Cake. Whether it’s the Great British Bake-off or Cake Boss, I’ve never really turned down any kind of cake. However, the Pakistani movie, Cake, is far from the sweet kind. Personally, I’ve never watched any South Asian movie or had much experiencing engaging with Pakistani culture. When introduced to this week’s viewing, I was unsure what to expect. Due to the unconventional storyline and the length of the movie, I found it quite difficult to keep up with the movie at first. 

Eventually, as the film progressed, I came across a few themes that I was familiar with through my own culture and others that were new. Predominantly, there was some focus on the expectation of Pakistani women and the attitudes of society. Additionally, there was a strong focus on the family unit and the responsibilities individuals have to their families, which reminds me of the concept of ‘filial piety’ that my own Vietnamese community value. 

Gender expectation and attitudes held by society
The societal attitudes held about gender expectations and roles was extremely evident throughout the film. This was showcased through the pressure that Zareen felt to fulfill her duty as the eldest daughter and take care of her family, rather than pursue her desire to move abroad and develop her professional career. Although she is encouraged by those around her to pursue her career, she feels like there is an obligation to stay behind and support her family properly. Throughout the film, I also empathised with both daughters when they are pressured by family and peers to have children. 

Cake Screenshot – (Netflix, 2018)

Within my own Vietnamese culture, the expectation for the women in the household to take care of their family and start their own is also present. In my own Vietnamese Australian community at present, there is an increasing number of women prioritising their career, however, many families still encourage their daughters to have children. For many women in Pakistan, this dilemma between their family and their career is also a reality with the wider family structure and social expectations being an obstacle for their career (Sarwar & Imran, 2019). In Pakistan, the patriarchal, conservative mainstream dismisses feminism as an idea from Western cultures that threaten existing social structures (Su, 2019). Women still occupy a subordinate status in Pakistani society and their freedom to make choices vary on the attitudes of her closest male relative or their family commitments (Evason, 2016). Whilst Cake still highlights the traditional attitudes of Pakistani society, it has still taken a step forward by introducing strong and dynamic female leads to pave the way. 

Responsibilities within the family  
Within my own culture, every family member has a particular role within the family and each of these roles has certain responsibilities. For example, the father is traditionally seen as the head of the household, and the eldest daughter is seen as the ‘third parent’ who emotionally supports the family at home. Throughout the film, I had found that these distinct roles were evident in the Pakistani household as well. In Cake, Zareen is often seen as the carer of the family and has sacrificed the most for her family. She is often seen taking the lead of organising family events, communication and gatherings.

As the eldest daughter in my family, I also empathised with Zareen, as it’s common for my older family members to call me first if something needs to be done for the family unit. Similar to older traditional Vietnamese families, Pakistani families are patriarchal and patrilineal, where the male is the head of the household, followed by the senior female and then the children (Evason, 2016). An impedance of care work within the family can likely be a result in role occupancy in Pakistani culture and household capacity, which creates role expectations for each gender within the family unit (Sawwar & Imran, 2019). Although these structures may seem outdated, the family unit is extremely important in Pakistani culture, and for many is the major reason for life satisfaction, which includes physical, financial, and social aspects (Ahmed et al, 2007).

Cake Screenshot – (Netflix, 2018)

Whilst many might find it easy to pursue professional endeavours and tell others to do so, it is evident that for many Pakistani women, the choice to do so is a difficult one. After analysing Cake and literary research, I have gained a better understanding of why women cannot easily pursue their professional desires, the social landscape of Pakistan and the Pakistani family structure.

Last Edit: 10:30pm 04/09/2020 (Edited: Added some links, linked photos and checked grammar)


References:

Ahmed, I, Ather, T, Fahd, Q & Waris, Q 2007, ‘Family Systems: Perceptions of elderly patients and their attendants presenting at a university hospital in Karachi, Pakistan’, Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, vol. 57, no. 2.

Burki, S & Ziring, L 2020, ‘Pakistan’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 28 August, accessed 20 August 2020, <https://www.britannica.com/place/Pakistan/Daily-life-and-social-customs>.

Datar, S 2019, ‘Cake Review: This Pakistani drama slices up past stereotypes to create a compelling tale’, The News Minute, 31 May, accessed 20 August 2020, <https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/cake-review-pakistani-drama-slices-past-stereotypes-create-compelling-tale-102767>.

Evason, N & Memon, I 2016, ‘Pakistani Culture’, SBS Australia, accessed 20 August 2020 <https://culturalatlas.sbs.com.au/pakistani-culture/pakistani-culture-family#pakistani-culture-family>.

Grunenfelder, J 2013, ‘Discourses of gender identities and gender roles in Pakistan: Women and non-domestic work in political representations’, University of Zurich, 3 June, accessed 21 August, <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277539513000861>.

IMDB, 2018, ‘Cake’, IMBD, accessed 21 August 2020, <https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7715988/>.

Netflix, 2018, Cake, screenshot, viewed 20 August 2020, <https://www.netflix.com/search?q=cake&jbv=81110389>.

Sarwar, A & Imran, M 2019, ‘Exploring Women’s Multi-Level Career Prospects in Pakistan: Barriers, Interventions, and Outcomes, Frontiers in Psychology, 19 June, accessed 20 August 2020, <https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01376/full>.

Su, A 2019, ‘The Rising Voices of Women in Pakistan’, National Geographic, 6 Feburary, accessed 20 August 2020, <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/02/the-rising-voices-of-women-in-pakistan/>.

Teon, A 2016, ‘Filial Piety in Chinese Culture’, The Greater China Journal, 14 March, accessed 21 August 2020, <https://china-journal.org/2016/03/14/filial-piety-in-chinese-culture/>.

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