Despite it’s disclaimer, this advert made me feel “uncomfortable, awkward, objectified and pointless”

Published: May 22, 2016
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We’re all terribly familiar with the pin-up girl persona that women have to adopt in advertisements to make products more appealing. A few days ago, this advert popped up on my newsfeed on Facebook and I laughed along as the actor/model wiggled his butt and referenced the Katrina Kaifs of beverage ads, the Kareena Kapoors of magnum ads and the multitude of lux soap adverts in luxuriously white bath tubs laden with rose petals.

We’ve seen women adorned in robes of silk, where their smooth legs are just as shiny as the fabric. We’ve seen it all. We’re all mind-numbingly familiar with these images.

And we never hear the end of it from human rights activists and feminists. Rightfully so, it’s a societal issue.

But it becomes even more poignant when it’s presented to us in a completely unfamiliar context. It pierces the cocoon of the familiar and makes it unfamiliarly familiar.

Even the actor sarcastically says:

“You know, it’s a good thing that women don’t have to go through this stuff. They never have to feel: uncomfortable. Awkward. Objectified. Pointless.”

Right with you on that one. All of us nod our heads and chuckle as he walks off set and says,

“You know, you don’t have to objectify women to sell a product. So, it’s refreshing to see…”

– wait. What just happened?

Where did this deodorant come from? Are you kidding me?

When did this message against sexist imagery on screen become about an advertisement about this elitist ‘He’ deodorant that is for men who are supposedly ‘above’ this?

No, you don’t need to “objectify women” to sell a product. Except, that is ALL you did.

In an advert of 75 seconds, 60 were spent mocking women as the overly sexed gender in the media, and the remaining 15 were spent promoting these chivalrous gentlemen and their ‘He’ deodorants. It’s like uninterruptedly ridiculing someone in the bluntest of manners, and then saying ‘oh, but I think you’re great!’

When it pertained to a man’s humorous portrayal of the way women are seen in product advertisement, it was thought provoking and amusing. But, as soon as you bring your own product into it and claim that you don’t need to resort to the aforementioned tactics to sell – that is where the problem lies. There is a malicious, conniving undertone that emerges in the entire advert. It, instead, becomes pretentious, arrogant and insulting.  These paradoxes were only created to hook potential buyers and grab people’s attention, only to slap in the deodorant at the end for the few remaining seconds. If you were truly above all that you wouldn’t pitch a product at the expense of women. Your condescension and self-righteous disguise does little for your credibility in the eyes of women and real gentlemen.

This is nothing but a brand war.

What this has done is ridden on the wave of belittlement, while projecting this ‘better than thou’ persona.

This aura of nobility you’re creating is nothing but a fog machine at a pompous dance party: fake, blinding and temporary. If you “He’s” out there were real men, or even remotely valued the attribute of ‘respect’, you wouldn’t have resorted to shaming anyone. This ‘devil in sheep’s clothing’ façade doesn’t fool us.

Next time, pick the right target market – where chivalry has died.

Fatima Nadeem

Fatima Nadeem

The author is a Fine Art graduate from Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. She is a freelance artist. Apart from a passion for the arts, her hobbies include reading and writing. Instagram: fatimanadeem8

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.