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The Beauty Paradigm

The Beauty Paradigm
Gender Discourse in Indian Advertising

  • Jaishri Jethwaney - Senior ICSSR Research Fellow, Former Professor and Program Director (Advertising and Public Relations), Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi

September 2021 | 268 pages | SAGE Response
Fair skin sells the cream 
Trendy women sell the scooter
Dashing men sell the car  
Seductive gestures can sell almost anything

If media only mirrors reality, is advertising then guilty of misogyny, voyeurism and objectification of women?

In an attempt to look at Indian ads across various brand categories with a gender lens based on societal and sociological perspectives, The Beauty Paradigm: Gender Discourse in Indian Advertising deconstructs the quintessential Indian woman that the advertising industry depicts across the spectrum. Drawing insights from a seminal research study and Erving Goffman’s classic book ‘Gender Advertisements’, this book traces the journey of a few decades to map trends and patterns in Indian advertising and presents the perspectives of the creative teams and top managements across Indian and global agencies.
Is Advertising as Guilty as It Is Made Out to Be?
What Women Want?
Gender Insensitivity in Indian Ads—Numbers Don’t Lie!
Some Hope Some Despair! A Medley of Ads
Straight from the Source!
The Arrival of Metrosexual Man in the Indian Ad Narrative
Gender Mainstreaming in Media Schools and Workplaces
Gender Sensitive Laws: A Global Concern
Do Self-regulation Codes in Advertising Have Enough Teeth?
Current Discourse on Gender in the Ecosystem and Its Implications
Wake-up Call for the Ad Sector
What Next? The Agenda for Tomorrow

‘Many years ago, as a senior copywriter in one of New York’s largest ad agencies, I presented a concept for a beauty brand. And yes, it actually had an idea attached to it, which was rare for beauty ads in those days. But I’ll never forget my male creative director’s response. He said straight-faced without a touch of irony, “I don’t buy it; women don’t think like that.” So I applaud Professor Jethwaney on her book exploring how and why women are depicted so one-dimensionally in advertising. Whether it’s Mumbai or New York, it needs to change. And I know the guy to whom I’ll be sending a copy.’

Michele Aglira
Creative Director, Publicis Conseil, Paris

‘Excellent and well researched, your book looks at advertising through a gendered lens. Without being prescriptive, it brings to the fore many problems inherent in the portrayal of women in advertising. The book is a timely reminder of the need to start a serious discourse around the subject of stereotyping women in advertisement and the risks this may have, by subliminally influencing mindsets of people. It forces the readers to re-examine their response to women’s portrayal in advertising and to ask the question “why”.

Zulaikha Haq
Gender and Women Rights Activist, Afghanistan

‘A monumentally path-breaking book which, on the one hand, raises consciousness of women in slumber and, on the other, challenges conscience of the advertising world by linking a mirror of reality with a window of opportunity for enlightened choices. Each chapter is provocative and fascinating with contemporary debates and scholarship of ideas. This work will bring immense clarity of thoughts and sophistication of ideas to a large number of start-up advertising companies, media students and the established seasoned advertisers by introducing them to a philosophical terrain that brings maturity, ethics and sustainability to a sceptically naive world of monolithic patriarchal mind set.’

Professor Amita Singh
Public Intellectual, Author, Commentator

‘A highly informative and beautifully written book on advertising nuances and gender by one of the most knowledgeable minds on the subject that I had the fortune to meet. An easy, worthwhile read for those engaged in the advertising industry and in general for everyone to take a peek into the evolving landscape of advertising.’

Mariyam Shakeela
Maldives, Parliamentarian, Businesswoman, President of Women’s Chamber of Commerce

‘Professor Jaishri Jethwaney’s new book is a major contribution to gender studies in India. Jaishri has been the leading light and principal coordinator of the media research project of the South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia. She led the segment on gender in advertising among all eight participating South Asian countries. The constant objectification and stereotyping of women through advertising immensely influences societal mindsets, especially among the young. I congratulate Jaishri on her continuing research on this vital issue, this time focused on India.’

Veena Sikri
Professor and Ambassador, Convener, SWAN

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