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"From Screen to Society: Decoding Gender Stereotypes in Pakistani Advertising"












Marketing through advertisements is one of the most successful strategies. It is a powerful medium with a large audience that affects not only our consumption habits but also our views, values, and opinions in everyday life. It might, however, act like a double-edged sword because it has the ability to both challenge and support societal norms. However, it is commonly noted that by reinforcing gender stereotypes, Pakistani ads support traditional roles and responsibilities for both men and women.


In Pakistani advertising, one of the most prevalent gender stereotypes is the portrayal of traditional roles for men and women. Women's responsibilities as mothers and spouses are highlighted by the media by portraying them as loving, obedient creatures who like housekeeping. On the other hand, patriarchy is reinforced by the assumption that males are more powerful and the primary breadwinners. Commercials for cooking oil, dishwashing soap, toilet cleaner, and washing powder emphasize that women are the only ones who use these products and are responsible for them.

In this specific advertisement, a noteworthy example can be observed where the man, upon handing a box of washing powder to his wife, uses the term "your kaam", reinforcing the notion that certain household chores, such as laundry, are exclusively designated as women's responsibilities. This portrayal perpetuates the traditional belief that women are primarily responsible for domestic duties, while men are excluded from participating in such tasks. On the other hand, males are more likely seen in commercials for cars and motorbikes and for financial services like banking or investing. These advertisements frequently show males as the providers and the ones who make important financial decisions. This kind of product placement explicitly links products to certain gender roles and obligations, which has a big influence on society.


In terms of appearance, women shown in ads are usually fair-skinned, skinny women possessing feminine features and long hair. This sets unrealistic beauty standards and pressurizes women to look a certain way to be desirable. The ads often use attractive females as a magnetizing tool for their advertisements, exploiting them for their looks. In 2015, an ad was released by 'Jazz' casting Nargis Fakhri, the actress was photographed in a highly seductive and alluring pose that was shown on the main page of the "Jang" Urdu newspaper for many days, as well as on billboards in parts of the country. Her curves are unrelated to the 3G phone. This is a classic example of how women are portrayed as a showpiece and how the ideal body type is promoted.

We all can remember ads for toilet cleaner where a woman is distressed about how dirty her toilet is, and suddenly a man in a blue cap shows up and hands her a Product of her dreams, and all the problems are solved, these were the advertisements that dominated our TV screens for a while. However, in recent times there has been a shift to some ads now challenging gender stereotypes. These ads focus on how a woman's job is not limited to the kitchen and it is normal for men to work in the kitchen and help their wives. Some ads such as that of Shan promote an inclusive and progressive approach.

The following Shan ad shows a wife coming home from work tired and her husband then cooking for her, the ad perfectly ends by saying, "khana banana yah ghar chalana kisi ek ka kaam nahi." breaking many gender stereotypes. Even while a lot of ads have helped promote progressive ideas, it is regrettable that they occasionally receive criticism. When a 2019 Ariel ad promoted women empowerment "yeh daagh hamay kiya rokhien gy", it received huge criticism. The ad was stated as 'controversial' and many said to boycott Ariel as it went against Islamic beliefs and promoted liberalism. Meanwhile, when an ad breaking male gender stereotypes is challenged, it regards them as being the ideal figure who possesses diverse qualities. When Fawad Khan made chai for his wife in a tapal ad, Pakistani media went crazy calling him the 'perfect husband' and Dawn News went to the extent of saying 'You'll wish to be married to Fawad Khan.' This shows the duality that exists in the Pakistani media.




The advertising in Pakistan reflects the country's overall social landscape. Even though the winds of change have been blowing in society for long, it still struggles with deeply embedded gender stereotypes. It will take teamwork and dedication to questioning and changing long-standing norms, but the change is achievable.



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13 Comments


This post is quite insightful and helps us understand how a mere advertisement affects gender roles, gender norms and gender wage gaps. The depiction of men in household cleaners and washing powders to be honest I feel like is very ironic and is quite funny if you look at the stance behind it. Many men are used in adverts as some media houses believe that people believe in the men's stance more. This though looks quite funny is not backed by any data. The depiction of how a perfect wife does all household chores all day and then drinks a cup of chai with his husband again reinforces those gender norms. The adverts which women cleaning utensils and a male…

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Absolutely, all the ads of washing powder and kitchen supplies only targets women, never have I ever seen a man leading the ad, its always men sipping tea or going to work. Even in ads of ariel, Wasim Akram is the only guy and there are hundreds on women gathered who seemed to be troubled by the stains not washing off. These ads promote this as duties of women to clean and cook. If a women was to be leading a car ad, no man would tend to buy it, as for the longest we have only associated women to household chores that the society can't comprehend them of doing tasks equally good as men. I am sure no women…

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Your blog made me realise how as a society we still need to do so much work to be able to free ourselves from these stereotypes. It is important for us to realise the urgency to shift advertising narratives towards more inclusive and progressive representations. It's essential to break free from these stereotypes and promote a more equitable society where both genders are not confined to predefined roles. Ads have the power to shape perceptions, and it's crucial to use this influence responsibly, advocating for a society that embraces diversity and equality, rather than perpetuating stereotypes and unrealistic ideals.

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As a society we have so much to do to delink women from these stereotypes. Women are equally as deserving of praise when they do household chores as men are. There is no miracle when a man steps in to make tea for his wife, but our media and society considers it as a gift from God. Moreover, ads like these are shown on every channel, whether be it cartoons for kids or news channels for adults, these ads never fail to make an appearance somewhere. Its also dangerous as while watching cartoos, kids seem to look at them and the idea for gender roles gets instilled in their minds. I remember my little cousin telling his mom that why…

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Your article is very accurate for defining media portrayal. It's very evident how recently, media campaigns that try to take a step in the right direction have to face the risk of either a hit or a miss when it comes to how the general audience will perceive their campaign, where the society might or might not accept the change that the campaign is proposing simply because it got against the predefined unfair societal norms that seem to be set in stone. Another factor that your articles made me think about was the fact that sexually provocative ads such as that of Nargis Fakhri that you have shown above, I don't think any religious scholar has ever taken the stand…

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You rightly pointed out how religious scholars never questioned these ads and called them 'behaya' whereas these campaigns get them so much offended. They still will buy products from the ads that showcase women sexually but never listen to the campaigns. The ads that try to make a change for women always get ridiculed and banned and religion is brought in, while ads like these continue to be on billboards in every corner of the cities, why are they silent here now? The only reason Jazz chose Nargis Fakhri was to get attention and views, basically as a 'show-piece' and her laying down and showing her curves has nothing to do with the product she is promoting herself. It's ironic…

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
Nov 29, 2023

Your analysis of our advertising and media industry is accurate. I've consistently observed a pervasive duality, particularly in how women are portrayed in advertisements. The perpetuation of unrealistic beauty standards, especially regarding fair skin, remains a persistent issue. Even when promoting products related to skin in a more progressive manner, the tendency to cast individuals with fair skin is still prevalent. This complexity is evident in Pakistani dramas like Parizaad, highlighting that such issues persist and are unlikely to fade away without a firm stance taken against them.

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Neiha A. Siddiqui
Neiha A. Siddiqui
Nov 29, 2023

Your blog is thought-provoking, especially in light of the gender stereotypes that are prevalent in Pakistani media. I adore how well your study exposes how gender-specific product linkages and the allocation of domestic duties are two examples of how conventional views are perpetuated because I have never noticed the role advertisements have played in such notions. For me, your observations highlight the difficulties of negotiating society expectations and views. Progressive advertisements, like as the one featuring Ariel empowerment as your post talks about, have elicited conflicting emotions in the society. Since we briefly talked in class about PEMRA's function and media laws, particularly with regard to the reinforcement of gender stereotypes and representative, do you think there should be tougher standards or…

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