Women's Day creative critique: From superwomen to self-love

The author reviews ads that stood out this International Women's Day

Mar 14, 2023 12:00:00 AM | Article | Dr AL Sharada Share - Share to Facebook

On International Women's Day, brands flood us with ads that celebrate the occasion with new promotions, reaffirm their commitment to gender equality and women's empowerment, and highlight various gender issues that draw attention to the need to address discriminatory social norms. 


This year's ads demonstrate a greater understanding and maturity in communication, with most being introspective, inspiring, and critical of prevailing gender norms. I would like to spotlight a few themes that stand out in this year's campaigns.


One thing that annoys many women immensely is being put on a pedestal as superwomen with many virtues. This absolves everyone from redefining gender roles, power equations, and challenging gender norms, pushing multiple burdens onto women while sprinkling a few phrases of appreciation, praise, and kindness here and there. 


Tanishq's ad questions whether 'Superwoman' is a compliment or an expectation, urging us to accept women for who they are and not make them into superwomen to justify their existence or demand our respect.

At the other end of the spectrum is infantilising women, projecting them as incapable of doing anything and denying them their agency and choice. This gets reflected not just in day-to-day interactions but also in organisational recruitment processes. 


Aditya Birla Group's ad brings out internalised gender biases in recruitment processes by contrasting sexist responses to similar answers from a male and a female candidate.

Gender stereotypes, biases, and discrimination constitute a continuum, with the most stereotyping occurring when it comes to women and work. 


While Nilon's ad speaks about the stereotyping of inventors as men, which invisibilises women inventors, the DS group talks about women farmers and their little or no visibility in Google images, urging content creators to increase the visibility of women farmers by including women in pictures when discussing farmers. 

BoAt's ad, on the other hand, stresses giving women visibility in sports, not just as cheerleaders, fans, presenters, or anchors, but as players. Kotak extends its support to women drivers trained by Azad Foundation for their determination to chart a course for a life with dignity.


Some ads nudged women to challenge and confront gender stereotypes and lead their life on their terms and conditions. Defiant and in your face, the Centre fresh's ad 'Soch karo Fresh' (keep your thinking fresh' shows how women are redefining roles and power equations, while Senco's ad advises women 'duniya ko suna ne do, tum suno jo tum chuno' (Listen to the world, listen to what you choose). 


One of the essential elements of the women's movement is the tremendous support that women lend each other at the personal level. The empathy, ability to laugh and cry together and camaraderie keep women going, and it is heartening to see IWD ad campaigns focusing on it. While Meesho's ad shows what an entrepreneur has done to support fellow women entrepreneurs, Prestige's ad shows the support we receive from our domestic help and the need to acknowledge their contribution to our lives.


The widespread gendered social norms and expectations undermine the value of girls and women, denting their self-respect and self-image. It is interesting to see many ads calling out to women to accept and love themselves and be kind to themselves. Women often face self-doubt and engage in self-deprecation since they cannot meet the beauty standards of society. Prega News, GreenSoulErgonomics, Aditya Birla Group, and others have highlighted this issue in their ads.


The theme for this year is 'DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality' with a focus on innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. And brands have come up with ads that focus on the digital divide and need to bridge the same, be it teaching women in our life to use digital technology (HDFC) or trusting them with technology and empowering them to handle it on their own (Croma). Godrej, on the other hand, presents a eulogy to women in STEM. 


In conclusion, this year's International Women's Day ad campaigns show a more nuanced understanding of gender issues and a willingness to challenge prevailing social norms. The ads address a range of themes, including the need to avoid putting women on a pedestal or infantilising them, challenging gender stereotypes in the workplace, and encouraging women to lead their lives on their terms. Additionally, the campaigns highlight the importance of supporting and empowering women through personal connections and self-love, as well as bridging the digital divide and empowering women in STEM fields. Overall, these ads serve as a reminder that gender equality and women's empowerment remain critical issues that require continued attention and action.


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