Seeking to both challenge and change the narrative around inclusivity, a recent ad film released by Kerala-based Bhima Jewellers on the story of a trans woman has captured the attention and hearts of people across the country. In a landmark move, the brand focuses on the journey of a transgender woman coming to terms with her identity while being wholeheartedly supported by her family. The 96-year-old legacy brand has shown its willingness to buck the trend by featuring trans activist Meera Singhania instead of a cis person to play the role of a trans woman, making the representation better.
Titled ‘Pure as Love’, the ad shows Singhania’s character transitioning and engaging with things like makeup and sarees, and finally decked up as a bride in traditional jewellery.
Several people took to social media to share the video and called it “progressive” and a “watershed moment” for Indian advertising. Many also appreciated the sensitive tone in which the story was portrayed and applauded the brand for going beyond mainstream narratives involving women and jewellery. Other brands in the past have gotten mixed reviews after spotlighting unconventional settings like inter-religion marriages and second marriages.
However, some trans women feel that the ad was an effortless way for the brand to position itself as progressive. “It's easy for a brand to show it is accepting of a trans woman, especially one who seems to come from a privileged, upper-caste, and upper-class background and win points,” says Nadika Nadja, a trans woman from Bengaluru.
She said that the ad seemed to be made for Kerala’s audience, so it’s easy to claim progressiveness from a progressive state. “How many of those who've seen that ad will tomorrow encounter a trans woman begging on the streets and consider helping her?” she remarks. She questioned whether Bhima would ever go beyond these small steps and actually hire trans women to work in their stores or even support the transition of trans women from underprivileged backgrounds.
“On the forefront, I like it,” says Perse, a trans woman based in Kolkata. “It portrays a structured version of acceptance and lovely picturisation of the trans experience. But, what is Bhima doing on the ground? There's no magic jewellery that emancipates trans people,” she says.
Perse feels that while these kinds of CSR activities are appreciable, it only represents a small facet of the trans experience. “I get it, it's cute. But, we're also dying,” she says referring to the high rate of violence that trans women experience not just in India, but also across the world. She added that she would prefer to see more real stories like the one in the Vicks ad which features a trans woman and her experience with motherhood.
While the ad is a step in the right direction, it is evident that trans women want companies to go beyond token representation in ads and take substantial steps to address the needs of the community, starting with employment.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)