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This ad wants women to take care of their health, but not everyone is buying it

An advertisement raising awareness on anaemia in women drew some flak for the visual focus on the women and their clothing.

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New Delhi: Picture this: A group of women decked in Banarasi sarees, running through mustard fields and other similarly picturesque backdrops. Several close ups of the colourful garments are thrown in with more close ups of the women. Sounds like a fashion campaign, right? A few seconds later, the frame moves to a rather sensual shot of the women eating fruits. Then, this sentence emerges: “1 out of 2 women in India suffer from anemia. This Dhanteras, don’t just invest in Gold, invest in your iron.”

What now?

Turns out, this is not a saree ad but a social media campaign by Dutch multinational Dutch State Mines that specialises in science-based solutions in health, nutrition and sustainable living. The campaign is part of a CSR initiative called Project Streedhan which aims to raise awareness about the lack of iron causing anemia in women. As per the National Family Health Survey statistics, every second woman in India is anaemic and one in every five maternal deaths is directly due to anaemia.

According to a WHO report, 38% (32.4 million) of pregnant women aged 15-49 years were anaemic in 2011.

The campaign in itself garnered positive reactions and included endorsements from actors Vidya Balan, Dia Mirza and Soha Ali Khan. However, people on Twitter found the aesthetics rather jarring given the focus was women’s health.

Some pointed to how the campaign could set a new precedent for fashion brands ⁠— to promote both key issues and their brand. One could even call this ‘femvertising’ ⁠— advertising female empowerment, but women and others were divided on the issue.

Others said the ad was problematic for the way it sexualised women, and diverted attention away from the message.

”Anemia is a very real survival problem. It cannot be equated with gold,” said 24-year-old Shraddha, a researcher from IIM Ahmedabad, and questioned the logic of choosing Dhanteras as the time to launch the campaign.

“Women don’t choose to not eat iron-rich food, it is a much deeper problem that needs as much state intervention as behavioural change. To show women eating ‘iron-rich fruits’ in a rather teasing and erotic manner just makes it meaningless. It might as well have been a fruit drink or a deodorant advertisement,” she said.

This isn’t the first time an ad aimed at women empowerment has drawn some flak for falling into the same trap its trying to escape.

A recent Ponds ad shows a woman talk through her insecurities over her body ⁠— someone more curvaceous than her model-thin friends ⁠— only to reach for some make up to boost her confidence. While the message is clearly about body positivity, it uses other beauty standards to send it across.

Several Youtube users called the ad “toxic” for “body shaming women”.

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  1. My tweet is mentioned here. But it’s incomplete as I had added my take on the subversion in further comments. Please add that too

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