Women are not meat: Nando’s ad makes me sick to the stomach
“Don’t whistle… don’t objectify me.”
“Don’t make me just about tits and a**.”
“Don’t try to touch me.”
These are the most common things women think, or say, when catcalled at by men. The underlying message is that women are a heart, a mind, a person, a will, a personality, a consciousness… and not just a piece of meat. Not just a rack of breasts, not just a fine piece of booty, not just a pair of legs, not just the sum of her hot parts.
Not. A. Piece. Of. Meat.
And yet, the latest advertisement by Nando’s India, the popular global chicken restaurant chain, wants you to imagine you are biting into a juicy woman when you hungrily grab its hot chicken. A huge new ad by Nando’s, splashed across newspapers, asks you to,
“Try something you can grab with both hands”.
And what are you grabbing again? You are grabbing “buns, breasts, thighs”. Because
“Whatever you are into, enjoying any Nando’s meal with your hands is recommended”.
Let’s see what’s happening here. The ad speaks the language of daily harassment that women face. Under the sexist male gaze, a woman is viewed as little more than a tasty morsel. Like a trussed up piece of chicken served on a plate for a man to devour, she has no voice, possessing not even a chicken’s squeak. You can proceed to look at her and eat her.
There is understandably, furore on social media over this ad.
And yet, there are people who see no problem with this sexism.
“The advertisement was bad enough. But what was even worse is the reaction it evoked from many Indian men – and women. Since they tweeted in perfect English, it would be reasonable to assume these are educated people. While some thought I “couldn’t see the subtle humour” in the advert, others actually said it was ‘witty copy’ and that I was too dim to appreciate the cleverness of the dolt who wrote it. The advert reconfirms two things for me: the standard of English education in India has gone from brilliant till the late seventies to pathetic and embarrassing in 2016. And second, that depraved Indians who enjoyed this ad and abused me for calling it obscene, are the ones contributing to our dubious image as ‘rape capital of the world’,” says Padma Rao Sundarji, senior foreign correspondent and native Delhiwali.
Sadly, Nando’s is not the only one to depict a woman, literally, as a piece of meat. Delhi’s Asian food restaurant Mamagoto also had a similarly sexist ad, which compared the food it offered to a woman’s parts. In Mamagoto’s ad, it had a beautiful Asian woman meekly offering her buns to be eaten.
Women and some men are asking: Is the food in Mamagoto and Nando’s not good enough to be eaten, so ads have to stoop to levels that would make sexual harassers happy? Nando’s has since then apologised for the ad, but one wonders if this lip service – a single tweet – is enough. Will these companies actually spend money in putting out ads that say sorry?
In the iconic TV show, Mad Men, we are shown a captivating picture of capitalist United States – we look inside an ad agency that uses every trick in the book to sell products. Most of the tricks, though, are women. Ads usually make the sexist the rule, and not the exception.
The old Coca Cola bottle was famously shaped as a woman. Ads repeatedly show women standing next to random objects – an inverter, phuljhadi (firecrackers), tables, bathroom faucets, sofas and so on. When the woman is not a fine body grabbing your eyeballs, she becomes the product on display – the phuljhadi, the piece of chicken.
Noted actress and activist Shabana Azmi recently spoke out against filmy item numbers, objecting to the way women were portrayed and the adjectives used to describe them. Azmi referred to the words in Kareena Kapoor’s “Fevicol Se” item song, where the lines describe the heroine as a piece of meat to be downed with alcohol.
“This is a serious issue,” Azmi pressed.
Apart from justifying a rape or harassment culture, these depictions in ads, songs et al get bundled into one giant mess of popular culture and shape impressionable minds.
“Don’t mind” as the Nando’s ad says.
Because women not minding is every harasser’s dream. In fact, women not having a mind at all is what harassers want. Yo Yo Honey Singh’s rap videos have him following women in the street (“Blue Eyes, Love Dose”) who don’t mind him stalking them, singing to them and touching them. But those are dumb videos showing boring old stereotypes. The problem comes when these depictions portraying women who are objectified as women who don’t mind is assumed to be the reality.
This is not reality. This is a twisted mind’s reality. And twisted minds should have no place in society.
This post originally appeared here.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.