She was dressed in an aristocratic red jamdani and wore a necklace of golden-yellow marigolds around her neck. A blazing cigarette dangles precariously between her maroon lips, sending wisps of smoke twirling into the air. I’m sure you’ve seen her “Gaye holud photo” Already. She is Fahmida Jahan Flora, who has become the most talked about name, evoking a wave of interest and discussions in the Bangladeshi Facebook community. She posted her “Gaye Holud” photo on her Facebook wall. Her enigmatic persona beckons curious eyes and turns her into a captivating subject of discussion within the online realm.
Two questions arose—
- Is photographing smoking cigarettes considered pseudo-feminism? Or
- Is it feasible that smoking cigarettes will spark the feminist movement in Bangladesh?
Cigarettes harm the body, and promoting anything detrimental to health is morally questionable. However, amidst the discussions on feminism, a stark question emerges shamelessly: why isn’t equal scrutiny on “damage to public health” for men who exhale nicotine smoke freely in public spaces, hospitals, and vehicles? While smoking or drinking alcohol is widely considered an only bad habit for men, it is perplexing how, for women, it has sometimes been perceived as an indicator of her character. Such double standards raise pertinent concerns about gender equality and societal norms that ought to be addressed in our pursuit of a more just and equitable world.
The Evolution of Cigarette Advertising for Women
Historically, cigarette advertising for women has seen various approaches that reflect societal changes and cultural norms. In the early and mid-20th century, tobacco companies targeted women to increase sales. They used clever advertising to promote ideas of individual liberty, glitz, and independence. Lucky Strike and other cigarette brands promoted women’s empowerment through smoking in the 1920s and 1930s. One famous slogan, “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet,” linked smoking to weight control and encouraged women to be independent.
As time progressed, cigarette advertisements evolved to portray women as glamorous and sophisticated. The “Marlboro Man” campaign in the 1950s was immensely successful in marketing filtered cigarettes to women. It featured images of strong, independent women, often depicted in elegant settings or engaged in various activities, creating a sense of aspiration and desirability.
As the health risks of smoking became evident, public opinion altered. Smoking’s health dangers limited tobacco promotion in the late 20th century. Cigarette ads were banned worldwide, including women’s adverts. Most jurisdictions restrict tobacco companies from targeting women in cigarette ads. Preceding public health efforts discourage smoking and educate about its detrimental consequences on all genders. History reminds us of fraud marketing to entice women to smoke.
From femme fatales seductively sucking on cigarettes to rebellious women violating social norms, smoking women in movies have long been portrayed with complicated gender relations. Smoking in movies has shown character qualities and societal stereotypes. With a masculine lens, let us explore advertising and health effects that reveal women smokers in movies.
The Femme Fatale
Smoking women are commonly femme fatales in movies and dramas. These smoking women entice and destroy men with their charm. In “Double Indemnity” (1944), Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwyck, seductively smokes while planning her husband’s murder. The link between smoking and dangerous women perpetuates gender stereotypes and implies that women smokers are devious and cunning.
Rebellion and Defiance
Women were rebellious about smoking in the mid-20th century. Smoking on television depicted independent women who broke convention. In “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), Audrey Hepburn played Holly Golightly. Her smoking was a sign of her free-spiritedness, defying gender norms.
Good Girl vs. Bad Girl
Female characters in movies are often categorized into nice and bad girls. The bad girl is rebellious, promiscuous, and unpredictable, while the lovely girl is pure, innocent, and obedient. The good girl doesn’t smoke, whereas the wicked girl does, visually reinforcing this distinction.
Social Perceptions of Women and Smoking
Movies portraying smoking women negatively reflect society’s views on women and their behavior. Smoking women were once considered as breaking gender conventions and undermining male authority. Therefore, such women were considered immoral or unpleasant. These movies preached that “good” women should not smoke since it was a symptom of moral degradation.
In film theory, the male gaze refers to how women are portrayed from a heterosexual male perspective, emphasizing their physical characteristics for male viewers’ pleasure. Movies have exploited smoking sequences to objectify women as alluring and sexually available. This objectification fosters detrimental gender stereotypes by equating women’s worth with their beauty. In movies, smoking women are generally shown as powerful and in control, but this power can be deceptive or harmful. This representation argues that independent women threaten male domination, perpetuating the fear of female strength.
Advertising and Product Placement
Historically, tobacco corporations heavily affected movies through advertising and product placement. Women smoking on screen were used to sell cigarettes as glamorous, independent, and sophisticated. This system was designed to attract women but perpetuated the notion that smoking women were rebellious or immoral. In certain movies, smoking women are represented as coming from poorer social origins, implying a lack of refinement or knowledge. This representation reinforces class-based preconceptions of smoking women from specific social classes.
The portrayal of smoking women as negative characters reflects societal acceptance of shaming and censure of women’s behavior. It suggests that women who smoke should be shunned, stigmatizing female smokers in real life.
Health & Wellness
The health risks of smoking and addiction are commonly overlooked in movies about smoking women. Smoking is shown as a character’s personality attribute instead as a health issue. As cultural conventions around gender roles and smoking have changed, so has the portrayal of women smoking in movies. Contemporary films present female smokers as complicated people with motivations rather than merely smoking.
Men-oriented media like movies, TV, and literature show smoking women, even in patriarchal nations where women cannot smoke. Movies have portrayed smoking female characters unfavorably for decades, a recurring problem that must be corrected. This system is due to a male-dominated society that promotes gender stereotypes in cinema. Male influence is apparent in the social fabric. The historical backdrop shapes these depictions, inviting us to find past-present links. To truly grasp Hollywood’s villainization of smokers, watch many films and study their social backdrop. This voyage exposes the intricacies of these images and how society has affected them.
In patriarchal societies, reasonable and acceptable women do not smoke cigarettes or imbibe alcohol. Their husbands, fathers, and brothers, however, are consuming. The task of virtuous women is to reclaim their affection. A free rehab facility created exclusively for males. By good women. In this country, millions of males smoke cigarettes and take photographs. They do not pose any questions. However, a male journalist from Channel 24 asked Flora why she promoted consuming cigarettes. Why did she advocate smoking? As if Flora bears sole moral and legal culpability for not smoking cigarettes. If photographing while smoking is a punishable offense, why is it depicted in drama films in Bangladesh?