Asia’s largest motor show – Auto Expo is held every year since the 1980s. Major automotive manufacturers of the world like Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Hyundai, BMW, etc. showcase and launch their products at this event every year. The reason why I have highlighted the word “products” in italics is because, along with their efficient automotive products, these companies also use women as visual commodities to attract customers.
I find it hard to fathom why these much-accredited companies publicly and shamelessly objectify women on this platform. Is the whole idea behind using models at Auto Expo to give these tech-watchers a human scale of reference to visualize the dimensions of their products better? Do men believe the stunning and powerful bike becomes more attractive with a girl sitting on it in a short dress? it is this the best marketing strategy that the Auto Expo organizers could come up with?
Why, in this day and age, when we’re seeing global movements for women’s rights, are some of the best companies in the world falling for the oldest and the most demeaning gimmick?
Don’t get me wrong-I am well aware of the fact that these women are consensually employed for this job; that for some, this could probably even be the only source of livelihood. But does that mean these vouched-for companies should support this activity of publicly objectifying women like this?
I found the advertisement for hiring these hostesses/models/ ”promotional staff” for the auto expo this year; the ad said they would get paid between Rs. 2000- Rs. 20,000 for the event (which goes on for a week). While just for comparison, the average monthly salary of a senior hair stylist in India is Rs. 21,773 according to a data report – so we pay a woman more for letting men objectify herself than for the skills and labor that she has to offer.
Only few days ago there was this encouraging news about discontinuing “grid girls” from formula 1. Despite the several concerns raised about the economic impact on these women (who have now lost their livelihood and occupational autonomy for that matter), I still perceive this as progress. It is progress towards a society where women are not treated as commodities; their contributions are legitimate and not just to attract men on the field.
Auto Expo could learn from this – and so could the companies that exhibit their products there. I do hope that next year the Expo only showcases new innovations in technology that we are immensely proud of. Is that so hard to do?
By Prithika Acharya
Prithika is an animal lover who is studying psychology at Ashoka University. She likes to read memoirs, sketch and paint in her free time.