Depictions of Women in Media

Dec 18th, 2011 | By | Category: Dawn

Some of the most powerful messages we receive are not those stated directly, but the subtle influence of the examples we see around us. From the earliest age, we watch our parents to learn proper behaviour. As we grow older, we take from the examples of our friends and colleagues. In the modern era, there is another role model that shapes the norms of behaviour in society – mass media. When we see the way different groups are depicted and treated in the media, we internalise those attitudes and they become normal to us. For Dawn, Lahore based editor Bushra S offers an excellent examination of how depictions of women in media are shaping our attitudes towards women in society, and not for the better.

On human rights day, I caught gender expert Dr Fouzia Saeed’s interview on TV. At one point when Dr Saeed spoke about how more women were now joining workforce in Pakistan, the lady who was interviewing her chipped in: “magar phir bhi, barkat to aadmi ki kamayee mein hi hoti hai” (but still, it’s the man’s income which is blessed). After a second of stunned silence, Dr Saeed politely asked her to refrain from such superstitions and the lady laughed off the matter.

But it is nothing to joke about. How can we hope to substantively change Pakistani women’s status if our channels are allowing women with archaic ideas to control discussions on television?

It is about time we become pro-active and start giving these channels our feedback. Their ratings, and thus revenues, are dependant on us which makes us their customers. Next time you witness something which is derogatory to women, whether it is a comment on a show or a scene in a drama, take a few minutes to search the channel’s email/postal address and write them a stern letter. Let them know we expect quality entertainment with affirmative action to change this overwhelmingly prejudiced set-up and we won’t settle for anything less. This could be our small contribution to try and change “business as usual.”

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