves a diverse country. We boast of being secular in nature, as it is written in our Constitution. The real question is - are we really upholding this as a nation? However, recent years have seen a distinct polarisation that is only taking us in the wrong direction. Challenging our patriarchal and heteronormative culture does not mean that we are 'anti-national'. In fact, criticism will only make us work towards becoming better.
Keeping this in mind, brands and content creators should have the necessary freedom to implement their ideas. We are a part of an impressionable society. Their campaigns play an important role in promoting inclusive ideals. Therefore, instead of opposing them, we all should be accepting of what they have to offer. Asking them to withdraw advertisements is only doing more harm than good.