Over the years we have seen NGOs working towards women rights and empowerment, but today male activists and NGO’s fighting for men rights and status have come to the forefront in the society, a recent example of this came up when Confidare Men’s Rights Community Center filed a complaint against Zomato.
The complaint registered with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) demanded the immediate withdrawal of Zomato’s TV commercial which showcased men in a poor and derogatory manner. The commercial opens with a voiceover promoting the special offers and discounts for the New Year parties listed on zomato followed by a husband or a boyfriend getting slapped by their female partners for not availing the mentioned discounts.
To delve deep into the matter, Merinews decided to catch up with Virag R Dhulia who heads the Community Center. Incidentally it turned out that Virag is also a Citizen Journalist at Merinews. Following are the excerpts of the conversation.
Merinews: A recent complaint was filed by you against the television advertisement of Zomato.com. Tell us more about it.
Virag: We have a lodged a complaint against the Zomato ad before the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). The complaint has been filed by Confidare Research, which is the research division of Confidare Men’s Rights Community Center – the first of its kind in India. Salient points raised in the complaint not only condemn the ad and its theme but also discourage promotion of any kind of violence against men. In the complaint we have demanded that,
1. The ad campaign be withdrawn with immediate effect.
2. Zomato owners must publish an unconditional apology in all leading national and local dailies with a 10X12 cm ad in either the front or back page.
3. They should give an undertaking that henceforth they will not design such ads under any circumstances.
Though, we are yet to receive any response from ASCI.
Merinews: Why suddenly single out Zomato for a few seconds TV commercial when you have hour long tele-soaps showcasing female dominance? Was it so instigating?
Virag: Yes, it is correct that tele-soaps do showcase female dominance and there is a plan to raise an issue about it, however, in this ad, there was a direct promotion of violence. It was being shown in a very funny manner, which is all the more unfortunate. And this promotion of violence had a hard-core commercial motive, to make quick money in the New Year bash season by promoting male-hatred.
Furthermore, previously also, there have been ads that have provoked emotional/physical violence against men like Ponds Ad, Kitply Ad, ICICI Lombard Ad, Gillette’s “Women Against Lazy Stubble Campaign”. We have raised voice against all of these and have succeeded in getting them off air. Now, what we are observing is that it is almost becoming a trend and every other company feels like going anti-male (misandry) to boost sales. Hence we are planning to collect all this data and make a concerted and planned opposition to such pervert social attitudes which fuel such concepts.
Merinews: Zomato TV ads were promoting their newly launched ticketing system around New Year. It was a very seasonal ad. In any case the ads would have been discontinued after New Year. Why create a case out of it that will anyways promote their brand? It looks like one of those publicity stunts that happen with film releases, you know.
Virag: Making the complaint was necessary because it clearly sends a message that such concepts are no longer welcome by the society, even if seasonal/short-lived. And in that case, why pursue legal action against a famous politician who is accused in a scam as it will give him/her publicity. The issue goes far beyond publicity, it’s about telling someone that you are hurting and you need to be aware of that. This communication is critical in any revolution and given the current trend of growing male-hatred, the men’s rights movement is no short of a revolution – a long overdue historical revolution that has not happened so far.
Merinews: And what about creativity? What if somebody says ‘It was all in good sense’?
Virag: No sane person would ever give the name of creativity to promotion of violence, for whatever purpose.
Merinews: You are associated with an organization that fights for men’s rights in the society. How relevant is this in an apparently male dominated society?
Virag: As the question itself says, “Apparently male dominated society”. Continuing from there, the society has never been male dominated. It is just a false perception. Men have always dominated both the extremes. If there are more men at the top (politicians, bureaucrats, judiciary, business tycoons, corporate honchos, etc.), there is a far greater number of men at the bottom as more men die in wars, more men commit suicides, more men take far greater risks, men have lesser life expectancies. And when we look at it holistically, men have always ventured out into unexplored areas, made them safer and then women have entered those areas. Men have always protected women from all kinds of dangers. Are those the traits of a “dominating gender”?
The concept of male-hatred (misandry) and male disposability is not at all understood by the society. Due to social conditioning and emotional castration since childhood, men themselves live in denial and do not construe subtle harassment as discrimination. As an example, often men are forced to suppress their emotions, especially vulnerable emotions and are denied a conversational space; due to these, men live a psychologically suffocating life and this is the biggest motivating factor for crime. Recognition and promotion of men’s rights can work in a big way to reduce crime.
And it is this notion of “an apparently male dominated society” that prevents us from recognizing men’s rights thus further perpetrating the abuse of men. If truly the society was dominated by men, there was no reason for men to top the list of people committing suicides. And this further suppression of men’s rights under the perceptive notion of a male dominated society, we are but abetting the suicides of male gender, rather killing it cold-bloodedly.
Merinews: So how far did you succeed in saving males? Give us activities that your organization did and how did it help saving a family?
Virag: We provide a listening space to men and an unbiased, non-judging communication channel that allows them to talk about their problems and abuse that they face, without feeling guilty. We also provide distressed and victimized men guidance and coaching in fighting false dowry cases, maintenance cases filed against them by their wives. We help men in understanding the stressful situations they face, the financial extortion they are subjected to and how to safeguard themselves from the same.
Many men, when they approach us, harbour suicidal tendencies but after being supported by us morally and emotionally almost 95% of them were able to come out of their suicidal tendencies. This also tells us that given a proper communication channel, men do open up about the abuse they are facing, thus, breaking the famous myth of men’s silence. Men do not speak because the society ‘judges’ them instead of ‘listening’ to them.
Merinews: So, what after Zomato? Should ad makers be extra cautious to not let conceptualize something around a man getting beaten up?
Virag: We are planning to take up this issue of anti-male ad themes with the Government to come up with specific guidelines for discouraging such ads. And ad makers definitely ought to be more sensitive of not hurting men’s sentiments while conceptualizing something. As a society, no one can promote violence against anyone, irrespective of gender.