I saw this new ad which has come up on the road side bill board, on my way to office. It’s an ad for personal loans offered by a fairly known finance company. The ad has a picture of a family comprising of husband wife and 2 kids, a boy and a girl, and the loan literature all around. Each person in the picture has a kind of comment callout which supposedly represents how the person could use the loan money. The callouts have “Money for a new car”, “Money for a new house”, “Money for higher education” etc. What caught my attention was the callout for the small girl in the picture which reads – “Money for marriage”. I first saw the ad on my way to office and could not believe what I had read. So I waited to reread the ad on my way back home; and, I had read it right. The callout for the small girl actually reads “Money for marriage”.
This got me thinking. Maybe the ad literature was a mistake, an overlook on the part of the person printing the ad, and/or the person who put the ad literature. But again what are the management folks of that finance company doing? Didn’t they review what is being put out? Or is it that they too cannot think beyond such dimwitted literature?
Before going any further, let me explain my stand. My problem is not really with that ad or the people behind it. My problem is with the stereotyping. Essentially, stereotyping of women as housewives, and keeping education lower in the women’s priority list. What else do I call this when the callout for the girl reads “Money for marriage” while the callout for the boy reads “Money for education”?
It might be totally unintentional but the fact is, it’s not seldom we find people with this kind of thinking. If this is the thinking of an educated elite who put up that ad in Bangalore, it’s beyond me to conjure up how horrible it is in the remote areas of our country. I think the problem is more deep rooted and can’t be fixed with merely correcting the literature. It also requires more than just education and stringent law. I think it needs a deeper correction of the mindset of our people. It requires a complete reboot of the mind.
I remember an incident which happened to me a few weeks back. I was getting ready to go to the office when my daughter Akshara asked me where I was going. I said office and asked her if she wants to come with me to the office. She said, “No, I will not; I am a girl”. I was confused. I asked her who told her this and her answer was “Does Mamma go to office? Does Ajji (grandmother in Marathi) go to office? No right? They are girls”. This told me that her thought process was more an outcome of what she saw. I thought for some time and asked her “Does Ajoba (grandfather in Marathi) go to office?” Now she was confused. I then took time to explain to her the reason why Mamma or Ajji or Ajoba do not go to office; and that had nothing to do with girls or boys. Once I had done the explaining giving her examples of my bhabhi (sister-in-law) and others who go to office, I had asked her what she wants to become when she grows up. She had said, she wanted to build the biggest roller coaster.
One thing became very clear in my head today. Kids and maybe even grownups, quickly pick things around them, such as the literature on that ad, and come to their own conclusion. So not talking about something might not always be the right thing to do. I can no more assume that I can show Akshara the right way by conduct or behavior alone. I also need to talk and explain what is correct and what is not. Only then will Akshara understand what is right and what is wrong.
~Narendra V Joshi