A 52-year-old Indian lingerie model is pushing e-commerce firms to hire older women for their advertising campaigns, challenging what she says are the ageist norms practised by many companies.
Geeta J, a former teacher who took to modelling when she turned 50, says she wants innerwear companies in India to be more inclusive and avoid featuring only younger women in their promotion drives.
“Are women no more fit to become a lingerie model past a certain age?,” Geeta has said in an online petition on Change.org, captioned with the hashtags ‘#AgenotCage’ and ‘#LingerieHasNoAge’, which she started this year.
Her job is bold and unusual in the largely conservative Indian society where religious and cultural norms limit women’s freedom to dress the way they want. Such norms are even more restrictive for women over the age of 40, Geeta told Reuters in an interview.
More than 11,000 people have signed up to support her petition, which is addressed to the chief executive of the popular innerwear company Zivame.
“This will lead to a change in the mindset of people in our country who think that after 40, women should dress and behave in a certain way,” Geeta said in the petition, adding that she hoped it would lead to more companies following suit.
Her path to becoming an Indian lingerie model was anything but traditional. Geeta began her career after winning a runners-up prize in a beauty pageant for older women, ‘India Brainy Beauty.’
While her family and friends had been supportive of her switch in careers at 50, she said she was aware many Indian women her age would find it hard to do so.
“I want to tell this to all women that they should care about the dreams of their husbands and loved ones and support them, but they should never think that their own life is not important or their wishes are not important,” Geeta said.
Of course, her mission is being met with some opposition. “Some of the remarks on my posts included: ‘You are stripping on the internet to seek attention. You should show maturity as per your age.’ [and] ‘I will ensure that my daughter doesn’t have an idol like you, and doesn’t have your idea of womanhood and women empowerment,'” she told ScoopWhoop.
But Geeta has learned to ignored the trolls and stay focused on goals. “I try not to let the hatred affect me much – positive comments are way more in number, and that makes me feel very good,” she added. “After reading the supportive comments, I can see that I’m not alone, and there are people like me who want change.”
Geeta continued: “I know that patriarchy is very deep-rooted in a country like ours. People are conditioned to believe that after a certain age, women have to dress soberly and in a specific manner. It is not easy to change that mindset overnight and that change will take time.”
To learn more about her mission, follow Geeta on Instagram.
(Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Ed Osmond)
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