Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nestle: About time you did something to challenge gender stereotypes

On my way to work this morning, while listening to FM 91's show with Sophie, I heard this radio advert by Nestle -- It starts with a male voice -- the husband -- saying "Begum, tum nay packing naheen kee? Murree naheen jana?"

And the woman says, "Naheen, mein bhot thakee huee hoon"

And they end up not going -- and the ad says that the woman is tired because of iron deficiency -- and that had she been drinking Nestle's Milkpak, perhaps this situation wouldn't have materialised -- while more women, statistically speaking, suffer from iron deficiency, the advert does reinforce a very stereotypical image of the woman, rather 'begum', doing all the work in the home (wake up Nestle! of all companies one would have thought you would know that that stereotype is under threat in most Pakistan cities at least) -- of course, it is not difficult to understand why big corporations would, despite the liberal/forward-looking public persona of themselves that they would like for their consumers to believe in or see, would never challenge society's traditions and stereotypes -- for instance why couldn't the husband in the radio ad, after his wife said she was tired, do the packing himself and say "begum fikar naheen karo, mein drive karoonga aur hum zuroor chalain gay" -- good job Nestle -- I am sure ads like these get more and more people to drink Milkpak --


  1. Maintaining social stereotypes is part of the project of upholding the status quo. This is necessary for supporting the power relations among the economic and social classes as well as genders. The media and advertisers --forming part of Antonio Gramsci's apparatus of cultural hegemony-- consciously and unconsciously work to maintain the power balance. By doing that they create dependable consumers of their messages and manipulation. To give a rather simplistic explanation of the practice: if you were selling western clothes to a certain group of people, you would want the demand for western clothes to remain stable. In the scenario, the western clothes seller is unlikely to promote a change in dressing practice towards native/traditional clothes. Similarly, the media and advertisers sustain demand/consumption for their messages by creating dependable consumers. This is done by overlaying a stereotypical identity/persona on the consumers. The Nestle radio advertisement is addressing their reliable consumer, the ‘begum’ feeling weak due to iron deficiency can afford to buy the milk for herself. The suggested role of the begum in the gender power balance is one of ‘homemaker’, the doer of domestic chores; she must do the packing not the husband. Since men do not suffer from iron deficiency as much as women, the begum can be made able to continue with her domestic duties in preparing of which, Nestle urges that she drink their milk. If the husband offers to pack himself, giving the begum a break, there would not be a apparently reason enough for her to drink the milk. But if she drinks the milk, she can continue in her role, the power balance is maintained upholding the status quo as well as Milk Pak sales.

    --no name

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