This is a published article, first appeared on Huffpost India.
While flipping through the latest Outlook Magazine I came across the advertisement of the forthcoming Resurgent Rajasthan Partnership Summit to be held in Nov 2015 in Jaipur.
The campaign had an image of an impressive masculine male face complete with beard and mustache set against the background of a beautiful tribal illustration, with the caption “I am Rajasthan. I’m Ready” in bold capital fonts. Bheel artist Prakash Jogi has been given credit for the illustration.
At the very first sight it seemed a bit odd to me that the words ‘I am Rajasthan’ are accompanied by a man’s face, because usually land/country is referred as females, the reason why we call motherland or Bharat mata.
So would it be wrong to assume that there is a bit of gender bias and male supremacy happening here? Assuming it is not gender bias but aesthetics sense. Let’s say they wanted only a single portrait on the poster to make it attractive. I agree its a designer’s prerogative. But why couldn’t that image be of a woman?
Suppose instead of a man we had a Rajasthani woman’s face with “I am Rajasthan, I am ready,” would that be odd? Is it almost impossible to imagine that scenario? For one, how can they have a woman’s image with her head held high looking directly at the camera when majority of Rajasthani women are duty bound to remain submissive and behind the veil. Secondly, what sort of seriousness would it bring on the table with a woman’s face, when women are supposed to be used as sexual objects in ad campaigns, and this is serious business from all over the world we are talking about.
At the bottom of the ad image we have Rajasthan government proclaiming, “Rajasthan is born resilient, brimming with talent, polished at institutions like IITs and IIMs, driven by economic reforms, highways, SEZs, with a model of development that has liberalism at its core” can we imagine a woman representing any of these feats?
In a state whose GDI rank (gender development index) is as low as 31st among 35 and GEM (Gender Empowerment Measure) rank is 24th out of 35, with a sex ratio of 926 females per 1000 males as against the national average of 940 and female literacy rate of 52.66% against national average of 65.46%, the Rajasthani women are perhaps in no position of power or privilege to invite national and international industry experts and thought leaders. Considering only 4% of households in Rajasthan are female headed, majority of women have no decision making power in their household so how can they possibly invite guests.
The reality is putting a woman on the main poster would indeed not make any sense because women of Rajasthan hardly represent any achievement. Although the state has a female Chief Minister the total women’s participation in political process in Rajasthan is mere 4.5%. So although Madam Vasundhara Raje is sending out the invites on behalf of the state her mascot is a male.
I don’t intend to be nitpicking but this is definitely something we should be wondering about. One should also question why all communication related to development is about roads and infrastructure and none about human and gender development indexes? While it is great to say “we built roads” is it not equally important to say “we made women safe”?