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Chai: a tool of domesticity in adverts

A few years ago, I remember talking to a friend about how in chai adverts, we always seen women preparing chai for their parents, husband, or in-laws. Chai adverts have always been an ode to Pakistani gender roles. Too often, we see women preparing chai for their husbands, or to impress their in laws, or to make their parents proud. Despite chai being so integral to social interaction within pakistan - no gathering is complete without a round of chai - we typically see chai adverts restrict themselves to the family, with women being the ones in the kitchen.

For me personally, chai has always been a means of perpetuating gender roles. I've grown so used to making chai for mehmaan, (which I would spike with two extra teaspoons of chai per cup) that the whole concept of making chai for me has been very gendered. In so many households across Pakistan, girls are taught to make chai to be socialized into the perfect wife. Having seen these ads since we were young children, most Pakistanis do not question the stereotype of women in this domestic role - because its all that we've been exposed to.

Chai ads are broadcasted universally: inbetween sports matches or tv dramas, audiences of all ages and genders in Pakistan view them. The values that are presented in such advertisements are internalized by most of our society. Women are taught that being productive in the kitchen will gain them the approval of the men in their lives - something that they should strive for. Men internalize that women should be serving them, and women internalize that male approval within the family is to be striven for. The stereotype of women performing domestic roles to win male approval further feeds into the male fantasy. Isn't the perfect wife one who comforts her tired husband with a cup of chai?

How often do we see friends sharing a cup of chai with each other? Friends stopping by the local dhaaba for chai? A father making chai for his daughter? A husband for his wife? Last year, Tapal's ad was considered so revolutionary, simply because a man made chai for his wife.

That's why this Lipton Ad has been so refreshing, seeing young adults share a cup of chai outside of a familial setting is so familiar. Seeing men and women interact with eachother so openly, outside of a home setting is unusual to the Pakistani social ideal, but also so common within our lives.

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