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Breaking Stereotypes: Uncovering the Multifaceted Identity of Pakistani Women in Advertising


In this digital age, where people are constantly bombarded with advertisements on various devices may it be TV or their smartphones, the power of advertising in shaping perceptions and attitudes towards different roles and expectations cannot be overstated. During a cricket match or while watching a video on YouTube, one would always encounter a few ads and they do play a role when it comes to reflecting the diversity in society and the gender norms the society entails.


For too long, our ads have perpetuated gender stereotypes, particularly regarding women. These portrayals act as a way of limiting women to just their physical appearance and confining them to societal roles revolving around being homemakers or family caretakers. It is because of these reorientations through media that societal expectations are reinforced and we limit their potential to surpass these predefined roles. The depiction of women in these ads, emphasizing fair skin and a particular body shape as attributes of beauty and success, is very problematic. These ads aren’t just objectifying women but also positioning them as objects of desire rather than individuals with diverse talents, skills, and aspirations. While these advertisements may seem outdated and out of touch with modern sensibilities, they reflect the historical context of patriarchy and the prevailing attitudes toward women.

Furthermore, in the majority of advertisements, women are often portrayed as oppressed and weary. They are shown engaged in household chores or, on the flip side, striving to enhance their beauty through the use of anti-aging or whitening products. It raises the question: Are anti-aging creams, hair dyes, shampoos, soaps, and fairness creams the entirety of a Pakistani woman's identity? The commercials depict women as constantly preoccupied with their family's well-being. Is this portrayal an accurate reflection of reality? Women indeed prioritize their families and take pride in maintaining their beauty, but this represents only a fraction of who they truly are.




While there has been a positive shift in challenging traditional gender roles, especially in household responsibilities, the promotion of body positivity and the persistent issue of color discrimination remain prevalent. We have seen the rebranding of certain products to project a more inclusive image, the substantive change lies in promoting the genuine enhancement of one's features rather than perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards.

For example, changing the name of ‘Fair and Lovely’ to 'Glow and Lovely’ has changed the way people see the brand differently but as long as the product still promotes the whitening of skin through its ingredients, we do not see any fundamental shift in people's perceptions.


We see brands are working to promote gender equality in their ads, but there's more to be done. Companies must go beyond surface-level diversity and tackle the real gender issues within their own teams. Real and honest messages that defy stereotypes can help shift our culture to be more inclusive. Considering advertising is such a big influencer, brands must use the power wisely. The journey to true gender equality in advertising is ongoing. It's not just about what we see but also about what happens behind the scenes. It's a team effort, and together, we can make a real and lasting difference.







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Fascinating article. While I agree with a lot of your arguments (including the portrayal of women as mere "objects of desire rather than individuals with diverse talents, skills, and aspirations" as well as their representation in the media as "oppressed and weary" and the idea that although there has been some effort to challenge the stereotypical portrayal of women in terms of 'household responsibilities' but not in terms of other pertinent issues such as 'body positivity' and 'color discrimination'), I would disagree on two points.


a) You mentioned that companies must go at a deeper level and "tackle the real gender issues within their teams" -- however, it needs to be considered that a lot of the brands/companies nowadays are…


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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
2023年12月01日
返信先

  1. I agree that it ultimately boils down to how we perceive and interpret things. Brands like Khaadi and Generations actively emphasize body positivity, which is undoubtedly a positive development. However, it remains crucial for high-end brands to not just outwardly project these messages but to internalize them as well. If they successfully do so, that's great. Regarding the transition from Fair & Lovely to Glow & Lovely, while it signifies a positive shift, there's still room for improvement as the use of the same model and marketing campaign suggests incomplete internalization of the change.

  2. I agree that media and society are interconnected, with media playing a role in shaping societal actions to a certain extent. The content we encounter on…


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Sara Masood
Sara Masood
2023年11月29日

Among makeup brands, there are some really making a mark by avoiding perpetuating colorism and unfair standards for women. Take The Body Shop, for example—they're all about celebrating natural beauty in their ads, focusing more on skin types than specific tones. Luscious Cosmetics is also doing a great job showcasing a range of skin tones in their ads, trying hard to be inclusive. Masarrat Misbah Makeup is featuring all sorts of models in their campaigns, not just the fair-skinned ones. And then there's WB by Hemani, who sometimes highlight natural beauty without just going after fair skin tones. In my opinion, it is not the advertisements but the users of the products who create this standard for females. If a…

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
2023年12月01日
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I completely agree with your observation that many brands in the market are emphasizing the celebration of natural beauty and body positivity. However, the critical question lies in whether these brands are effectively reaching the masses. Brands like The Body Shop or Mussarat Misbah cater to a high-end market with a niche clientele due to their premium price range. Conversely, the majority of our society tends to go toward more affordable options like Glow and Lovely or Ponds, often prominently featured on television screens. It's disheartening that such widely recognized brands don't actively promote natural beauty and that's what we see on social media. The advertisements for these brands typically feature similar faces, contributing to the reinforcement of specific beaut…

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Sara Masood
Sara Masood
2023年11月29日

Let's dive a bit more into this whole 'Glow and Lovely' rebranding. It's interesting how critiquing the name change points out that people still chase after fair skin despite the new label. But I wonder, could we argue for a slow but steady change within a culture that's so used to these ideals?


I agree, just changing a name won't instantly change how people think. But could it be a small step that leads to bigger talks about what beauty really means in our community? Maybe these small changes can eventually add up and really shift how we see things culturally.

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
2023年12月01日
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I defiantly support the notion that a gradual and consistent transformation can yield more lasting results. However, I believe it is crucial to manifest this change through concrete actions rather than merely changing the name. While altering the name is undoubtedly significant, I think introducing diverse models or actively promoting the concept through marketing campaigns, particularly by emphasizing the inclusion of active ingredients, could have significantly contributed to advancing the ideas they aim to convey.

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I agree with all that you said but I feel like one of the reasons why such ads are produced even in today’s age is that advertisements are made in order to create a need for the products. In order to do so it is important that these advertisements are as close to reality as possible. Most of these advertisements which reiterate patriarchal values target the lower-middle class, hence, are reflective of their values and beliefs.

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
2023年12月01日
返信先

I believe advertisements wield significant influence in shaping our thoughts and perceptions. As you pointed out, they often mirror the constructed reality, which is deeply ingrained in our social framework. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of creators to showcase content that people can accurately recognize and comprehend its significance. If the portrayal consistently aligns with the notion of fair skin tone, it reinforces the desire to attain such standards. However, a shift in perspective can only occur when things are presented from a different angle, allowing for diverse viewpoints. This approach not only fosters understanding but also contributes to the creation of a more diverse audience.

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The ads for long have been using women to get attention and for views. Women are always shown fair-skinned, with long hair and full makeup which sets unprecedented expectations for women to look a certain way. Ads also reinforces stereotypical duties to women, it presents them as nurturing, caring people who are usually worried about their household tasks and suddenly the product comes in and solves all their life problems. Whereas, men are usually shown going to jobs. Ads such as for banks or cars have men in them, which shows male as providers and financial duties belong to them. Though now like you mentioned there has been some change in the way ads are shown, like Shan ads are…

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
2023年12月01日
返信先

I defiantly agree that there is a shift but I feel like there is so much that we could do more. even today, ads like tapas where a guy is making tea, is emphasised so much more just to ensure that audience sees it differently. I feel like that we still are struggling with these gender norms and haven't been able to normalise it to a greater extent.

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