Last evening I watched an YouTube advertisement of the brand Parle G, I don’t know if they telecast the same on television or not. The ad was something on the lines of a newly married man who has been really busy with his life, his new wife, his parties and so on. He now doesn’t like his mother’s oily food, neither he likes to take her to the cinema, the way he takes his wife along. The ad also showed how the wife was interested to bond with the mother in law, but the son was not aware of his mother’s feelings which were badly hurt then. Later the son glanced his mother holding on to a photo frame in her sleep, which had his own childhood picture, and nostalgia hit him all of a sudden. The very next morning he makes tea, and serves it to his mother, with some Parle G biscuits. (The whole point of the advertisement was to sell Parle G biscuits, and it is alright uptil then)
The following and the last scene of the advertisement was about the son, showing his promotion letter to the mother, and his wife asking him, why he hadn’t told her that wonderful news earlier. To this the son replies, ‘I always say things first to my mother’, and then the mother and son hugged, the wife tagged along as well. This seems to me, as if it was an attempt of redemption on the son’s part, to hurt the wife and placing the mother’s position over her’s, to get away with his own insensitivity towards his mother.
I am in utter disbelief that responsible people of the media industry, still place the narrative of ‘mother is the real love, wife is secondary’. I mean there was no need to create this binary once again. If you want to sell biscuits, you absolutely can do that without victimising the newly wed wife, as if she was the whole reason all this while, when the man was being insensitive towards his mother. Why does a man’s irresponsible actions are thought to be a result of the provocation of his wife? Specially in the flawed narrative of hierarchy between the mother and the wife. I found it important to address because I have seen in most of the households around the country, there is a common-sensical understanding that, ”mother’s love is the greatest and therefore she comes before the wife”. Again, I am not saying that the wife shall be more important than the mother, because this comparison makes absolutely no sense. Every individual has several dimensions to his character and has multiple relationships in his lifetime. Some are closer than the rest but some are just different from one another and should never be brought into any comparison.
This age old narrative of the new woman in the house to be the home breaker, has resulted in uncountable injustices against women. This has been a part of the popular culture for centuries, and it is an important tool of the patriarchy, to create tension among the oppressed gender and break their solidarity, as well as keep them away from real issues of oppression, they are otherwise subjected to. One needs to understand that men do not lie at the centre of the universe, who need to be fought for. The wife and the mother are individuals first. Diminishing their individuality, just to fit into the story of two women fighting for the man of the house, is disgusting.
This Parle G advertisement very subtly propagates the misogynist narrative of women being the sole reason behind a man’s unjust actions.
It isn’t about just this advertisement though, if we think a little we realise that it’s the norm of the time. “GOOD MEN GIVE MORE IMPORTANCE TO THEIR MOTHER, THAN THEY GIVE TO THEIR WIVES.” This is problematic on many levels, firstly, it is being assumed that men get to decide who is important and who is not. It’s never the other way round. No advertisement shows the dilemma of a wife, where she has to choose between her husband and father.
Just imagine how it would be to visualise a woman, who tells her husband, ‘I tell things first to my father and not you’. I mean this seems weird, right? The binary between a woman’s husband and father is non existent. But the parle G advertisement seems generous and a loving expression of a son’s and mother relationship. But the situation I wanted to be visualised and the Parle G one, both are mirroring incidents, but our brains act differently to it. We find the Parle G one to be normal and the other one to be unnatural.
This is the consequence of normalising problematic behaviour by the society and especially by the media houses. We are so used to the story of a vicious daughter in law who comes in the household and breaks the bond between a mother and the son, that it has almost become the norm of today. We need to be sensitive when we engage ourselves in such conversations, where it says that ‘women are the home breakers’.
One also needs to understand that the mother and the wife are not meant to be running for the man of the house. Women should not be seen in relation to a man, all the time. Lastly, I have seen beautiful homes where one finds it difficult to understand who is whose mother and who is whose child because both the parents of the man and woman live under the same roof without any apparent conflict, and it is indeed a paradise.
It is harmful to propagate such misogynist narratives of women being the home breakers, or ‘one’s wife is less important than one’s mother’, because this is problematic and flawed and leads to further oppression of this gender. Also to do away with patriarchy from it’s root, one needs to look at all the apparently smaller issues, and bring change from within.