Pakistani morning shows are the staple of morning routines of many a housewife. They’re promoted as fun and informative ways to start the day and are a popular form of Pakistani women’s entertainment, even when they don’t live in Pakistan.
But shows like Jago Pakistan Jago (Wake Up Pakistan Wake Up), Nadia Khan Show and Good Morning Pakistan are probably responsible for spreading the most toxic concepts and condescending ideas about what women should find entertaining and how they should be thinking.
Considering the popularity of these Pakistani morning shows and how big their viewer base is, they could be invaluable resources for empowering women, starting meaningful discussions, and encouraging the breaking of stereotypes. And yet day after day, what we find instead are rehashes of the same ideas, same topics and often outright offensive stereotypical ways of thinking.
The predominant themes among most Pakistani morning shows are marriages, appearances, and gossip. If a show is featuring makeup artists, you can safely bet they’re doing bridal looks. If they’re teaching exercise routines, it’s obviously so you can look good in time for your wedding. And if they’re having pseudo-innovative discussions, it’s about married life.
A recent trend is to call celebrities who have recently gotten married and get them married on set again. These people seriously sit through about 3-5-day marriage functions and relive their weddings for the sake of a morning show, sometimes more than one morning show. Dear God why? Was your real wedding that boring?
And then there are the very problematic and degrading contests. Cleaning and cooking competitions between maids and their employers for money. Contests where beauticians and makeup artists try to make up girls with naturally lighter skin tones in darker shades, because, as a rule, beauticians in Pakistan are never taught to match someone’s skin tone, but always to lighten it. So this was a real challenge. Especially when you’re pretending there are no dark-skinned girls in Pakistan and making light skinned girls wear blackface.
The excuse that the hosts of these shows use to justify this dumbed-down content is that most of their viewers are “uneducated women sitting at home”. This is apparently a good enough reason for them to be given mindless entertainment.
One episode of the morning show Jago Pakistan Jago was outright teaching parents that they shouldn’t trust their children, using justifications such as password-protected phones and dramatized videos of how children could be defying you when they pretend to go to group study or smoking in their bedrooms when they should be studying. The purpose of this? Creating mistrust and suspicion between parents and children to justify snooping.
If these morning shows really hold the impact and high viewership that they claim they do, why not take advantage of your platform to change the stagnant mentality of the so-called “uneducated housewife”? Instead of drumming it into their heads that their only job is to be the best wives they can be, these shows can encourage women and tell them that they are not in fact stuck in one role. That they can still be anything they want to be. That their lives don’t have to be all about makeup, weddings, gossip, and cooking.
The worst part is that while they peddle these mind-numbing topics to the masses, they claim they’re being helpful to them. Giving them access to tips and information that they can’t afford to get otherwise.
What they’re really doing is giving women who look up to them and loyally watch them and admire them the disservice of keeping themselves in their little boxes and making sure their minds don’t do that dangerous thing called thinking outside of the box.
Pakistan is a country that needs bold and forward-thinking women. It needs women who break stereotypes and traditions in favor of conquering the world. In a day and age where people strongly oppose the Aurat March (Women’s March) on International Women’s Day by calling women unethical, shameful and disgraceful for their willingness to walk the streets to protest their rights and fight against the unfair double standards women in Pakistan face every day, you can’t afford to feed women the kind of entertainment that keeps stifling their thinking.
We know change takes time. Morning shows that are by now the epitome of mindless entertainment can’t completely change overnight without losing a huge chunk of their audience. The shift will need to be gradual.
But a complete refusal to step outside the typical for fear of losing viewers is the main reason for the bad reputations of these shows. Don’t feed into the stigma of housewives only being capable of absorbing dumb entertainment. And don’t take advantage of that kind of thinking to promote shows and make money.
We as a nation can do better. We owe it to the strong, smart and courageous women our nation has.