Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Women, cricket, and cultural norms

Updated 19 Jul, 2016 02:45pm
The QMobile ad made quite a buzz, but not all of it was for the right reasons.

Let me admit right off the bat (pun intended) that I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when I first saw the QMobile Ramazan ad featuring a young Pakistani woman cricketer. Those who know me know that cricket has been my first and abiding love, so I couldn’t help but get emotionally involved.

The recent success of the Girls in Green is cracking the glass ceiling that separates Pakistani women from sports, and the QMobile ad cashed in on the aspiration of wanting to wear that green uniform. The Ramazan element was also incorporated nicely; a sweet blend of modern with traditional as the girls in camp bonded with each other over iftar.

My emotional engagement with the ad was strong, with just one jarring note when the girl refused to say goodbye to her father before leaving for camp. “Abbu se baat ki nahi jaa sakti, suni jaa sakti hai,” was arrogant, but I shrugged it aside in the wake of the visuals of the girl playing on the field, the victory lap, the sheer joy on the team’s faces. The product placement was a bit of a stretch in some places; those who know how cricket camps are run know phones don’t ‘happen’ to be accessible during training sessions and victory laps, but this was an ad so some license cannot be grudged.

But then, despite my misty eyes and a lump in my throat, the feminist in me took over my cricket-loving, girl-supporting self when, just before accepting her Player of the Match award, the girl receives a call from her hitherto disapproving father – a call that was put through by her mother. After that when the interviewer asks what she will do now the match is over, she replies, all teary-eyed, “Ghar jaon gi. Apney Abbu ke paas. Bohot si baatain karni hain,” (“I will go home to my father; I have lots to talk about with him”).

Hello? No mention of the mother? Surely she must have had a hard time allowing her daughter to do what she wanted especially since the main opposition, as always, was more within the house than outside it. Remember, she was not being held back by log kya kehengey (what will people say). Her own father was the hurdle in the way of her dreams.

The mother’s support, her unbridled joy at her daughter’s achievements, her prayers all fell by the wayside. Dad had suddenly become the be-all and end-all of our girl’s existence; the mother received not even a simple acknowledgement, a ‘thank you’ that could have been managed in maybe less than three seconds.

That takes me back to that jarring note I had earlier ignored, when she walked off with her gear with an almost haughty glance at her sulking father. This was not just a cultural anomaly; it was the reason for the backlash the ad received despite being such a great production (bloopers such as Pakistani helmets on Aussie girls aside).

I realise that while the concept is usually given by the local agency, the ads themselves are made in India. In many things India is strides ahead of us, especially in breaking cultural stereotypes. However, because of that very reason some things cause a sharp intake of breath, a raised eyebrow, or that niggling feeling inside that something is ‘off’.

I have met girls who played cricket at a time when playing cricket was like swimming upstream. It was not the norm, but I saw them being brought to the camps by parents – both mothers and fathers – who had chosen to be the wind beneath their daughters’ wings. Not a single girl was there without her parents’ blessings and support.

Since this ad had created quite a buzz, for all the right reasons and wrong, it was a hot topic of discussion on many social forums and I was relieved to find I was not the only one to feel that the young cricketer’s attitude towards her father was a cultural no-no.

As for those in whose dirty minds aurat (woman) equals orya-niyat (nudity) (pun intended here, too!), I will not even dignify them by making them a part of the discussion here. These misogynists have laid bare their own crude mindsets where each step a woman takes towards realising her abilities and dreams is akin to a slave escaping the shackles of the master – a mindset that has no place among those who choose to feel pride and joy at a young woman cricketer’s success.