For decades, the representation of women across media platforms has been moving forward as a reinforcement of patriarchy. Different media vehicles, like print media, television, cinema, and digital media, have brought about a change in how we look at women. They have been stereotyping women as either sexual objects or traditional wives for years. It runs across different media platforms without much difference. Though in the past few years, there have been some changes in how the media portrays women. But there needs to be a drastic shift in the representation of women across the media.
From a very young age, most Indian households try to teach young girls that they have to remain coy and be prepared to move in with their in-laws. Indian media platforms, to a great extent, try to support the same narrative through advertisements and soap operas. However, there have been a few changes to it with the development of OTT platforms that present progressive content.
Let's look into some of the changes that the media has brought in the way we look at women!
Most Indians have an unrequited love affair with fair skin. We often tend to stereotype beauty based on physical attributes like fairness, bodily features, and body shapes. Media platforms and commercial industries try to endorse these beliefs. From advertisements that present fairness as the ultimate way of attaining success to the daily soaps and commercial movies, people tend to unconsciously reaffirm in the minds of the audience that 'fairness equals beauty.' Such beliefs cause problems in the way we look at women.
Indian television series are best to watch if someone is trying to adapt to the extreme form of an unrealistic world of "how women should be." Through their illogical plots, triple zoom techniques, and unbelievable storylines, they represent how a woman can reprogram herself to an ideal Bahu. They portray women as either modern women with no cultural values or coy, submissive, and traditional women. Through their representations, they try to present that a woman's place is her household, and she has to commit her life for the welfare of her family. However, there are a few television programs that try to bring a change to these types of portrayals.
There have been several studies on how movies try to present women as sexual objects. Objectification of women has been prevalent in the movie industry for a long time. The glamourization of certain female characters is a marketing strategy employed in the movies. However, there have been some movies like Queen, Kahaani, No one Killed Jessica, NH10, and other regional cinemas that deviate from the norm of presenting women as submissive or objects to gratify sexual desires. The commodification of women through mass media can harm how we look at women.
With the rapid growth of digital media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, there has been a drastic change in the way we perceive women. There are a plethora of pages on Instagram and Facebook that highlight the need for gender equality and empowering women. On the other hand, many accounts and pages try to defame, commodify, and stereotype women. They can create problems in the way in which people look at women. In the current decade, people rely mostly on the Internet and digital media. It is essential to bring about a shift in the types of content spreading across these platforms. Apart from that, many female influencers and women face cyberbullying regularly on the Internet.
In the current era of globalization, media platforms tend to focus on improving their commercial value. Not many try to value media ethics and endeavor to diverge from the archetypes. It is essential to take a step forward towards creating a space for representing women with integrity, equality, and liberty. Media plays a vital role in shaping us. The things we watch and read would unconsciously become a part of our attributes. It is necessary to present women and men as individuals with their personalities rather than focusing on drifting the gender gaps further apart. The media has brought a change in how we look at women. There is a change in a negative sense. So, how can we make it positive? How can we implement a change? How can we find quality content that does not distinguish people based on anything?
The questions are countless!
However, the answer is simple, as Arundathi Roy wrote, "change is one thing, acceptance is another."
Why don't we begin the change instead of waiting for acceptance?
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