Counterpoint: 18 till I die ?
I wanna be young the rest of my life
Never say no – try anything twice
‘Til the angels come and ask me to fly
I’m gonna be 18 till I die, 18 till I die
A few months back at the Bryan Adams concert I swore to myself that I shall do my best to feel like 18 till I die. And then last week I come across the 18 again advertisement, for a vaginal cream that promises to make me feel like a virgin again. For a moment I am stumped. The promise is tempting!
The lady in the ad is dressed in a traditional sari. She carries a lunch box for her husband who is on his way to work. They are surrounded by their in laws and a kid playing in the verandah. She croons, “… oooh I feel like a virgin”. Her father-in-law is so shocked that he throws up his tea. The lady invites her husband to a tango and he sings in joy with her crooning “…feels like the first time”. The ad gains momentum as the couple dance passionately. Then the scene shifts to the mother-in-law who is sitting at the computer searching for 18 Again, when her husband comes to her and she gives him an adorable smile. She too, is persuaded to try the product and wants to feel like a virgin again.
The ad does its job well. It tries to lure a bald man into buying a comb. It makes a woman believe she can turn the clock around and feel young and beautiful again. It makes her feel bold and empowered about her sexuality. A woman who is no longer a virgin can now have her cake and eat it too! On the face the ad looks pretty harmless, but it has managed to cause an uproar in India: a society that does not openly talk about sexuality and is ranked third in the world for the highest number of rapes reported, a society where talking about sex is taboo and a girl is expected to be chaste and pure for her husband, a society where girls are brought up with high expectations and are groomed to make good wives and mothers. A country that prides itself on the institution of marriage but fails to protect its women on the streets.
The ad makes every hypocrite Indian uncomfortable. A vaginal cream that can simply be bought off the shelves thrusts the double standards of the society in its face. Husbands will never be sure again if their brides are really virgins. Fathers are now afraid that there daughters might get provoked into considering losing their virginity and women may feel sexually empowered but are just being prey to consumerism. What the ad is doing is causing ripples in a society that has shelved its problems for way too long under the table. It is pushing every regular family sitting around the dinner table watching this ad on television to think that maybe it’s time to start redefining the place of a woman in the Indian society.
Roma Rajpal is a freelance journalist.
Date01.09.2012 | 12:43