It is shocking to see the number of advertisements floating around these days which portray women as desired objects and man as consumer, directly or in-directly. According to these advertisements the Man is the hunter, woman the hunted. Man the voyeur, woman the victim. At times some of these women advertisements are so over the top, that it makes it hard for the whole family to sit together and watch television. And sadly, there is no one to question the present market-and-media ethics that turns women’s bodies into consumer objects?
Consumerism talks about manipulating people’s desires. It’s basic and founding ideology is that one should be able to acquire all one wants. In other words, desired objects become commodities – available to the highest bidder. Bodies (commodities) are for sale, in “representation” and in “reality”. Modelling, be it nude or semi-nude is not considered a big deal in today’s society. It is considered as one of the few ways for women qua women to make money. Male desire is aroused by this display of titillating female bodies. This results in passive viewing to active buying. And this is where Consumerism meets Sexism. This however is not where the relationship ends; it at times further leads to “Sexual Violence”.
Bodies advertised on television – or others like them – are available in the real marketplace. Therefore today “Sex work” is a fast-growing service industry, in India and abroad. Sex all over the world is still considered to be labour for women and pleasure for men. Obviously there is something not quite natural about the explanation of sexuality if it is a commodity on sale like any other.
Women are learning to wear less and less in order to be appreciated. Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat claims that exhibiting her physical assets was the only way an ordinary woman like herself could make it in glamorous Bollywood. On the other hand, high-circulation daily newspapers discuss the ‘oomph factor’ and present ‘mirchi meters’ comparing various ‘sizzling’ females (Mandira Bedi during the Cricket World Cup matches & Ashwariya Rai during her visit to Cannes Film Festival). Images of nude women, vulnerable and seductive, are doing the rounds on computer, television and cinema screens, mobile phones (MMS controversies). Tell me, are we returning to the time when slave traders would make a woman open her mouth to count the number of teeth she had, and feel her muscles to ensure she could do the work? Today many Indian women make a beeline towards cosmetic surgery to sculpt their figures and faces into desirable shapes and contours. Why is that even today, the privileged male gaze still seems to determine and dictate ideal female form, image and behaviour.
Former US President Bill Clinton revealed in his biography My Life, that he did have an affair with Monica Lewinsky (which he had earlier conviently denied). Having confessed, he excuses himself, dismissing it as a mistake that should never have happened. His book sold like hot cakes, the media excused him and men at large were again reassured that they do not need to take responsibility for their own sexual behaviour. This makes me wonder are we still living in Patriarchy type of sociological conditions. Patriarchy has always allocated sexual rights to men and responsibilities to women. It’s simply sad and pathetic to see that this ethical code still exists, even among progressive and enlightened people.
[Guest Post : Saakshi O. Juneja]