What better illustration of Indian middle-class heteropatriarchal familyhood than the imagery of a mother sitting by her sick child throughout the night, giving her a head massage on a lazy Sunday morning, and making her her favorite meal of kadhi chaval?
FMCG giant Procter and Gamble has teamed up with creative agency Publicis Singapore to produce an evocative ad for Vicks Vaporub that simultaneously reinforces and queers this imagery. Directed by Neeraj Ghaywan for production house SeeOn, Mumbai, the ad features a girl child raised by her adoptive mother who happens to be a trans woman. The ad hashtags #TouchOfCare to celebrate mother-daughter pair Gauri Sawant and Gayatri, and gently raise questions about discrimination and denial of rights of transgender people in India.
Despite the progressive Supreme Court NALSA judgment of 2014, civil rights for transgender people remain a pipe dream beyond the mostly-tokenistic moves of introducing a third gender category in application forms for education and employment, and the occasional welfare scheme.
Trans people still struggle to get basic identity documents based on self-identification. Rights to legally adopt and raise families – instances such as Gauri (Maharashtra) and Maya (Odisha) notwithstanding – remain mostly thwarted by the dysfunctional implementation of NALSA, criminalization via Section 377, and lack of clarity around adoption by parents who do not identify within the gender binary.
In such a scenario, one hopes ads like this one will give viewers some pause for thought, some reflection on the abject injustice meted out to transgender people, and some recognition that loving families don’t necessarily have to be linked by ties of blood.
And some realization why Gayatri wants to become a lawyer when she grows up.
(i) The post is not to be interpreted as an endorsement of the product being sold.
(ii) Orinam would like to know if P&G’s support of transgender people goes beyond advertisements, and is reflected in their India operations being inclusive of LGBTIQ+ persons in their diversity and inclusion policies. If readers have any knowledge of this, please let us know.
Gupta, Roohi. 2016. Why Transgenders are the New Favorites of the Ad World?
Advertising Age India.
Sawant, Gauri. 2012. video (Hindi). in Project Bolo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A_rDOVdxWw
Sawant, Gauri. 2011. video (English). in Subramaniam, Kalki. 2011. Indian transgender rights activists talk about love and relationships. Orinam blog.
Sawant, Gauri. 2009. videos. Resisting Stigma and Homophobia: Gauri Sawant’s Deposition, Pune Panchayat (Marathi), Delhi Panchayat (Hindi). Pad.ma archives