Portrayal of Women in Indian Media

With the rapid technological advancement, the power and importance of mass media have been recognised. Mass media has acquired global dimensions. It is considered to be a reflection of our society. Many feminist writers in India have criticised the role of media in portraying women. The main point here is that Indian society is a male-dominated society and such dominance can be seen everywhere including media.[1]

Mass media is the vehicle used to inform as well as entertain the public. It is through media we get connected to the world. Women in the present society are considered as the ‘neglected half.’ They are far behind men in various aspects of life. Women empowerment is one of the major concerns in Indian society. For the development of women, it is very important to make sure they get proper channels so that they can raise their voices against the inequalities and the gender-gap they are experiencing in our male-dominated society. Communication through mass media can play a significant role in women empowerment. It can focus on various problems faced by women. The media must positively portray women.[2]

In media platforms, gender inequality can be seen. There was a report by the UN about Gender Inequality in Indian Media which stated that less than 5% of leadership positions across media companies are occupied by women. [3]

In the olden days, some argued that the representation of men and women in mass media is a reflection of the real world. But that is not true. Media nowadays reduce the space for the treatment of gender issues which is very much necessary for the development of women in our Indian society.  In the 21st century, we see that number of media journalists and administrators are comparatively lower than male counterparts. Women are considered weaker compared to men in media. They are either being ignored by media or being misrepresented with faulty information. [4]

Contents related to women are connected with entertainment and sexuality They are objectified day by day. Women are shown on the screen with fair skin tone and long silky hair as if there are no other skin tones. This is to attract more viewers.

Introduction of television had made a huge impact on society. Through various television channels, we could see that a woman is portrayed as a homemaker, a good wife and good mother to her kids. In most of the serials, men go to the office and women stay at home as they do not have any job at all.  [5]

Most of the channels run out of advertisements. It is considered to be an annoying factor for some people when watching good films. In India, women are mostly seen advertising for beauty products, sanitary pads, baby diapers and washing soap or powders whereas men are shown for advertising cars, watches, jobs and laptop companies. 75% of women are objectified in Indian media. Like serials, advertisements depict women in a glamorous manner. In most of the beauty products’ advertisements we see that if a woman wears, for example, Fair and Lovely, she could get a handsome guy. That means she should be fair to get that guy. Millions of girls fall into the habit of using such products many times to beautify themselves.[6]

In most of the Bollywood films, we see that women are used as sexual objects. They are seen to impress the audience by wiggling their hips during songs. Women in cinema start with an object of love and end in marriage. In most of the new generation movies, old heroes act with young heroines. They are seen singing and dancing together. [7]

Nowadays children are also brought up in the mindset that women are inferior to men. They take in information rapidly. Television influences a child’s growth. They learn from what they see.  When they are born at the hospital they mostly might have seen a male doctor assisted by a female nurse. Then they see the same thing while watching movies or cartoons. If the child frequently meets such a bias, this knowledge will be incorporated into the future.[8]

This continued projection of women in a negative way in mass media must be changed. ‘What’s the way forward?’ is the next question to be asked. First, the Government should promote an active and strong policy in addressing the issue of mobilization of the media. The non-governmental organizations and media professional associations can also help in solving this issue of gender discrimination in media. They should train women to make proper use of information technology for media. They should create strong networks between women’s organizations and professional media organizations so that the needs of women can be recognized through the media. The advertising organizations and mass media should establish codes of conduct that can address the issue of pornographic materials concerning women in media. There should be an increase in women’s participation in decision making at all levels of media. Equal sharing of family responsibilities should be shown through media campaigns. [9]

Role of media in women empowerment is an important factor. Media is one of the agents which transform men to commit violence against women in the form of rape, domestic violence and acid attack. It is considered as the Fourth Estate or Pillar of democracy. Media should introduce the new innovative and decent presentation of women based on Indian culture. Media should portray the success stories of renowned women despite degrading them. Widespread social awareness and strong legislative measures are needed to fight this menace.[10]

To conclude, the author shall quote the words of Sri. Swami Vivekananda

“There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing.”

[1] Ashima Ahmed Saik, “Representation of Women in Media with special reference to Indian women” (2017) (5) 1

[2] Dr Pranita Choudhary “Role of Media and Indecent Representation of Women” (2014) (19) 1 < http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol19-issue11/Version-8/H0191183336.pdf>

[3] Geetika Mantri, ‘Fewer women in Indian newsrooms, men do get serious news:’ The News Minute (2 August 2019)

[4] Ibrahim Altay, “Representation of women in India.” (Daily Sabah, March 19 2018) < https://www.dailysabah.com/readers-corner/2018/03/19/representation-of-women-in-media>

[5] Fareed Ahmad, “Representation of Women in TV and Films in India” (2014) (4) 1 < http://aditi.du.ac.in/uploads/econtent/women_and_media.pdf>

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] Susan “The influence of television on children’s gender role socialization.” <http://www2.lewisu.edu/~gazianjo/influence_of_television_on_child.htm>

[9] Tauffiqu Ahamad “Role of media in accelerating women empowerment” (Research Gate, February 2016) 

[10] Dr Pranita Choudhary (n 1) 

Samyukta P Menon from National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi

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