You’d think that a modern take on a tradition that risks dying out would be a sure-shot sell in India, but fashion designer Sabyasachi’s latest series of advertisement made a fatal mistake — portraying an average mangalsutra wearing woman as someone who willingly and unabashedly embraces her sexual desires.
Mangalsutra — which translates to an auspicious thread — is a customary necklace worn by many Hindu women after marriage. While any item that ‘marks’ a woman’s marital status is oppressive and patriarchal, let’s for the sake of this article say that a mangalsutra has been a proud symbol for many women of their commitment to their husbands. Thus, the mangalsutra, by extension, becomes a symbol of a woman enjoying a socially approved, marriage-sanctioned active sex life. We are talking about consensual ones.
Sabyasachi, the brand, has become increasingly associated with weddings in India since the rich and famous all choose the Kolkata designer’s clothes for any marriage ceremony. So, obviously, he went for the mangalsutra next. But while premarital sex remains a taboo in India, many couldn’t digest Sabyasachi’s new ad showing a presumably married woman, given her mangalsutra and bindi, being intimate.
The ad campaign, which includes depictions of LGBTQ couples, led to outrage on social media from the usual Right-wing self-appointed guardians of the Hindu culture. They called it ‘obscene’ and asked for the ad to be taken down. This comes on the heels of Dabur taking down its Karva Chauth ad showing a lesbian couple after BJP anger.
Who is a married woman?
Majority of those outraging seem to have a problem with one particular model — Varshita Thatavarthi, the dusky, plus-sized model and Sabyasachi’s latest muse.
Thatavarthi is flaunting the reimagined mangalsutra while wearing lingerie. Her head resting on the chest of a male model, she gazes right into the camera.
And that is a perfect mix of what scares the Right-wing extremists today, isn’t it? An Indian woman confident with her body, not shying behind dupattas and pallus, embracing her sexuality — turning a symbol of patriarchy into a symbol of sexual empowerment and being unapologetic about it. Many orthodox parents say, beta do what you like after marriage. The outrage against this ad shows clearly you can’t.
In 2015, a group of women in Tamil Nadu protested by taking off their mangalsutras, calling it a symbol of a woman’s slavery and the man’s control over his wife’s body.
Indeed, why are these symbols of lifelong bond with one’s spouse all for women? There is sindur, churas, shakha pola — and the mangalsutra — for women. Where is the man’s marker of his undying love for his spouse? And what of the LGBTQ community who are still ineligible to get married to their partners under the rigorous Indian laws?
Enter Sabyasachi — lending a luxury status to the humble mangalsutra, giving it a revamp that is inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations when more and more women are shunning it. I may not agree with the institution of marriage, or Sabyasachi’s philosophy of appropriating Indian traditions, but I am surprised that Hindus do not see this as an attempt to keep their traditions alive in the modern world.
It’s not that the Hindu Right-wingers do not like their ancient traditions wrapped in modernity. Ayurveda is a classic example of how ancient ‘remedies’ packed into modern plastic bottles make a booming industry.
Sabyasachi crosses ‘Lakshman rekha’
So, precisely, what makes the Sabyasachi ad vulgar?
It’s the proverbial ‘lakshman rekha’ that separates duty and subservience in marriage from pleasure in the bedroom.
The ideal Bharatiya nari has sex only after marriage to procreate. She is apologetic about her breasts and skin and does her best to hide them under layers of fabric. She tries to be thin and fair-skinned. She thinks more about household chores than her desires. Sexual relations with her husband is her duty, to such an extent, that even the courts refuse to intervene if she is raped by her husband.
So, how dare a designer suggest that a married Hindu woman may have sex with her husband for pleasure. How dare she look so much like the Indian girl-next-door, and have the impunity to look us in the eye? How dare she not cover up?
I’ll go so far as to concede that bras are in fact a Western concept. In Khajuraho, the goddesses flaunt necklaces on bare chests. Hindu women in fact did not cover their chests until a few hundred years ago. While salwar kameez has Mughal influence, the concept of Sari blouses had a British hand.
Hindu culture has continuously adapted to modern sensibilities and changed with Western influences. If you want to save your precious traditions from becoming irrelevant and obsolete, it would be prudent to bend to the winds of change.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)
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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android
Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.
You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).
You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.
While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.
We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.
Credit: buffer / app store
Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.
Credit: preview / app store
Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.
Credit: content office / app store
An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.
Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.
Credit: plann / apple store
You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…
Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.
Social networking websites launch features to encourage users to get boosters
From Friday, users will be able to update their profiles with frames or stickers to show that they have had their top-up jab or aim to when they become eligible.
It follows on from people previously being able to show they have had their first and second jabs on certain social networking websites and apps.
TikTok also held a “grab a jab” event in London earlier this year.
I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones
More than 16 million booster vaccines have now been given across the UK.
People who are aged 40 and above and received their second dose of their vaccine at least six months ago are currently eligible to have their booster.
A new campaign advert is also being launched on Friday, which shows how Covid-19 can build up in enclosed spaces and how to prevent that from happening.
Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said: “Getting your booster is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family this winter.
“It is fantastic to see some of the biggest household names further back the phenomenal vaccine rollout, allowing their users to proudly display that they have played their part in helping us build a wall of defence across the country.
“I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top-up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones.”
How many hashtags should you use to get the most ‘Likes’ on Instagram?
Hashtags are a key feature of Instagram posts. In fact, they have become an essential means of ensuring more ‘Likes’ on social media – so long as you choose them wisely.
But how many hashtags should you use to maximise your popularity on the social network? The answer might surprise you.
It’s a question that many Instagram users ask themselves: what’s the right number of hashtags to add to a post? To find out, the Later platform analysed 18 million Instagram posts, excluding videos, Reels and Stories.
Interestingly, Later’s results differ from Instagram’s own recommendations. According to Later’s analysis, using more hashtags helps get better results in terms of “reach”, or the percentage of users exposed to the post. By using 20 hashtags, Later observed an optimal average reach rate of just under 36%. Using 30 hashtags gets the next-best reach rate. With five hashtags, reach hits just under 24%.
And while a post’s reach is important, engagement is even more so. From “Likes” and comments to shares and follows – on average, 30 hashtags appears to result in better engagement rates: “When it comes to average engagement rate, using 30 Instagram hashtags per feed post results in the most likes and comments,” says Later’s research.
Yet, at the end of September 2021, Instagram advised its creators to use between three and five hashtags for their posts, while warning them against using too many. The social network advised that using 10 to 20 hashtags per post “will not help you get additional distribution”.
For Later, there could be other reasons behind Instagram’s recommendations: “As Instagram continues to expand their discoverability and SEO tools, it makes sense that they want users to experiment with fewer, more relevant hashtags – this could help them accurately categorise and recommend your posts in suggested content streams, like the Instagram Reels feed or the updated hashtag search tabs,” the website explains. – AFP Relaxnews
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