On August 20th, 2020 reality television star, health enthusiast and model Milind Soman faced a massive amount of backlash on social media after posting a promotional ad for dishwashing gel especially designed for “men.” Intended to be a light-hearted advertisement for the new product, Soman faced a swarm of criticism from both genders regarding the notion that “household tasks were meant only for women”.
Discussions regarding gender roles within households had grown significantly in recent times and Soman, who is known for his devotion to breaking gender stereotypes, appeared to step on this particular landmine accidentally.
Netizens dragged Soman not just for the product but also stated that it was hypocritical considering the fact that Soman himself had famously called out gender stereotyping with the #GritForHair campaign he had been supporting.
Many complained that this move, if it had been done in a serious or solemn manner, would have the potential to do more damage in the long run. Introducing products segregating men and women for domestic chores was only going to re-establish gender stereotyping in India rather than bring about any kind of assimilation.
Soman, to his credit, issued an apology and stated that he had not intended to offend anyone. He clarified that his intention was to lighten the mood, not add any further complexity to the ongoing conversation of gender equality. He also shared his opinion that women and men should have the freedom to perform any task, be it household or otherwise.
Whether this incident re-raises the conversation of gender equality in the household or not, it just goes to show why this topic is still a controversial one even in 2020. It also highlights the lingering feelings and sentiments of the generations who were brought up in a society segregated by gender lines. For now, it is yet to be seen whether the #GritForHair campaign and this incident can become a starting point to bring about true change in the way we think regarding men and women’s roles in the household.