Charm offensive

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am


Gliding up a packed escalator in the Central MTR station recently, I became captivated by some video advertisements that ran along the wall.

The slanted row of rectangular boxes was part of an ad campaign for what appeared to be some kind of wedding product. The screens at the bottom of the escalator showed a young woman in a white dress standing against a pink background. She was staring into the distance with a relaxed smile while gentle piano music played.

Towards the middle of the ride up, the screens posed questions in Chinese about the meaning of marriage. The overall effect was pretty and very atmospheric. Or at least it was until I reached the top of the escalator, where the last couple of screens assaulted me with the tagline: 'To give girls a home - that is marriage.'

Friends told me it was just a bakery ad promoting traditional Chinese 'bridal cakes' and nothing to get worked up about. But I was worked up. I was insulted, embarrassed and saddened that while we live in a supposedly modern city, these outmoded and sexist messages about what 'girls' need are romanticised and tolerated.

Local chicken soup ads tug at our heartstrings by showing us that mothers who slave away in the kitchen will be rewarded by happy smiles around the dinner table. The worst part is many local women find these messages touching and meaningful, instead of insulting. So it's a chicken-and-egg conundrum for which society and business are equally to blame.

Perhaps my friends are right - it's just a food ad, and I could be the only one offended by it. But now I'm hungry, too.