Revisiting Islamabad’s Hotspot: The obvious sexism that no one notices

Published: February 2, 2016

Go ahead and say I don’t have a sense of humour. Go ahead and say I’m a killjoy. If a sense of humour and having fun equals barbaric stuff like this, I’d rather be boring and humourless. PHOTO: DESIMOVIES.BIZ

Hotspot – the place where all the brats and burgers of Islamabad ‘hang out’

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to bash these brats and burgers. Half of my friends come under this category and I love them. I’m not here to criticise Hotspot ice cream or food either. Their food is actually not bad. In fact, I’m not here to talk about any issue of importance.

I’m here to talk about something insignificant. Something no one cares about because they don’t believe it is a problem. Something all these brats and burgers just accept and, consequently, condone. Something that these brats and burgers see every day while they sit in their little haven of a café to talk about important things, such as the opening of a new expensive clothing brand and how it’s not that expensive after all. They discuss other world shattering developments, such as celebrity breakups, who wore who on the red carpet and so on so forth.

I’m here to talk about the sexist signs on this café’s walls.

When I was 14, I decided that I would never visit Hotspot again, because of all the sexism there. Recently, however, I had the misfortune of being forced to break this promise to myself because, well, I have my reasons. Revisiting the place made me remember all the reasons why I haven’t been there in years.

Hotspot boasts about their ‘quirky, weird, funny and downright outrageous’ signs. They also have other signs which they sell exclusively on their website. Let’s take a look at some of these signs.

Somehow, I don’t find this quirky, weird or funny.

This sign shows this woman as being incredibly naïve and materialistic. She’s surprised that other people don’t understand how important it is to kill someone who was wearing the same dress as her. Also, she’s giving the utmost importance to something as stupid as a dress. (But that’s just what women do. This is completely normal, I assure you.)

But the woman would still be the one cooking.

Let’s break down this gem. There’s a picture of a woman next to some quote that says something about breakfast and kitchen. This sign blatantly associates women with kitchens and cooking. Quirky? No. Funny? Hell no. Downright outrageous? Yes, but not in the way it was intended. Anyway, it would make more sense to say if you want breakfast in bed, get the hell up and go make it yourself. But nope, this woman will still make breakfast for you because she is a woman. All you have to do is sleep in the kitchen.

I wish they would open a comedy workshop.

Yes, exactly. A woman is like your dog and it is perfectly fine to use the word ‘loose’ in regards to her. Of course she’s supposed to be chained to you at all times, and you must be careful that she doesn’t end up becoming ‘loose’. If anyone sees any unsupervised, ‘loose’ women around, they must immediately contact the authorities.

Why don’t I share this amazing sense of humour with the person who made this?

I don’t care if this was directed at a man or a woman. Honour killing is a serious issue in our country. It’s not funny to joke about death and it’s definitely not funny to joke about honour killing. It’s not quirky either. It’s just plain disrespectful.

Tell us where to shop and give us some happiness, maybe?

Yes, that is the answer to all my problems in life. Thank you, God, for answering all my prayers in form of the wisdom of women in these signs. Thanks, women in these signs, for showing me the light. Now I know what to do to solve everything, i.e. go shopping and buy the perfect outfit. And now that I think of it, how did we not figure this out for ourselves? This is how we’ll get our degrees and jobs, this is how we’ll solve world hunger, this is how we’ll eradicate diseases and this is how we’ll eliminate terrorism – Shopping.

Whatever angle I look at it, I just can’t seem to find the exact element which makes this quirky and funny.

Of course, nothing a woman ever says is significant enough to actually stay awake for. This is exactly what we should be teaching children and teenagers.

I wish I had such wits.

This is associating women with cooking again. I mean, okay, she has absolutely nothing to do with her life. Which is why she’s going to cook anything that she can in this toaster. It’s her and the toaster against the world. She’s a woman, what else does she have to do?

Obviously implied: The only worry she has in her life is cleaning her kitchen.
Subtly implied: clean her kitchen = clean her home; because, kitchen = home. Of course.

A woman’s home is the kitchen, of course. And what else would a woman have to do besides cleaning her kitchen? If you want to help out, go clean her kitchen. That’s all women care about – that their kitchens are clean. They have nothing else to talk about either, except cleaning kitchens. They also constantly worry about cleaning kitchens. They go to school to learn about cleaning kitchens. They major in cleaning kitchens. And did I mention that they think about cleaning kitchens literally all the time?

What a productive life.

Oh, wait. Women do have something else to talk about besides cleaning kitchens: Their children. Besides – you guessed it – cleaning kitchens (and cooking), a woman’s only job is to look after her children. And if she just keeps them alive, she’s doing her job. She can’t contribute anything useful to the society or even to her children’s lives, so might as well just keep them alive.

No one? I thought so.

Yep. Men are not supposed to have feelings but, unfortunately, they do. We should ignore that, though. Men are supposed to be tough, unemotional and aggressive. It is the women who actually feel sadness, happiness, joy and such things.

Did I miss my cue to laugh?

I assure you, this is normal. Men are not loyal. Men are not supposed to be loyal. And we must tell our young audience that this is normal, yes, completely normal.

I hope I’m not the only one who finds this utterly disgusting.

There are so many things wrong with this concept. It’s not like men have any self-respect, dignity or anything like that. They were meant to be slaves of women. And that’s exactly what women want because, really, what else do they have going on in their lives besides cleaning kitchens, cooking, children and men?

Notice the weight scales, guys.

So this woman stands with her presumably five-year-old daughter. They both are standing on weight scales. Because that’s exactly what five-years-old girls should do. They should worry about their weight, waist size and thigh gap. The child also wants to be a ‘total bit*h’ like her mother. Yes, this makes for hysterical comedy stuff.

What part of this is ‘young love’? And what part of this is ‘happiness’?

‘What’s wrong with me?’ – Yes, there is definitely something wrong with her. She should completely change herself and mould her personality to fit the kind that a man would love.

Go ahead and say I don’t have a sense of humour. Go ahead and say I’m a killjoy. If a sense of humour and having fun equals to barbaric stuff like this, I’d rather be boring and humourless. There are so many things wrong with marketing and perpetuating sexism so blatantly. Let’s see.

1.  These signs are trivialising a real issue

Sexism is one of the biggest problems in this world, and especially in our country. These signs trivialise this important issue and then mock it constantly. It is not funny to make jokes about decades of oppression and violence that women around the globe have faced and are still facing. Women are and have been victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, marital rape and honour killings. How people are okay with disparaging the significance of all these things is beyond me. Hotspot might as well just put up a poster saying ‘honour killing is okay, disrespecting women is okay and (by default) rape is okay and we find all of these things funny.’

2. These signs promote sexist jokes and send out wrong messages, no matter what the intention is

All of these signs belittle women (and in some cases, men). They show women as being some sort of idiots who constantly worry/talk about cooking, cleaning, children and men. They spend all their time talking on the phone or making shopping plans. They don’t contribute anything useful to the society. All they do is weigh themselves and cook. One of the signs shows a man telling a woman to keep talking while he takes a nap, implying that women have nothing of real significance to say – women’s opinions on world issues and politics and human rights do not matter. Even worse, it implies that women would never talk about such useful things. That woman on the phone is probably talking about kitchens or cooking. Another sign shows a girl asking her father what’s wrong with her and why she can’t find a man who loves her. Again, this is implying that the fault lies with her. If no man loves her, she’s doing something wrong. And she needs a man’s love to validate herself.

Then there are the signs that target men. Men have no feelings, men are not loyal and men should literally worship women and kiss their feet. Are these the kind of messages that we want to give to the youth?

Do we really find it funny that these signs show men and women constantly putting each other down?

3. Young, impressionable minds see these signs everyday

People who usually frequent the Hotspot café (i.e. the aforementioned brats and burgers) are teenagers and mere children. These youngsters have all these sexist messages reinforced in their minds constantly. How can we expect our girls to grow up to respect themselves if we teach them that if no man loves them, there must be something wrong with them? How can we expect our boys to respect women if we teach them that it’s better to take a nap than to hear what a woman has to say?

Countless studies have shown that exposure to sexist humour increases tolerance for violence and hostility. But we don’t need researches and studies telling us that – its common sense. These signs in Hotspot may not be as bad as other sexist jokes. But these are sexist jokes nonetheless, and sexist jokes are never okay. Sexist humour not only allows people to believe that sexist behaviour is acceptable – it also shows the deep-rooted misogyny and hatred in our society and how it has become a norm.

The intentions behind these jokes do not matter. There are certain things that are not meant to be joked about, no matter what.

And this is one of them.

All photos:

Tuba Sajjad

Tuba Sajjad

The author is a writer and an aspiring journalist with keen interest in politics, global affairs and social issues. She tweets at @tubasajjad (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Hassaan Khalid

    We as a nation are comedians.. if you haven’t notices then it means that you are not a very social person… Insult comedy, is a genre of comedy where performer insults someone, makes jokes about them among other things and this is a very common part of the Pakistani street Humor.Recommend

  • Baaghi

    Don’t wanna waste any time even processing the lack of intelligence manifest in the author’s thoughts and writing. But Express Tribune, can you please do a basic IQ screening before publishing nonsense from such juvenile writers??!Recommend

  • KahnaKacha

    In my opinion some of author’s comments/explanations just don’t make any sense at all. But I also understand that a blog has to be a certain length, so filler words are required, and that we are all entitled to our own opinions.Recommend

  • Majid

    Tuba, I see that you have tried to make a statement here but this is seriously not as big of a deal as you have shown it to be. I myself might be categorised as a “burger”, have lived abroad have my life but still do not understand why people can’t distinguish between satire and discriminatory speech. Most of these pictures are just plain funny – try to laugh a bit than over-analysing every moment :)Recommend

  • Zeeshan Dhanani

    Good article . Just an inquiry. Did the author boycott the local designers who advertise their product using women which are attractive? Isn’t that a message for young minds that this is the definition of beauty? Or the local products, from your dishwasher to your soaps, beauty creams, mobile phones and what not….showing fair and attractive women in the kitchen, in the car, with the kids, using these everyday products? Isn’t this a form sexism? Sexism is in our society, and a place like hotspot is a part of our society? why should they be any different. Is it wrong? Yes. Should people be highlighting it? Yes. Will it make a difference? I highly doubt it.Recommend

  • Tj

    90% men in Pakistan (if not 99) think that that is the sole purpose of a womans existance.. Cook, clean and take care of their children and ofcourse make the men happy. Men are nothing but that to them n yea, their intelligence, thoughts and contributions to the society dont matter at all. I dont think anybody pays much attention to these posters but education needs to start from home.Recommend

  • Critic

    Someone clearly doesn’t have a sense of humour.. Please find something better to write on if you really love writing so muchRecommend

  • Sami

    It is a good marketing tactic by them and they are winning as well. It is a private business and you cannot force them to act according to your whims. If you do not like these boards then do not visit. Also those parents who do not want their children to see this, then do not visit this place. Democratic world my friend.Recommend

  • JP

    YOU need help. Urgently. These Hotspot signs are American colloquialism, from the 50’s.
    Long gone era. They are dead.They are not even Pakistani. YOU are suppose
    to take them in stride. Not live your life by them. Nobody does. Only people who can read English can make head or tail out of them. They are nothing, COMPARED to what is STARING down your throat…What percentage can read English?
    Be glad you can still go to a ‘Hotspot’. Thank God for what little freedom YOU still have.
    YOUR neighbor, wants Sharia all over Pakistan. If he succeeds, YOU
    will be wearing a Burqa, Niqab, Hijab, every day. Mandatory. Like they do in Iran and Saudia. YOUR Prime Minister is a failed ameerul momineen. He is also the portege
    of Zia ul Haq. The scourge of Pakistan, Do you know what an ‘ameerul momineen ‘ is?
    Doubt it that you do.Recommend

  • Hamza

    Okay but admit that that “I am going to take a nap but you keep talking” sign was hilarious……. :D :D :D :DRecommend

  • Nauman

    Pathetic logic….why did you write this, there are actual instances of sexism and this is what you focus on????Recommend

  • ABC

    My GOD, the writer doesn’t even know what she is writing about. The breakfast and tea poster simply showed that women should not be associated with Kitchen. GOD save us from these wanna be analystsRecommend

  • Saqib Ali Rana

    The writer is an aspiring journalist, freedom of speech activist, amateur nuclear physicist who has plenty of time to rant about every damn thingRecommend

  • Hassan

    For anyone to qualify the basic IQ test screening one should endorse your views on a subject else he should be banned from publishing his articles, who r u to tell tribune what should or shoud not be published, its fair enough to disagree Recommend

  • roughcheck

    Why these blog pages hv become a mean of ventilation of personal catharsis??? especially if the doers are confuse desi “brats and burgers”
    Being ‘burger’ is one of the most “funny” and ‘unrewarding’ features of ones life..non organic and pseudo ..the confuse desis are attributed as poultry ke murghe murghian (there is no sexism involved) .

    We r living in a country where ppl are being cut into pieces, millions go to bed empty stomach and if any law & regulation rope in to catch the “criminal” that could be a poor young man hoisting indian flag trying to pay tribute to his fav. cricket and the latter end up facing 10 years jail and all the rest who stabs you, who swindle you out of your tax money are being freed and vindicated..So in the backdrop of this chaos, lawlessness and anarchy….who the hell would lend an ear to a half witted starlet complaining about sexism out of posters which were just funny and comprising of rib-trickling punchlines and squelches ?????


  • Ahad Khan

    Could not have written it better.Recommend

  • Ahad Khan

    Those are the women who would see off their children fully feed with lunch boxes to school before getting to their jobs at construction sites, restaurants, or factories, only to prove their point to men.Recommend

  • Sundae

    Super Sonic Super Fudge Sundae > SexismRecommend

  • Bhaktividenta Prabhoopaadaa

    You know what offensive is? Your diatribe. An Why did we have to subjected to this garbage? Recommend

  • MP

    You all need to calm down. All of a sudden, everyone is all ‘omg kids are dying, sharia all over pakistan, there are other issues’. Go take care of those issues if you care so much. Just because there are other issues does not mean you can’t discuss something that you think is important. I’m a psychologist and I know the affect of posters, advertisements and signs on the minds of people, ESPECIALLY children. So yes this is a valid article. The only reason I see people having a problem with this article is because she said ‘brats and burgers’. What she meant was the elite class I’m assuming because elite kids are usually the ones who go to hotspot and there is nothing wrong with that. Unless you’re one of them, I don’t know why you’re so hurt.Recommend

  • Jayho


  • critic.

    No one said you’re supposed to live your life with them. And oh trust me, people do take them seriously. I went to hotspot with my 5 year old cousin and she asked me the meaning of every single one of them. Some kids do pay attention. She understood some of them too like the ones that said men dont have any feelings or something along those lines. And everyone who goes to hotspot can read english. How is that even relevant?

    This is what you all do. When you don’t have anything concrete to say, you start talking about other issues in our country. Do something; next time you have an issue or you see something wrong happening in our society, stay silent because WHY COMPLAIN when there are so many other issues in the society like sharia, burqa, hijab, etc. Okay?Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Reasonable points but no match for the Chocolate brownie with homemade vanilla ice cream in front of me here at Karachi’s hotspot.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Yawn @ author.Recommend

  • Shah Muhammad Khan

    This author seems to be angry towards everyone, labelling all those who frequent Hotspot as burgers, brats, fries and what not. This entire post reeks of #FirstWorldProblems. Get out of your little bubble and seriously develop a sense of humour. Damn feminazis.Recommend

  • Nyda Mukhtar

    What made you think that the phone call one (I’m going to take a nap, etc) had a woman on the other end? Nowhere does it say that in the poster. Isn’t it sexist that your mind reached that conclusion?Recommend

  • Ali

    So you agree with the sexism and misogyny that so prevalent in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Ali

    You fail to realize Pakistanis take those ads literally because how sexist and misogynist the society is.Recommend

  • LS

    I fail to understand why these so called cafe’s have these signs on their walls from US depicting what used to be hip in maybe 1950’s or early 60’s? Oh I see they are fully clothed and the most of the contemporary ones aren’t?Recommend

  • Farooq

    what a lousy article…Recommend

  • Awais

    Madam problem will only be resolved when you will stop talking and writing immaterial stuff otherwise men will always keep on napping….. get a life and specially stop being scarred of cooking other wise when you go to office you will find man stalkers, perverts and abusive which is indeed really scary…Recommend

  • JP

    Did you even read the blog? The author was so miffed that she
    stopped going there. and had to break her promise, to re enter
    the establishment again. Getting back to your comment..
    5 year old cousin? Can read English? That’s barely Kindergarden!
    She was more interested in the writings on the walls? Then what
    she was going to eat? Or what she wanted to eat? Very unusual
    child. This 5 year old child’s stream of consciousness, understood
    and handled a complex concept such as ‘men don’t have feelings’?
    Very very unusual child. Indeed. Bright intellect.
    Might be a good idea to get her started on Quantum Physics and
    Organic chemistry. Throw in the Big Bang Theory, too. That relates
    to origins of the Universe. You know, the Edward Hawkins theory.Recommend

  • Asad


  • Laman Riaz

    What a reply to an absolutely useless article without any base whatsoeverRecommend

  • Zeeshan Dhanani

    Yes sir… I agree…but not only in Pakistan but across the globe…women are no lesser thn men …the issue is of selectively boycotting a business which is part of a society where sexism is a problem .Recommend

  • Rd px

    Every issue is important. If i am condemned to death i would still want the fan t0 work on my last night.Recommend

  • Angry

    What a boring and repetitive piece. Instead of providing some insight into the kind of conversation she wants to have the writer can only point to the obvious examples of someone else trying ot have a conversation and denigrating them. At this rate no one will ever be able to talk abut anything.Recommend

  • Ali

    Not getting your comment. You say you agree with the sexism and misogyny that is so prevalent in Pakistan? Or you think women are equal to men? Recommend

  • ryan lobo

    Focus on the degenerates who are ruining your country, the horrific abuse of minorities, the hypocrisy of some of your upper classes, the fundamentalists who could destroy your land and the double standards and tongue in cheek feminism these cartoons reveal that have gone way over your immature, secretly guilty head. ;-) and while you’re at it, aspiring journalist, I await your editorial criticizing the sexism you are really surrounded by, the murder of Christians, the stoning of women, honor killings, Section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code that make the death penalty mandatory for blasphemy and the treatment of Ahmadis in your country by both the establishment and the apathy of people like you.Recommend

  • ryan lobo

    Tuba, Your analysis is possibly one of the worst cases of ignorance I have ever seen. Actually, its so bad its almost good. Almost ;-)Recommend

  • ryan lobo

    Tuba. Please grow a sense of humour. I
    presume you’re young, with folks who might have helped you along the way
    so here’s a spot of advice. Focus on the degenerates who are actually ruining
    your country, the horrific abuse of minorities, the hypocrisy of some of
    your upper classes, the fundamentalists who could destroy your land and
    the double standards and tongue in cheek feminism these cartoons
    reveal that have gone way over your secretly guilty head. ;-)
    and while you’re at it, aspiring journalist, I await your editorial
    criticizing the sexism you are really surrounded by, the murder of
    Christians, the stoning of women, honor killings, Section 295-C of
    Pakistan’s penal code that make the death penalty mandatory for
    blasphemy and the treatment of Ahmadis in your country by both the
    establishment and the apathy of people.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Don’t waste your time. This is a hindu writing under
    a Muslim name.Recommend

  • Zeeshan Dhanani

    The two don’t have to exclusive Recommend

  • Zeeshan Dhanani

    Sir …. who is a Muslim and who is a Hindu … I don’t think the people writing here need you certification …. kindly preach your misguided and hateful views to someone who gives a damn ! Thank you .Recommend

  • haider

    Its all a part of western culture relating to humour. nothing serious… it’s only a chuckle.Recommend

  • G. Murphy Donovan

    Salute Tuba Sajjad. The tread that follows your essay underlines the misogyny of which you speak. The signs may be vintage, but the sentiments are all vintage burger South Aisa. Recommend

  • LS

    Hmm DC Comics might be cringing @ copy right violation?Recommend

  • LM

    Tuba! Hotspot ISB’s ice creams taste terrible…..this should have been your prime concern.Recommend

  • burubulus

    you are great but, you sould relax a little!Recommend

  • Awais ahmad

    The author depicted what we observed in our daily
    life. Realistically these views are deep rooted in our mind Unconsciously or unwillingly ,we commit sexism in our day to day life.Recommend