Pakistan: A Country of One Color?

 This post was written by guest contributor Emaan Majed. 

Fair & Lovely ad. Source:

On my grandmother’s dresser, there is a pink tube of cleverly marketed whitening cream. She applies it daily, despite being quite pale, despite claiming to hate the colonizers from whom it stems, despite being a health-freak and knowing that it contains hints of mercury. My grandmother is not unlike many Pakistani women in this aspect. My progressive, liberal, ‘I have never done a racist thing in my life’ aunts each own a bottle. The maids save up spending money to buy some in the bazaar. Then, they hope, if they can just get their hands on a bottle of Fair & Lovely, their lives will change. They will be desirable, marry well, have all the world’s luxuries, and no longer be unlovable dark girls.

Grow up on a diet of Pakistani culture and TV and you would likely believe the same thing. The commercials for products like Fair & Lovely, which have booming sales in Pakistan, follow an interestingly bold narrative. At the beginning, we usually meet a downtrodden, badly-off, dark-skinned girl with low self-worth. Within a few weeks of becoming whiter, though, her path takes a drastic turn for the better. She starts running into men who want her, and their approval is all that is needed to instantly validate her self-esteem. She gets a good job and is successful professionally. She laughs a lot. Everyone admires her for her skin tone, and she is finally happy. Products like Fair & Lovely don’t sell without a market for them. Pakistani pop culture thrives and feeds on shadism, discrimination between lighter skin and darker skin shades within a racial group. A more useful term for shadism is colorism, which emphasizes the internalization of these fair skin-superiority ideas. And as far as colorism in Pakistan, there seems to be no end to it.

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Wall of Shame: Ramadan Television in Egypt

Now that Ramadan is over, I can get it out of my mind and scream hard on how women were portrayed in the Egyptian TV throughout the whole month.

Women are seen as sex objects: there’s no better way to put it than this cliché; it is as simple, as shallow, and as degrading as it has always been. One would think that the so-called Arab Spring would make some difference, after people had watched women side-by-side with men, playing their crucial role in all the battles since the first day of the revolution, but nope… not a chance.

Here are just some of the messages we saw:

Being a woman is offensive!
There is no way to understand the Birell non-alcoholic beer ad campaign for Ramadan other than this. In the whole campaign, they present men in tough situations asking them to fuel the “man inside” by drinking their product for not to be “soft and sissy”… i.e., a woman. In case you think I’m paranoid, here’s one ad, where they have a woman’s wig on the guy’s hair when he starts to be soft, and here’s another one where the man starts looking like a woman when he says “please.”
This is my favorite, the one where he is accused of being a woman when it shows on him that he had feelings for his girlfriend, what a wuss. For him to gain his glorious manly mustache, he shows his girlfriend’s picture to his friend, because of course he’ll only be worthy of being called a man when he objectifies women and act as if they mean nothing to him.

Women are trophies and check marks!
I tried for days to find a way to begin talking about the TV series “The Fourth Wife” without getting heartburn, but it was a lost cause.  [Read more...]

The Women of Deaffinity

Deaffinity is a group whose mission is to “help break barriers and improve the quality of life for the BME [black and minority ethnic] D/deaf community.” While advocating on behalf of the deaf community, Deaffinity provides culturally sensitive services to the Deaf community, such as their Youth leadership and Engagement program, and is also involved in fostering awareness within the hearing community by creating various campaigns.

Their most recent campaign, which won first place at the London Adobe Youth Voices live film screening held at the British Film Institute, is making waves in the global networking community. Adobe Youth Voices was created in order to “empower youth in underserved communities around the globe with real-world experiences and 21st century tools…” Deaffinity was the first deaf group since the launch of Adobe Youth Voices in 2006 to participate and submit a video.

Their short-film, titled “Deaf not Dumb,” was produced by a group of young deaf filmmakers and is described by Deaffinity as a “powerful counter narrative to the discrimination targeting members of the deaf community.”

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This shouldn’t be a surprise.

A sexist Carl’s Jr. ad? You don’t say!

For their new turkey burger, Carl’s Jr. has rolled out an ad campaign with Miss Turkey in a bikini.

You’d think this would get old, right? Ugh.


And speaking of trash bags, here’s a poster for Germany’s International Human Rights ad campaign:

The translation reads: “Oppressed women are easily overlooked. Please support us in the fight for their rights.”


Thanks to Kawthar for the tip!

Ethics or Shame Policing?

Here’s yet another video campaign on why women should wear hijab:

This movie shows a woman stumbling through a dark and scary forest, running away from snakes and wolves and unknown–yet terrifying–dangers.

But all of that goes away when–surprise!–she puts on a headscarf.

The differences in the movie between life without a headscarf and life with one are startling. The movie shows a woman without a headscarf in a bright red dress (a color which often signifies visibility and sexuality), who is in danger (presumably because she isn’t wearing a headscarf).

But as soon as she puts on a white headscarf (a color which almost internationally signifies purity), the world is bright, safe, and no snakes or wolves (in the form of men) chase after her.

This movie is put on by, an institution dedicated to a “code of ethics.” I’m willing to bet that their code of ethics requires Muslim women to wear hijab to avoid harassment, but doesn’t have any snappy movies about men harassing women and why that’s not acceptable…

Thanks to Dianna for the tip!

Editor’s note: This post is not about whether hijab is mandatory or not. This post is not about whether hijab will save you from harassment or not (it doesn’t). Please keep comments related to the movie discussed.