Ah, the ads. It’s always the ads. Many people feel like it’s making a mountain out of a molehill to be critical of advertisements—they are just ways to advertise a product, it’s not meant to be taken seriously, etcetera, infinity. Only it’s never “just” anything. Advertisements are pitched to us, the consumer, with a definite estimation of what should appeal to us. Advertisements are put together on the back of surveys and market research and focus group data so as to create the perfect little nugget of information that will convince us to buy that product. What particularly enrages me about the latest offering from Kenwood—and advertisement for a washing machine—is precisely what expectation Kenwood’s marketing team had from me, or anyone watching that ad. To the mercifully uninitiated, the ad shows four men hanging out, guffawing riotously because you know, dudes are hanging out having some good old bro time. Three of the are sycophantically asking their fourth friend, presumably the host, about how he dealt with his wife. Host Bro talks about how his wife was giving him attitude, and “bhai se attitude bardasht nahin hota (your bro can’t tolerate an attitude)”. What did you do, gasp Sycophant Bros, clutching their pearls. “She misbehaved again!” says Host Bro, incredulously. “Mujhay ghussa aagaya, mera haath uth gaya (I got angry, and I raised my hand).” The Sycophant Bros look a little horrified, but not too much because after all, they are the sidekicks. “Mainay dhulai kardi,” declares Host Bro. I cleaned her up. The ad ends on a “funny” note because one of the Sycophant Bros pretends Host Bro’s wife has walked in, and Host Bro jumps out of his skin, exposing him for a fraud who is actually terrified of his wife so of course he never hit her. Ha ha ha. Hilarious. I’m dying of laughter.

The language of the ad is terrifying, and if a company thinks this is just the kind of thing a consumer will respond to, then we have a dual, enormous problem on our hands. One is that this kind of joke was meant to resonate in a funny way, which means most people find domestic violence and bragging hilarious. The second is that big companies and advertising agencies think it’s fine to pitch, approve and air advertisements that make light of serious issues. Pepsi was recently excoriated for their equally foolish ad that showed model Kendall Jenner defusing tensions at a protest by handing a policeman a can of Pepsi. The internet exploded, and Pepsi had to retract the ad because the history of protest and violence in America is an extremely sensitive one. Police brutality in America against all the minorities depicted in the Pepsi ad continues unabated, and here you have a white girl just swooping in the save the day…with Pepsi? Domestic violence continues unchecked in the subcontinent and you think it’s funny to make an ad that echoes everything that violent men say in real-life situations? “I couldn’t help it, she provoked me”, “mera haath uth gaya”, as if your hand magically had a life of its own and had nothing to do with you? “She misbehaved”, placing all the blame and onus of misconduct on the woman, and not you, the one who beat her? Dhulai kardi? You cleaned her up? You set her right? You’re a man, “bhai” doesn’t take any cheek from anyone? Because of course, being a man, a real man, means you are an arrogant, bull-headed jerk who won’t ever listen to anyone, because concession makes you weak. Because cooperation makes you look small. Because being a decent human being who cares about the safety and well-being of the people around you is something men aren’t supposed to do.

It’s appalling that Kenwood thought this was all right. It’s enraging to think they think that this is what makes a product sell, that people like you and me would ever think this was ok. Many people do, though. Many people will laugh at this tone-deaf, tasteless advertisement. Maybe they are the lucky ones who have never experienced domestic violence, directly or indirectly. But who among us hasn’t? Your father never beat your mother, but you have an uncle who beat your aunt. Your best friend’s husband might always be calling her name. That girl in your class, her boyfriend has slapped her a couple of times and everyone knows it. And here comes this advertisement to tell us, ha ha it’s so funny. In an ad for a washing machine that none of these bros would ever touch with a bargepole, because real dudes don’t do girl things like laundry. In an advertisement where there isn’t a single woman featured, for a product that women use 95% of the time. Not only does the ad trivialise domestic violence, it also makes all four of the men featured in it look like idiots. Either you’re a guffawing toady or a cowardly braggart trying to look cool in front of his bros and failing miserably, because here comes the exhausted, trite metaphor of the domineering wife. Nobody wins, and all that’s left is a really bad taste in the mouth. “Aisay mazaq mutt kiya kar yaar, saans band hogayi” wheezes Host Bro at the end of the ad. Don’t make jokes like that, “I couldn’t breathe for fright”.

You know who else can’t breathe for fright? Battered women. So thanks but no thanks, Kenwood. You make the men look like duffers and the women like harridans or victims, and neither of them want your washing machine.