While the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) has banned "harmful gender stereotypes" in advertisements in Britain, Bangladeshi advertising houses are making some sexist advertisements using this communication tool.
Shabnam Azim, faculty member of the Mass Communication and Journalism Department of Dhaka University, says, "Learning the message of visual landscape is crucial. In the last ten years, the portrayal of women has changed, but that does not mean that the visual landscape has stopped objectification of women."
She also said, "In these advertisements, the "cover" has been changed but not the message." Her wise statement leads to the following questions.
Are the audience and ad making agencies conscious enough about the hidden message in advertisements? If they are, then why are these advertisements portraying the most 'indecent' things in a decent way?
There is an act named "The Indecent Advertisements Prohibition Act" in Bangladesh.
In this act, it is strictly mentioned that "indecent" things cannot be portrayed in advertisements, which may "influence" anyone to have "pernicious" thoughts or anything that may "debauch" one's mind.
There are many advertisements which are influencing society to have "pernicious" thoughts.
For example, in the HydroKleen Bangladesh advertisement, a woman is busy doing all the heavy household chores and the man is doing all the light work online, while enjoying TV.
It just simply stereotypes gender. Examples of such advertisements are countless.
Another one is Navana Nakshi Gas Stove TVC. It conveys a very stereotypical portrayal of man and woman, where the woman is busy cooking.
This scenario has been portrayed in a charming manner, but the old stereotypical gender bias is still there. It clearly supports the view that women's place is in the kitchen.
From the beginning of advertisement history, women are shown as objects of beautification. That has happened because that particular advertisement has been invested, conceptualised, directed and portrayed by key members of patriarchal society.
Nonetheless, this particular industry is changing. Some agencies are trying to take their own responsibilities.
Sanjida Jui, Associate Vice President of Bitopi, says, "We are trying to portray things which are real. Sometimes we even refuse to do work which we find gender-stereotypical. Hence, personal responsibility is important."
Her speech reflects on some of our recent advertisements.
Recently, Grameenphone made an advertisement named Notun Bhalobasha, where they boldly encourage girls to rebel against man-made social norms.
Another gallant example can be the Revive Talcum Powder advertisement. It depicted a handful of social stigmas that a girl faces in her daily life and encouraged the girl to go against the flow.
If the visual media does not talk about such stigmas then who will? Because it holds the power to influence others.
"Visual media has the power to build a culture. It has the drive to create change. Some good advertisements are proof of that." Shampa Reza, artiste, says while explaining the role of the visual media.
She also shares her concern while saying, "As the remote is in our children's hand, television has an easy way to put permanent marks on their minds, such as through advertisements."
The advertisement is a tool of communication, which rarely reflects the merits of the actual product. Nevertheless, it has been seen in the last 3-4 years that advertising agencies are changing and are coming up with social issues to communicate with the society along with advertising their product or services.
As there is no law or authority to monitor advertisements, it is the responsibility of advertising agencies to decide what or what not to portray. At the same time, viewers should also be concerned about the hidden message in these advertisements.
It is not a matter that affects only you and me. It is about all of us. Therefore, we are responsible for taking care of this too.