North vs South: what women want

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During the course of a presentation at work, our Planning team had made interesting observations about the average woman in the Hindi-heartland of India, vis-a-vis her magazine reading habits. This was done in the context of understanding what occupies her mind-space and what triggers motivate her. It is widely believed that women from the North are a lot more particular about looks and are trendier than their Southern counterparts. But a simple scan of about 25 issues of popular Hindi magazines like Vanita and Grihashobha made interesting reading.

A bulk of the articles in these issues is devoted to Beauty and Beauty Tips, making it the No.1 category. The other top categories include Film News & Gossip, Sex (within and outside marriage) and Career. While the volume of articles on Beauty & Sex is understandable, what surprised me was the ‘boldness’ of the articles. ‘How to get shapely breasts’, ‘Rough sex can be enjoyable too’ are headlines I would associate with slick, up-market English magazines like Cosmo and Vogue, but were featured in mainline Hindi magazines. Words like ‘size zero’ and other English words find their way into headlines. I guess boldness or whatever you call it, is the norm in Hindi films in terms of attire too. It seems de rigueur to wear cleavage showing outfits in Hindi movies (for the actresses, that is). Even in everyday life, I see so many kids comfortable with what would have been considered revealing clothes, five years ago. In Tamil movies too, the heroines with the size zero look (well, almost) have gained acceptance – though the preference is still for the voluptuous look. All this is being reflected in the content of Hindi magazines of late.

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From what I remember of the South Indian magazines (Kannada mags are regulars at home and Tamil mags once were), most of the content would be about movies, fiction and current affairs. The Tamil magazines have a higher content of film news & gossip but the focus on beauty is far less compared to the mainline Hindi magazines, as outlined above. I can’t imagine the kind of headlines that I saw in Hindi magazines in today’s South Indian magazines. In many other respects too the Southern market is seen as different from other markets – for example, the TN consumer is supposed to be a more rational consumer. So is this all furthering the stereotypes of the South and North?

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  • I still buy Vanitha for precisely this reason – my way of understanding the mallu woman from Bangalore. I think the best measure of the “boldness” of a magazine is usually the agony unc (aunt) column. 5 years back, marriage counselling and amicable settlements, the futility of extramarital relationships, being together for the child etc were the common thread. Now it’s mostly leave it if you can’t deal with it types. My inference is that the South Indian woman, although still slightly lagging behind in terms of the size zero looks, is becoming more sensible and bold in her own, more practical way.

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