Rani Rampal. Ishita Malaviya. Jyoti Ann Burrett. Tanvie Hans. Harmanpreet Kaur. Smriti Mandhana. Shubhlakshmi Sharma. Shweta Hakke. Swetha Subbiah. Joshna Chinappa. How many of these women would you recognise if they popped up on your TV screen? Do you know what they do? I’ll admit that I recognised only the last name, and that’s probably because the squash player, who is currently ranked 10th in the world, is from Chennai, where I live.
I won’t ask if you know Deepika Padukone. But we do know that she’s part of the new Nike ‘Da Da Ding’ campaign, which focuses on empowering women athletes by making them more visible. According to a spokesperson for the brand, “The objective of the campaign is to inspire and remind women that they are as much athletes as they are women.” And it does. For the nearly three minutes that the video runs for, the music pumps you up, and it’s high on the feel-good factor. You’re proud of these women (whose names you don’t know), who, despite the lack of importance given to women’s sports in India, have followed their passion.
And then there’s the U.N.’s Global Goals campaign, with their latest video, #WhatIReallyReallyWant. A remake of the iconic Spice Girls ‘Wannabe’ music video, the refrain of “I’ll tell you what I want” is followed by posters asking to end violence against girls, provide quality education, end child marriage and give equal pay for equal work.
The minute-and-a-half-long video is a nostalgia trip, featuring artistes from around the world, including Jacqueline Fernandez, Seyi Shay, Gigi Lamayne, Moneoa, M.O., Taylor Hatala and Larsen Thompson. It makes you want to get up and dance.
But then you get off YouTube and return to the real world. What has changed? Call me cynical, but these videos don’t really do much in the long term for the women it’s claiming to help or bring to the limelight. In the online world, where virality is the aim, these videos achieve that.
Yes, we all know that the state of women’s sports in India is dismal. That they don’t get as much publicity, as many opportunities, rewards and recognition, as the men do. It’s a malaise that extends even to cricket, that sport/religion.
Perhaps, it is the public’s fault for not knowing the members of the women’s hockey team (Rani Rampal) or the country’s first professional female surfer (Ishita Malaviya) or the women’s football team striker (Jyoti Ann Burrett). Or it could be the media’s fault for marginalising women’s sports and not giving them enough airtime. It’s a case of egg vs. chicken.
Global Goals, according to their press release, “are a mighty plan to end poverty, fix climate change and address inequalities over the next 15 years, but they will only succeed if they address the needs of the most marginalised first, particularly those of girls and women.” People are encouraged to write what they want on placards and share pictures of them holding up the placards on social media. But do world leaders really need a 90s pop song to tell them what women want in 2016? I think not.
It’s important that we constantly highlight women’s issues. And the fact that women, no matter what they choose to do, continue to be women. The majority of people watching these videos already know that! But in the form of videos that go viral, it’s sometimes for the wrong reason. Nike would have achieved their goal better by actually naming the athletes in the video and by making them the stars. Global Goals played off on the 20th anniversary of a pop song to get noticed.
Maybe it’s time we stopped preaching to the choir and went out into the streets, where the real need is.