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Shan Foods: An Attempt at Subverting Gender Stereotypes

Pakistani advertisements have made their own mark over the years. Be it outsourcing popular meme content, highlighting pertinent societal issues or even reinforcing certain stereotypes, these ads have proven to have immense power when it comes to audience reflection. Often big brands dominate this arena and the ad that I found was no different. Shan Foods released its advertisement titled #OneBiryaniOneFamily in 2018. The four minute clip takes a dig at gender stereotypes rather differently and for a start, this can be considered to be sufficiently progressive.




The plot of the ad revolves around a boy who has reached his love interest's house to meet her brothers and ask for her hand in marriage. The video begins on a pretty revolutionary note, if we may say so. Normally, the way "rishta" culture works is that the boy with his family comes to the girls house where mostly the formers parents evaluate the girl, question her etc. Yet, here indeed the boy has arrived at the girls house but he is not here to meet her and judge her but rather is here for his own judgment. The girls brothers are evaluating the boy, viewing whether he is fit to be their brother-in-law or not. Even one of the brother's says "Behen ki pasand hai, hum pass karein ge tou damad banega". The dynamic between both the genders has shifted here whereas in most ads and in real, the girl is at the receiving end of an answer and is being carefully examined, here the same is happening but this time with the guy,


An excellent job is done at subverting gender stereotypes by placing the boy in the kitchen to impress the girls brothers. In majority of the advertisements that we see, it is almost always the woman that is in the kitchen whether it is to impress her potential in laws or working after marriage, the kitchen and more broadly domesticity is always seen as a female domain. It is always the woman who is presented as this perfect model in the kitchen. However, by sending a man to the kitchen to cook biryani and that too for his future in laws, this ad does away with the idea of the kitchen being a female only space to some extent and also depicts that men can indeed cook and put in effort to bond well with their in-laws.


Yet, as much as this advertisement tends to break away from traditional gender roles, it also ends up reinforcing certain stereotypes related to masculinity. It shows the ideal man as being physically strong and intense with a muscular build. These were the characteristics assigned to the girls brothers while her lover was slim and and of short height. Quite evidently when the boy arrives at her house, her brothers and uncle are disappointed to see a man that they would consider far from the realm of an ideal one. As one of the brothers points to him and sarcastically remarks "Sher ka bacha?", clearly he is anything but that. Interestingly, by the end this perception can also be seen as shifting as after having his rather tasty biryani, the uncle and brothers get emotional and sob while accepting the boy wholeheartedly. One of the brothers at the end even says "Sher hai yeh Sher". Crying is something that these men would consider extremely feminine but a shift in gender roles by the boy cooking for them and they eating it and loving it can also render a new understanding of masculinity by allowing them to be vulnerable.


Moving away from the traditional realm then, this advertisement by Shan serves as a positive example of ads overthrowing certain rigid ideals of society.



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12 Comments


Rania Bakhtiari
Rania Bakhtiari
Jun 23, 2023

This was such a heartfelt watch! I loved watching this advertisement and then reading your analysis of it. In my opinion, this ad was a good take on subverting gender stereotypes. Instead that the girl faces the tension of pleasing the boy's family, it is the other way around. Usually, it is the girl who brings in the tea for the boy's family; however, in this case, it was the boy who was in the kitchen and made biryani for all of them!

Just as you mentioned, I do believe we still have a long way to go with advertisements completely subverting gender stereotypes, such as showing that in order to be together, the girl needed the approval of all…

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I enjoyed reading this! However, I've had my fair share of reservations about this ad. From seeing the 'yay bhi koi Eid hui bhai' iconic ad to this one, I really thought this was Shan's downfall. While appreciation is there for them for showcasing a man in the kitchen, and like you pointed out, the guy visiting the girl's house instead of the other way around, I still believe that they tried too hard with this ad. Firstly, what they've done is completely just reversing the gender roles. While it may be funny and good satire, I think it takes away from the real issue at hand; we don't want the roles reversed. We want the roles to be equal.

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Thank you for engaging with the blog Yusra! you've shared some great insights and they have given me a lot to reflect on too and revisit the ad from a different lens. While I do agree that they have reversed the gender roles but I feel that it paves a pathway to a larger rhetoric of equality as well. Yes, on the surface they've used the easy way out of reversing the gender roles to counter the stereotype but from what I interpreted, the larger concept was to diminish the idea that the kitchen, cooking food and specifically in this context, cooking for your in-laws is not something that must be restricted to a woman only but it is a…


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Great read! I really liked how you mentioned each point. I also think that since the guy was not shown too masculine, that was deliberately done so that when he cooks biryani, it does not raise eyebrows. I think what this ad does is that the macho men cannot make biryani for themselves but of course the not so masculine man who can be made fun of can make the biryani, so then it shows how if a guy cooks, he has to probably be a certain type of way in the way that he talks, looks and acts for this to be acceptable, and that makes its way into forming stereotypes.

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Thank you for sharing this, honestly its also shifted the way I view the representation of the guy cooking the biryani. You are absolutely right in saying that yes while it is progressive that for a change, the guy is cooking this time but again the kind of guy that he is represented as also matters here. It would have been more interesting and in a way groundbreaking if one of the macho men that are shown as her brothers cooked but we can agree that for starters, replacing the guy instead of the girl in the kitchen is somewhat commendable.

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Loved your choice of advertisement for this analysis and I also liked how you included both the subversion of stereotypes and reinforcement.

What I personally liked most about this ad was that for once, there were barely any women in the ad. Female representation is important, but if its a stereotypical representation, I’d rather do without it, so seeing all men in an advertisement about cooking is something I can appreciate.

However, like you pointed out, it also reinforces some stereotypes and apart from all those you mentioned, I want to highlight another one; when the brothers say “hum paas karein gay tou damaad banay ga”. While this a reversal of the typical rishta culture of examining a girl, at…

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Absolutely, thank you for sharing your insight. While I agree with your analysis to a great extent, with regards to the lack of female representation in the ad, I thought of it to be a bit discomforting as while it is interesting that a cooking ad is centred around males only and that there is no stereotypical representation of females present, yet what I saw as the problem here was the fact that while there is a decision being made about marriage, at least the woman should have been present. It seems as if the entire arrangement is limited to her partner and brothers and her presence is not accounted for. This ties in with as you mentioned the patriarchal…

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By subverting gender stereotypes, Shan Foods advertisements send a positive message of inclusivity and empowerment. They recognize and celebrate the diverse talents and abilities of individuals regardless of their gender, promoting a more equitable and progressive society. These portrayals have the potential to inspire viewers to question traditional gender norms and encourage them to embrace their passions and talents, irrespective of societal expectations.


However, an interesting thing to note is that no matter how progressive they intend to be (through advertising) they have reinforced the stereotypical notion of "mard ke dil ka rasta uske paet se ho kar guzarta hai", that in order to win a man's heart one has to be a good cook (male or female).

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Thank you for your comment areeba, loved the fact that you mentioned about "a way to a man's heart is through his stomach." In the case of this ad, it is interesting that another man is using this philosophy to impress his potential in-laws but again the concept still remains and in the larger context I feel feeds the idea that women must stick to their prescribed gender roles and cook to please men in their lives.

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