Women, advertisment and Arab TV

June 2, 2009 at 9:03 am (Opinion) (, , )

I believe that one of the ways to know about a culture or a historical period in time is to look at commercial advertisement because it reflects the culture it advertises to. For instant, I have noticed that there are too many car commercials in France while in United Kingdom, there are more insurance commercials more than anything else. The customer’s background, judgment and psychology are important elements to construct ads; they are away of communication and persuasion.

 When I watch Arabic Television all I see is very disappointing ads. Most of them are about home products where they portray a typical house wife who has nothing better to do than to compete with her neighbors in making her house cleaner. The other half is about the entertaining industry. Of course there are other ads about other things like cars; but this is not the point. What bothers me is the way the woman is portrayed in those ads.

 The perfect house wife whose interest in life does not exceed a cleaning product or the latest brand of rice. There is nothing wrong with being the perfect house wife, and caring for your family’s well being. But it is demeaning the way they show women; as if they are not capable of doing anything more than cleaning and cooking! Not to mention the stupid language they use; as if they are speaking to a five year old. We need more variety; a different prospective.

I thought that this does not reflect the reality of women; at least in Qatar; I am sure they have more going on for them in their lives than cooking and cleaning. When I shared my thought with my dad he said “those are not just for Qatar, the whole Arab world watch them. You have millions of women who are not educated and all they know is cooking and cleaning. So it does reflect other’s reality, not necessarily Qatari women”. How sad, I thought. It is true that many people in the Arab world believe that women’s role does not go beyond the kitchen and bed room. Whose fault is that? It is the society’s fault? But the society comprise of men and women. So is it women fault because they accepted it?

 Then I thought, what would happen if they put men instead of women in those ads? Would it help change how women are perceived?  If people think there is nothing wrong with showing a woman cleaning a toilet or slaving all day to cook a meal; then why not put a man instead?

 I would like to see women doing more sophisticated roles in ads, because just like how ads are inspired from culture; they can also influence it. So, if we keep sending different images of women other than the “cleaner, cooker, maid” type, people might actually accept it and unconsciously change their minds about what a woman truly is and capable of.

 And what is up with “pads” ads! How embarrassing it is to watch one of those ads when you are sitting with your teenage brothers or father or uncle. We have no option but to buy these products, so why advertise for them so much! I remember once we were watching TV, and one of those ads came up. My little cousin asked “what is this?”. And didn’t stop asking until he got an answer from another child “its pampers for adults!”.

What a contradiction! We say we are a conservative community; and raise our children to know better than to ask questions about the other sex; how a taboo a woman’s body is. And then we have these ads playing between every show.  


And why most of the ads are about consuming? Why don’t we have more educational ads. Am not saying there isn’t any; am saying there isn’t enough. Media is a powerful tool, so lets use it for something productive. I want to see ads that develop better awareness of health; recycling; education …etc.



I am talking about the Arab world,  So don’t tell me “why accuse Arabs while west use women as sex objects in their ads”  thats another subject    !@#$%^&*()


The end




  1. kbaisi said,

    Yep, ads are created to appeal to specific audiences, which will obviously vary from region to region.

    However, it would not make sense for advertisers to start creating ads that would show women taking up dominate roles in society when that is far from the reality in this part of the world, at the end of the day advertising is a business and not there to help develop the community, they only reflect what the target audience can relate too, and that is what will help them sell their products. They are not really concerned about the welfare of their customers, but more with how they can persuade them to start spending.

    As soon as we find more women in this part of the world in leadership positions, only then will the advertisers change their ads in order to appeal to their new audience. Tv shows on the other hand is an entirely different story.

    It’s a good thing that you are perceptive and noticed these things about Arabic ads, I am usually distracted by the cheesiness that I fail to even notice what is being advertised,let alone any underlying messages

  2. Tuga said,

    Good topic.

    My blood boils when I watch the adverts that you refer to, where there is a pretty housewife cleaning/cooking and the man is already sat at the table reading a paper as the woman brings the food to the table – like she is his maid. I agree with kbaisi, this is a reflection of the majority of households in the Arab world, and this won’t change until there is a change in society.

    You asked: ‘So is it women’s fault because they accepted it?’

    I think so. For years I have preached to women in the Arab community here in the UK and abroad on their rights and how they shouldn’t tolerate laziness from their husbands – I also usually supply them with a copy of the excellent book “why men love bitches” (for those who haven’t read it, it’s not a book about playing games and being bitchy, it is about holding your own in a relationship and having some self-respect, rather than the alternative doormat girl). But, I realised for many, it is not a case of a man oppressing her, she is actually content with her limited role and encourages it.

    I encountered a young man and women in Iraq, I had asked the man for someone’s contact details, and he went up to a young woman in his office to ask her for them. He spoke to her in the most patronising tone – honestly, it was like he was speaking to a child, he even said “aww well done”, applauding her for the simple task of retreaving a number from her computer, something a monkey could have been trained to do. What shocked me more was that she took no offence to it, in return she blushed and acted like a child. I guess this was ‘flirting’.

    It’s women that need to change their behaviour, and stop succumbing to the role of secondary human, or secondary in intelligence.

    Although, for that to happen media needs to change it’s message, as you havew suggested. It isn’t likeley we will see a change when the media (through commercials, films and dramas) portray the attractive and sought after woman as one that has these traits.

  3. Nasser said,


    “women issues are all over the globe..
    does the west show men on washin powder products ads?
    Mariam’s claim on how ads reflect societies is worth considering but it is not really accurate reflection!
    coincidently, I was thinking few days ago on some advertisement I see in doha, and how short ads professionals fall in making appealing ads to Qatari locals.
    take a Ghutrah ad for example:
    when you see a blonde guy who is wearing it inappropriately. This shows a terrible quality of ad which is not really reflective nor does it appeal to people who actually use it.
    another example, is Vimto!
    Therefore, Ads on Tide and Pearl don’t reflect that women should be thought of as only cookers or cleaners.
    Even in west or wherever, it is hard to show a washing powder ad without a women. youtube to check!
    it is common to think of women as housewives. Housewives is a common name but househausband is strange. This is not discrimination. it is the norms!”

    Comment posted in http://www.qatarliving.com/node/536393

  4. Luqman said,

    [quote]If people think there is nothing wrong with showing a woman cleaning a toilet or slaving all day to cook a meal; then why not put a man instead?[/quote]

    I guess that is the reason we get ads with men cooking and cleaning toilets in India 🙂
    Best cooks in India are Men(even I cook better than my wife :D) and Women usually come in Cosmetic, home care appliances, pain relief(working women) etc… gone are those days when they used to show Women washing clothes, cooking or cleaning toilets… I guess after few years men will complain that why are women not shown in cooking or cleaning ads 🙂


    PS: came here through Qatar living.

  5. mimizwords said,

    Kbaisi … I wish that we could create new trend for advertising that is concerned with the welfare of people as valued audiance not just customer

    Tugz .. I agree with you, I think its women fault to accept the conditions they are living in, in many cases, not all. We need all women to unite on this issue which is something almost impossible to achieve

    Nasser … actually, to study a soceity in previous stages of history, sociologist study the ads trend. It is one of the methods to study social behavior. Have you seen the movie (mona lisa smile?)

    Luqman … is that your real name, i like it 🙂
    i laughed when i read what you wrote … i hope that this day comes

  6. Tuga said,


    In response to your question “does the west show men on washin powder products ads?”

    Yes they do, I’m British, I think I could give a more accurate account than the youtube results of what I have come across on TV. To site a few British cleaning products and their commercials:

    Flash: A man is shown scrubbing the toilet, scrubbing the oven and wiping floors. He then discovers Flash, and it makes his job so much easier.

    Mr Muscle: The name says it all as does the slogan “mr muscle, loves the jobs you hate”. In this they site a superhero cleaning, can you imagine that in the Arab world? He would be laughed at for having such ‘womanly’ superpowers.

    Daz: the woman gives her man the packet of washing up powder, but he goes and washes it himself

    So, yes there is a difference between Arab and Western media. I think with time we may see a change.

  7. Nasser said,

    I should have clarified…the above comment that I posted wasn’t mine…my opinion couldn’t be more different! lol I just happened to stumble upon it in that forum of which I posted the link, and thought I’d share it with you..if you can, have a look, there are some very interesting responses there to your blog post!

    My own 2 cents worth? coming soon =)

    • mimizwords said,

      yeah i saw the forum .. thanx for directing me to it

  8. mimizwords said,

    hey Tugs .. this is what the guy on Qatarliving forum had to say in response to what you wrote

    for your friend, please convey this reply:

    there are also arabic ads on washing powders which does not show women. Here are few:



    washing powder ads mostly involve women. Please have another go at youtube and check ads on west/east/south/north and you will see what i mean.

    the point here is, few commercials may not represent actual situations, but as i said earlier, worth considering.

    you quoted media which is broad field. We are discussing ads in particular. If you are comparing ads on thier own right, then i agree that arab ads are not as good as west ads for many reasons.

    you can find it on http://www.qatarliving.com/node/536393#comment-937444

  9. Tuga said,

    I didn’t realise I got a response from him.

    Ok, well yeah there are ads in the West with women cleaning. My point is there are relatively very few commercials in the Arab world for domestic chores featuring men whereas there are lots in the West. The two links you sent, one doesn’t count, it’s a British commercial that has been translated. Also, the women is telling him what to do – I say, bloody do it yourself! (said in my strongest Essex accent :P). The second one is good, I’d never seen it before.

    In any case, I sent you those links in response to your question, “does the west show men on washin powder products ads?”. I was showing you yes they do.

    I don’t actually have a problem with seeing a women do her washing, I do my own washing. What frustrates me about Arabic commercials, is the image they put forward, the perfect home, with this man sat at a table, then the wife comes in and brings the food to the table, while the man reads a paper – in my household that’s very rude, the woman should not be treated like a maid, everyone gets up and helps.

    It’s the way women are portrayed in these commercials that winds me up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: