Monday, 22 August 2016

Silk. Not so smooth.

image from identity project gcse

What’s in a name? Apparently everything. The recent initiative of Kotak Mahindra Bank christened ‘Silk’, accounts with special privileges for women, is quite disconcerting. With due respect to all the exciting benefits on offer, it raises an important question. Why ‘Silk’? Why not ‘Steel’ or ‘Super’ or ’fabulous’? Silk seems okay for chocolates. For women, it feels unsettling to relate to the term. Especially with all the Rio Olympics buzz about Indian women and their ever so powerful performance.

Our only question is-Why do we associate women with such clearly condescending terms? Use of this term Silk for a woman’s account only brings to the fore the gender stereotype which is ingrained in us. Please ask yourself this, is it really acceptable to use such physical attributes that too in connection with a seemingly empowering opportunity for women? Not really. Now, when the whole world is talking about gender parity and inclusion, steps like this lead us in the opposite direction.

Please do not dismiss this as just another case of a feminist rant.This is not about feminism. It is about correcting the public consciousness. Women have innate strengths which are rarely spoken about. We often undermine their individuality, financial statuses and position in the economy. Although the government and its entities are taking numerous efforts to level the playing field, we must do our bit to bring in change while promoting women related services. We need to create positive image in public media and collective conscience about the strengths of women. Corporates should think of the far reaching impact before initiating such actions. A name is the calling card. With every use, every reference, it only reinforces subconsciously the fact that we relate our women to everything soft and delicate. This is our only issue with branding women products, facilities, benefits and privileges. The name and nature of such initiatives should not make it sound like a favor when it is actually a matter of privileges. On the contrary, the HERoes campaign by HDFC Bank shares Kotak’s agenda of empowering women. Though it has nothing like its competitors’ benefit accruing account service, its popularity bait is the branding. Its mere name and the way it reads, makes a woman feel instantly important and definitely ‘un-fragile’. And decidedly, not soft, nor delicate.

We request corporates with such great standing to be more responsible with their branding to help society shatter its preconceived beliefs of women. In the name of empowering women, let us not tag them with attributes that take away their sunshine/power.

Harini Shrinivasan