In a commercial (video below) to sell Dixcy Scott inner wear for men, Salman Khan deliberately loses to a father of child with disability (shown in crutch) to make him win the cash prize. By losing deliberately for charity or to show magnanimity only because the child has disability sends wrong signals. It is more ‘a sell than a sale’ by showing pity on the people with disabilities they want to encourage the attitude of patronizing. If the child shown was a non-disabled child, then would the wearer of vest be not as macho as he is now? Or if the child shown was having invisible disability (hearing impairment), would the wearer of vest still lose the fight? Why do media want to portray that the people with disabilities are only ‘the takers’? Or does it give the society an opportunity to "demonstrate to themselves that they still belong to a moral community?’’
It is completely outrageous to see deliberate portrayal of helplessness just to sell a product. Disability is considered a problem that needs corrections and through the charity. And unfortunately because of this age long labelling and branding of people with disabilities, they themselves have accepted this as an order of the day. Such depictions of disability that originate in the arts, literature, film, television, and other mass media fiction works, are frequently normalized through repetition to the general audience. The cute, loveable child in need of a cure and care sends the message that if benevolent others contribute money; we can make disability go away.
These instances don’t only create attitudinal barriers but also promote internalization of disability in the people themselves disabling them all the more.
Unfortunately disability still remains an issue of charity not only in our society but also in the psyche of the common man and the media world tends to promote this stereotype just for the sake of profits.
This psyche needs to be changed because thought processes do tend to become hereditary. We need to unlearn certain things and certain behaviours which we otherwise tend to ignore in the name of trends, patterns, etc. What we need is a paradigm shift. Otherwise we would never be able to come out the medical or charity model of disability and shift towards right based issues. To do businesses and ‘use’ disability as an object of pity to assuage conscience and giving the non disabled an opportunity to feel altruistic, I think, is absolutely inhuman.
As Salman Khan writes on the Dixcy Scott’s website ‘Difference starts within’, we must understand that we all are different and any one of us can have impairment any time in our life. It’s perfectly normal to be different, to have impairment. The indifferent attitudes of society make us disabled. It is like being inhuman. We strongly condemn the depiction of such things and would request the authorities to ban this commercial from being aired at the earliest.
Complaint has been sent to Indian Broadcasting Foundation and Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, India.
Abha Khetarpal (President, Cross the Hurdles), Counsellor with a disability
Dr Satendra Singh, Doctor with disability