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Zomato TV ads promote violence against men: Virag Dhulia

Zomato TV ads promote violence against men: Virag Dhulia

Is India really a male dominated country? Is feminine gender the only victim of domestic violence and abuse in India? Not really, according to Confidare research, every year almost double the number of married men are committing suicides compared to married women.

GONE ARE the days when you thought that only fairer sex is the victim of domestic violence and abuse in India. According to a research by Confidare Men’s Rights Community Center, every year almost double the number of married men are committing suicides compared to married women.

Over the years we have seen NGOs working towards women rights and empowerment, but today male activists and NGO’s fighting for men rights and status have come to the forefront in the society, a recent example of this came up when Confidare Men’s Rights Community Center filed a complaint against Zomato.
The complaint registered with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) demanded the immediate withdrawal of Zomato’s TV commercial which showcased men in a poor and derogatory manner. The commercial opens with a voiceover promoting the special offers and discounts for the New Year parties listed on zomato followed by a husband or a boyfriend getting slapped by their female partners for not availing the mentioned discounts.

To delve deep into the matter, Merinews decided to catch up with Virag R Dhulia who heads the Community Center. Incidentally it turned out that Virag is also a Citizen Journalist at Merinews. Following are the excerpts of the conversation.

Merinews: A recent complaint was filed by you against the television advertisement of Zomato.com. Tell us more about it.

Virag:  We have a lodged a complaint against the Zomato ad before the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). The complaint has been filed by Confidare Research, which is the research division of Confidare Men’s Rights Community Center – the first of its kind in India. Salient points raised in the complaint not only condemn the ad and its theme but also discourage promotion of any kind of violence against men. In the complaint we have demanded that,

1.      The ad campaign be withdrawn with immediate effect.

2.      Zomato owners must publish an unconditional apology in all leading national and local dailies with a 10X12 cm ad in either the front or back page.

3.      They should give an undertaking that henceforth they will not design such ads under any circumstances.

Though, we are yet to receive any response from ASCI.

Merinews: Why suddenly single out Zomato for a few seconds TV commercial when you have hour long tele-soaps showcasing female dominance? Was it so instigating?

Virag:  Yes, it is correct that tele-soaps do showcase female dominance and there is a plan to raise an issue about it, however, in this ad, there was a direct promotion of violence. It was being shown in a very funny manner, which is all the more unfortunate. And this promotion of violence had a hard-core commercial motive, to make quick money in the New Year bash season by promoting male-hatred.

Furthermore, previously also, there have been ads that have provoked emotional/physical violence against men like Ponds Ad, Kitply Ad, ICICI Lombard Ad, Gillette’s “Women Against Lazy Stubble Campaign”. We have raised voice against all of these and have succeeded in getting them off air. Now, what we are observing is that it is almost becoming a trend and every other company feels like going anti-male (misandry) to boost sales. Hence we are planning to collect all this data and make a concerted and planned opposition to such pervert social attitudes which fuel such concepts.

Merinews: Zomato TV ads were promoting their newly launched ticketing system around New Year. It was a very seasonal ad. In any case the ads would have been discontinued after New Year. Why create a case out of it that will anyways promote their brand? It looks like one of those publicity stunts that happen with film releases, you know.

Virag:  Making the complaint was necessary because it clearly sends a message that such concepts are no longer welcome by the society, even if seasonal/short-lived. And in that case, why pursue legal action against a famous politician who is accused in a scam as it will give him/her publicity. The issue goes far beyond publicity, it’s about telling someone that you are hurting and you need to be aware of that. This communication is critical in any revolution and given the current trend of growing male-hatred, the men’s rights movement is no short of a revolution – a long overdue historical revolution that has not happened so far.

Merinews: And what about creativity? What if somebody says ‘It was all in good sense’?

Virag:  No sane person would ever give the name of creativity to promotion of violence, for whatever purpose.

Merinews: You are associated with an organization that fights for men’s rights in the society. How relevant is this in an apparently male dominated society?

Virag:  As the question itself says, “Apparently male dominated society”. Continuing from there, the society has never been male dominated. It is just a false perception. Men have always dominated both the extremes. If there are more men at the top (politicians, bureaucrats, judiciary,business tycoons, corporate honchos, etc.), there is a far greater number of men at the bottom as more men die in wars, more men commit suicides, more men take far greater risks, men have lesser life expectancies. And when we look at it holistically, men have always ventured out into unexplored areas, made them safer and then women have entered those areas. Men have always protected women from all kinds of dangers. Are those the traits of a “dominating gender”?

The concept of male-hatred (misandry) and male disposability is not at all understood by the society. Due to social conditioning and emotional castration since childhood, men themselves live in denial and do not construe subtle harassment as discrimination. As an example, often men are forced to suppress their emotions, especially vulnerable emotions and are denied a conversational space; due to these, men live a psychologically suffocating life and this is the biggest motivating factor for crime. Recognition and promotion of men’s rights can work in a big way to reduce crime.

And it is this notion of “an apparently male dominated society” that prevents us from recognizing men’s rights thus further perpetrating the abuse of men. If truly the society was dominated by men, there was no reason for men to top the list of people committing suicides. And this further suppression of men’s rights under the perceptive notion of a male dominated society, we are but abetting the suicides of male gender, rather killing it cold-bloodedly.

Merinews: So how far did you succeed in saving males? Give us activities that your organization did and how did it help saving a family?

Virag:  We provide a listening space to men and an unbiased, non-judging communication channel that allows them to talk about their problems and abuse that they face, without feeling guilty. We also provide distressed and victimized men guidance and coaching in fighting false dowry cases, maintenance cases filed against them by their wives. We help men in understanding the stressful situations they face, the financial extortion they are subjected to and how to safeguard themselves from the same.

Many men, when they approach us, harbour suicidal tendencies but after being supported by us morally and emotionally almost 95% of them were able to come out of their suicidal tendencies. This also tells us that given a proper communication channel, men do open up about the abuse they are facing, thus, breaking the famous myth of men’s silence. Men do not speak because the society ‘judges’ them instead of ‘listening’ to them.

Merinews: So, what after Zomato? Should ad makers be extra cautious to not let conceptualize something around a man getting beaten up?

Virag:  We are planning to take up this issue of anti-male ad themes with the Government to come up with specific guidelines for discouraging such ads. And ad makers definitely ought to be more sensitive of not hurting men’s sentiments while conceptualizing something. As a society, no one can promote violence against anyone, irrespective of gender.

What are your views on Men's Rights Movement?

What are your views on abuse of men by women based on your experiences in life?

According to you what is feminism?

A guy already has got a domestic violence case on him by his wife. Now, his separated wife is threatening to life a false dowry cases. What should he do?

In "Save Indian Family" local chapter meetings, you find a guy is giving bad legal advice. He is scaring people telling horror stories of jailing etc and urging guys to compromise and do settlements before dowry case is filed. He does not listen to you even after you telling him to stop doing this for couple of times. He does not even listen to couple of other leaders. What will you do?

Why many of our members/activists do not contribute to the letter campaigns, protests, volunteering etc?

Every 18 minutes a married woman commits suicide in India. In how many minutes a married man commits suicide in India?

Who wrote the famous book about of plight of men,"Myth of Male Power"?

Age old Indian family system is in crisis today. What should all men’s rights activists do?

What are your views about section 498a of Indian Penal Code that was enacted in 1983 to give teeth to laws to curb dowry.

What are your views about Indian Men’s Rights Movement?

What are the main goals of feminists?

Government is passing the laws to discriminate men,

What are your views about any man remarrying after divorce?

What are your views about bride burning?

A guy and his parents have got bail from court last week. He calls you for advice. What will you advise him?

A wife has filed cases of section 498a, DV act and maintenance case against a guy about 6 months back. He and his parents are on bail now. Who do you think can deliberately do a lot of damage to him now?

A lot of victimized men are calling you on phone for guidance from nearby city every month since last 6 months. That city is 120km away. What will you do?

What is the key to successfully dealing with false cases by wife and harassment by courts?

A guy is separated from his wife and his wife is threatening a police complaint against him. He wants you to help him and he wants a good lawyer. What will you do?

If you do not get divorce even 4 years after you filed it, how will you feel?

What is Leadership according to you?

A lot of abused men do not protest and do not participate in activism before, during or even after they have faced the problems.

What are your views about men, who commit suicide due to marital problems?

What is the most dangerous aspect of section 498a of Indian penal code?