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The burden of "Motherhood" within advertisements!

We’ve all seen the glorification of “motherhood” and mothers within all media sources including films and television shows. In many ways, however, the manner in which Pakistani advertisements portray this very image of “motherhood” is unique in its method of inducing stereotypes. Ideas like childrearing, housekeeping, and general happiness within a home are presented to naturally be the responsibility of the woman, the wife, and obviously, the mother.

So deeply entrenched are such ideas that some famous brands have their taglines running down from generations endorsing such ideas. “Jahaan mamta wahan Dalda,” is one prime example of advertisements glorifying motherhood by reducing them to ideas like cooking.



Another example of such use of motherhood lies within the Lifebuoy advertisements,

“Aik maa hi banati hai beti ko sar say mazboot, jar say mazboot.”



Interestingly, in many of these advertisements, motherhood has little to do with the product being marketed. After all, everyone (or mostly everyone) would be needing shampoo and cooking oil at some point! But the need to add a motherhood element, in many ways, seems to be a necessary condition that most advertisements need to fulfill. In many ways, a glorified, good mother becomes a symbol of a happy household. A mother who knows how to cook and braid her daughter’s hair is one who promotes the well-being of the members of the house and signifies that the use of a particular product will bring the same for all.

 

A deeper meaning lies in the fact that much of this idea of “motherhood” is presented as so “natural” in that it reinforces the notion that mothers are naturally inclined to work for the house. While there may be nothing wrong with mothers being showcased as the source of happiness for a household, in many ways such taglines make this a binding condition for all mothers. Any mother who has anything slightly less than such portrayals becomes problematic. Right from when you are a toddler with the television playing in the background, to when you’ve grown old enough to register information, such taglines and ads have already taught you who a mother is. And anything short of that becomes hard to digest for most.



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12 Comments


Rafay Abdul Razzaq
Rafay Abdul Razzaq
Jun 30, 2023

An amazing blog Fatima! Great analysis

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We would rarely see a father in such ads instead because that would "threaten masculinity." I think this has a lot to do with media representation of "masculine" and "feminine" characteristics. The fact that you are always shown this idea of a mother as someone who is naturally made to be more soft with her feelings, someone who shows more care and emotions and someone who is more submissive, through the media that we have been consuming or even we see as we grow up in our own households and then again and again in such ads which uses pathos to reinforce the duties of a mother, shows what a mother should be like and shows how the media we…

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I loved the examples you included in this article!

Apart from the very obvious stereotyping that you mentioned, I would also like to highlight the fact that in most of these ads, there is no father figure being shown, which somehow seems to exclude and therefore excuse men from domestic responsibility altogether. Linking this to the concept of discourse and the social construction of knowledge, we can see just how dangerous this exclusion is.

Also, I find it kind of ironic and sad how in the Dalda ad, they’re proudly saying “aaj bhi tou kuch nahi badla, na maamta, na hum” because that’s exactly the problem!

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Agreed! Even in recent ads where men or the father figures are appearing, it seems like they do an household chore for like a one time thing to do a favor for the woman or the wife/mother. And it's sad because although these ads might be trying to steer away from this classic idea of "motherhood" in many ways they keep reinforcing this idea because the one time the father or the children do something it is praised so much. Shouldn't it just be as normal as it is when a woman cooks?

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Great read!! Thank you so much for highlighting this. The fact that these messages are consistently repeated via catchy slogans is also something that causes us to internalise them. Women in our culture already face a lot of pressure to conform to a very specific ideal of motherhood, and such media portrayals only add to this pressure because they get so deeply ingrained in our understanding of it means to be a good mother i.e. solely being responsible for domestic chores and childcare. I also think when these companies reinforce these ideals it makes it easier for them to exploit and capitalise on the emotional labour of mothers by presenting products as necessary for ensuring the wellbeing and happiness of…

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Exactly!! Exploiting this "mother" sentiment is visible in a lot of media sources. In many ways the mother is used as this clickbait to attract people and raise sentiment. Still, however, this representation does end up becoming burdensome for the entire idea of "motherhood."

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It is imperative to know how the social and societal position of women in Pakistan perpetuate these patriarchal ideas of women belonging in the kitchen or taking care of other household duties that intrinsically have nothing to do with the person's gender. I believe a large part of why we see such advertisments is because these ads are targetted towards the majority that do believe in these gender roles and so the ads breeds some sense of familiarity among those watching inclining them towards buying the goods.

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You're right about the fact that these targeted women do have such ideas of the good woman or motherhood. But one must remember how media sources are not only teaching these women this but also the men around them. Even children are learning from such so we're essentially creating this environment where everyone is taught of this. And perhaps these women not so much want this but it was what everyone (including the media) teaches.

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