Pakistani women in the Pakistani advertisements world
Never have I seen a man in a Pakistani ad worrying about why the surface of his toilet bowl isn't spotless.
"Main iske elaava kisi aur pe kabhi aitemaad nahi karsakti. Bhalay aap koi bhi aur lay ayein, main isko nahi chhor sakti. Ye mera partner hai."
(I cannot trust anyone but him. Bring whatever you can, I would never leave him. He is my partner.)
A woman saying this must really like the person she’s talking about. The statement shows that she trusts him immensely and loves him enough to find him irreplaceable. It seems like they have a strong emotional bond; maybe it’s her husband or a friend she confides in?
Isn't this what you would ask yourself if you heard a woman speaking of a man with such endearing enthusiasm?
Well, if you did suspect it to be a beloved, you are sorely mistaken. This lucky, irreplaceable entity is actually not a person at all. It’s a detergent. Hah! Doing better than men, isn’t it? By making such a colossal, largely-documented impact on women all over Pakistan, this detergent has certainly defined the everyday milestones of Pakistani women. Whether it’s about saving face at a social gathering, polishing a dull marital relationship, or ensuring a healthy family life, this detergent does it all!
Oh, and it cleans your clothes, too.
I hope by now you all can guess what I’m talking about; Pakistani television commercials. I have never been crazy about them, to be honest. I’ve always found that we try to sell ‘everything’ through song and dance. Be it achaar (pickle) or real estate, there has to be naach gaana (singing and dancing) and halla gulla (hullabaloo).
Proper conceptualising can go fly a kite.
However, recently, I have noticed a certain pattern in these commercials; projecting all little everyday commodities to be the Pakistani woman’s ultimate achievements. This trend hasn’t emerged recently. It has been in advertisements for a long time ago but it went unnoticed, at least from my eyes. Of course, too much of the same can make people numb.
Now that we are talking about this detergent, might I add that the Pakistani woman’s biggest problem is not being able to get that saalan ka daagh (curry stain) out of her husband’s dress shirt? When her husband's honour is stained along with his shirt and he raises that you-are-so-dead eyebrow, she will be reminded of her place! Her son’s academic report card can wait; but the ‘minus five’ on his cleanliness report have the ability to quake the earth under her feet.
The Pakistani woman’s ultimate hathyaar (weapon) is a toilet bowl cleaner, and I’m just telling it like it is (on TV). They are shown to be very zealous about something as ordinary as cleaning the pooper. Never have I seen a man in a Pakistani ad worrying about why the surface of his toilet bowl isn't spotless.
Let’s not forget how important it is to cook. Now I understand that cooking is an undeniably routine part of the Pakistani woman’s life but is cooking perfectly the epitome of her goals? Will adding a little bit of chicken-flavoured masala to her daal really please her mother-in-law to heights so high, she gives her the house keys or promote her to ‘kitchen in-charge’? More importantly, who wants to be in charge of the kitchen, anyway? Silly goose, your mother-in-law is tricking you into hard labour!
Forgive me for not comprehending what choice of milk brands has to do with the empowerment of women and their liberty to choose. I’ve recently noticed a certain milk commercial frequenting television channels. Until the woman in the ad actually stated that it was about a milk brand, I had no clue as to what it was about. It started off as a message about independence of women and their right to make choices and this so-called ‘choice’ was merely picking a brand of milk.
What hogwash! Pakistani women know better than sweating the small stuff. Woman empowerment lies in education. Their freedom of choice is being able to choose a career or a life partner. Their goals and promotions do not involve being in charge of the kitchen. They are mothers, daughters and wives, whose worries include raising good children, doing well in school and helping their husbands run a home.
I don’t understand why Pakistani advertisement makers prefer woman- and susraal (in-laws)-centricity over good, non-sexist ideas. I won’t even begin on skin lightening creams as I feel they are jeering South Asian women’s insecurities at the highest order.
It is really the triumph of misogyny in a society when products start selling on the basis of mocking what we assume to be the inabilities of the socially declared ‘weaker sex’.
Read more by Imaan here or follow her on Twitter @SheikhImaan