Stitching Inclusivity To The Fabric Of Pop Culture

Reiterating the idea of 'we do as we see it', P&G organised a session that put to light the role of pop culture in building a gender-balanced environment

There is no two ways about female empowerment being a prerequisite for a just and developed society. While it has been a long-debated topic, there hangs a big question mark on the role of social media and movies in shaping and breaking stereotypes, often leading to representation of these norms as a way of life.

However, we’re now experiencing a shift where women are better represented, not just on screen but off screen too. There has been a dismantling of norms happening which is allowing a more balanced inclusion of all genders.

Exploring the role of pop-culture in shaping gender equality and how collectively as stakeholders we can bring increase the rate of change, Procter & Gamble India (P&G) organized the ‘We See Equal - Gender Equality Summit 2021’ that got on board four trailblazers from their respective areas- Sania Mirza, Indian tennis player, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Transgender activist, Ashwini Iyer, Indian film director & Chetna Soni, Senior Director, Fem Care, P&G India, along with Anupama Chopra, film critique, as the moderator, to share their experiences on the eternal wrangle of how differently each gender is depicted in the pop culture.

Iyer began with explaining that she observes a heartening change in advertisements from the time she entered the industry. “Whisper was one of the first brands I worked for. From talking of periods from behind the curtains to now discussing happy period stories, from asking someone else to buy pads for you to now overtly buying themselves, women have definitely allayed their apprehensions. They are relatively unbothered and acknowledge that it is a natural phenomenon.”

Sports has been yet another area that has been marred by accusations of gender inequality. Besides the challenges that athletes encounter on a daily basis, female athletes have to confront several other complications on and off their fields of work. Talking on whether the attitude towards women has changed with a plethora of sports-led female movies in the past years, Mirza commented, “The concept of gender is deeply embedded in us and in our culture. There is a clear demarcation of what women can and cannot do. While there is an evolution in this attitude, there’s still a long way to go. I believe, women put the same amount of effort in any given opportunity and there should not be any debate about it.”

How much we agree on the evolution of social opinions and attitudes related to an individual’s sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression, nonetheless, members of the LGBTQ community still suffer pernicious and blatant gender bias in all areas of public and private life. Tripathi called out to the film directors who depict the LGBTQ characters completely wrong. “The stereotype has still not gone out. Few directors did manage to caste good actors and design an engaging story, but characters remained stereotypical. While these characters are often portrayed funny or abysmal, it is sad that transgender community is not given a chance to perform themselves. The directors need to understand that someone’s dignity is at cost, which is eventually leading to stigma in society. We must be treated equal,” she asserted.

The role of media in causing dents to the gender debate remains to continue. It becomes their moral duty to build a more inclusive and gender-balanced state. Soni mentioned here, “We found that bias was the base and that conditioning has already been done.

We, at P&G, believe in responsible advertising. We are conscious of genders and their representation. With our campaigns like Ariel #ShareTheLoad, Whisper #KeepGirlsInSchool, Gillette #ShavingStereotypes and many more, we strive towards a more gender-equal environment.”

Embracing the voices and ideas of all and beginning with an active commitment from one’s own self, will ultimately help build a more inclusive place in the times to come. Talking on how the pop culture can be made more gender balanced, Tripathi expressed, “There must be a space created in the industry for every gender. People in the industry should realize that our dignity is at stake. It is ‘we’ not ‘they’. A film can either leave a positive mark or make way for stigma and discrimination. The directors must take onus and have the courage to portray us the right way.”

Iyer added here, “There is a difference between dreaming and doing. Demand for what you dream for. Demand respect and self-encouragement.”

For Mirza, all has been set and done about equality. The real question is how to actually achieve it. “In rear India, which is nearly 70%, women need to realize that they need to empower themselves first and demand equality. They must practice inclusivity internally first. Once they become firm, men will follow.”