Buy the change you want to see
Updated: Jun 8
Movies, art, advertising… as women we are often offended by how we’re being portrayed in the media. Now, for the first time, we have the money and the power to do something about it.
The long-suffering mother (usually in a white sari). The damsel in distress (usually in a wet sari). The shameless seductress (usually in a wet white sari). Bollywood’s one-dimensional portrayal of women (and our wardrobes) has influenced generations of Indians, passing off eve-teasing as playful romantic overtures and moral policing as the preservation of Indian values. It’s become something of a social menace, as this news clip shows.
Bollywood and regional cinema might set the tone, but they find willing foot soldiers in other forms of mass media. The relationship between culture and media is old news, but this time around, we have new tools that could win us the fight.
The first is the public platform that social media offers; the success of the #MeToo movement proves that a single tweet can turn into a symphony of voices for change. The second is money. At Basis, we believe that wealth doesn’t just offer financial independence, but also the power to influence the world we live in.
Women account for 85% of global purchases (that’s around $28 trillion); by endorsing or rejecting ideas and images, we can change the way we’re perceived and portrayed. Here’s a starting point.
While women directors and producers are scarce, female-led movies like Queen, Pink, and Kahaani are topping the box office, making filmmakers aware that realistic, nuanced stories told from the female perspective has a huge market. By watching and spreading the word about such cinema, we’re encouraging the creation of similar narratives.
Here’s a question – do you blame businesses for creating stereotype-reinforcing products or ad agencies for marketing them? How about consumers who buy the products, in a bid to look younger, thinner or fairer? It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, in which our inadequacies fuel marketers to create products and images that just make us feel worse, not better. So, if we want to stop being body, age or colour-shamed, we have to stop buying products that hold us to Photoshopped standards of perfection. When we become more vocal and visible as consumers, marketers can’t help but respond. Need an example? Here’s an ad that gets it right.
As one flips channels, it’s difficult to separate the primetime soaps from the news. There’s an equal amount of fighting, crying and threatening in which all rasas of drama are met. We’re trading in journalism for sensationalism and cultural critiques for clickbait. If a starlet’s outfit or romances earn more newsprint than say, a woman entrepreneur winning an award, it’s because news editors are convinced that this is what we really want to see. With the digitization of news, we as consumers can support balanced journalism by subscribing to news outlets that take their responsibilities seriously.
As media becomes more interactive, entertainment and communication are being forced to grow more personalised and sensitive to consumers’ views. Now, popular culture is being shaped by personal choice. It’s time to make yours count.
To learn more about money management, discuss all things money with a community of financially independent women and get investment advise, sign-up for Basis now. India’s only personal finance platform focussed on women.