The chips are no longer down for us women. Our leaders — from government to corporate — have finally paid attention to the need for gender equality. What else could explain the Economic Survey bearing a pink cover purportedly to underline the importance of ‘gender issues’? And to follow this ‘progressive’ gesture, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi announced that women can now have ‘Lady Doritos’ and other “lady snacks” that don’t make a crunching sound when munched. Well, of course, women should be seen and not heard.
Few sights are as disconcerting as that of chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian holding up a baby pink Economic Survey report while beaming into the camera. Did no one inform the worthies at the ministry of finance that it isn’t very woke to be colour-stereotyping women in the 21st century?
Sadly, the Budget that followed the Survey forgot to underline this deep affection for women by the all-men team that put together the Finance Bill, 2018. Most beneficiaries of the Ujjwala scheme are unable to continue using gas cylinders as they can’t pay the monthly rent after the first installation.
The National Health Mission is yet to recognise ASHAs — Accredited Social Health Activists — as workers and still pay them much less than the legal minimum wage. The mission’s allocation has now been cut by ₹672 crore. The Mission for the Protection and Empowerment of Women — which includes the unused Nirbhaya Fund — has been assigned only ₹1,365 crore.
But at least the Survey cover was pink. That’s sweet.
Meanwhile, PepsiCo has a female CEO approving and announcing all their plans. So how can anything she says not be of deep import when it comes to gender parity? “As you watch young guys eat the chips… they lick their fingers… and they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth, because they don’t want to lose that taste,” Nooyi had said on a Freakonomics Radio podcast on January 31 (goo.gl/t6uxsn). “Women I think would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously….”
By Monday, and after a social media faecal storm, PepsiCo responded by stating that “the reporting on a specific Doritos product for female consumers is inaccurate. We already have Doritos for women — they’re called Doritos, and they’re enjoyed by millions of people every day.” Even as the company declined to elaborate what Nooyi had meant by “snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently”.
Maybe this is a convoluted way for politicians, economists and CEOs to ensure that the Second Sex stops demanding so much attention about that damned ‘equal playing field’. The chips are really down for women, when what we get in the name of gender equality is a Pretty in Pink Economic Survey and serious consumer researchabout non-crunchy chips that could be packaged in a pink satin purse to match baby pink chastity belts.