Media Does not Provide Balanced Picture of Women
Throughout our lives, we are deeply influenced by the superfluity of things, which lie before us. From our surroundings, we soak up information like a sponge, and through observation, we pick up people’s behaviors and beliefs and incorporate them into our own way of thinking. Studies have proved that as young children, we have few predispositions in the way we interpret our environment. Instead, our impressionable minds are molded by what we see as the portrayal of our society. What children see are the physical and social norms that we have placed on human beings. From these norms they learn how to think about the world around them. The media is a powerful instrument the society’s perception, individual’s imagination because media is all pervasive; its functioning is very sensitive. The role of various media — Radio, television, films and the printed word, etc., –, therefore, have stretched far beyond the supply of information because of the outreach and technological sophistication. In effect this gives them the power to create reality. Media is shaped by existing social reality. By gradually shaping public opinion, personal beliefs and even people’s self perceptions, media influences the process of socialization and shapes ideology and thinking. Nonetheless, the power of creating media reality is concentrated in the hands of a few people and their biases and their profit motives operate in the creation of a reality, which is often distorted. If effectively used, however, the media plays a key role as a social constructor and representative of people. On the other hand, if unwisely used, it could be devastating. On the subject of women, for instance, media has been the venue of exploitation, and the giant instrument of women’s image distortion.The ways in which women are portrayed in media can affect how we think and feel about ourselves. Images presenting unrealistic beauty ideals, stereotyped gender roles, objectification and sexualization of women are all negative representations of women found throughout contemporary media. Media, on the subject of women, has been playing a devastating role; they have been marginalizing women. And this subject, at the present, has drawn the attention of media critiques Issues such as this arise especially when a society is going through a period of social change. A certain Indian researcher by the name Ms.Anusha Chopra has done a research on the ‘PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN PRINT MEDIA’ and has put it this way: Women have been portrayed by the media as men would like to see them beautiful creatures, submissive mothers of their children, efficient house keepers, but nothing else Women are the more obvious victims of the misuse of sexuality. Advertisements on television, the Internet, and in magazines all over the world use female sexuality to sell their products. Breasts, legs, and alluring faces sell beer, furniture, energy drinks, and even the woman’s sexuality itself.The positive sides of women’s progress and their contribution for national development have not been adequately discussed in the media of communication. The emphasis on stories about women, about their struggle for recognition is only the surface trimming. The actual message to audience still is that society opposes the liberation of women.Ms Chopra says that the image of the educated woman is typecast as arrogant, insensitive, self- centered, wily or the economically independent woman is shown as domineering, hard, ruthless and the cause of all the suffering around her. Perhaps the most damaging portrayal of women is in advertisements and commercials.Television has been called the most real form of media. It is the real representation of women in TV and it affects the mindset of those who watch the television, specially the negative and debasing image of women as represented through money-spinning advertisements and serials. The systematic oppressions of women by men is being projected by television. Many argue against the current trend of female TV characters opting to give up their career. A social activist comments, “No matter how television producers justify their stand, the fact remains that media influences women the most. All of us have a social responsibility. Since serial makers are ignoring theirs, it is up to the common people to raise their voice against the negative portrayal of women in the so-called family dramas.” Sex stereotype is also very much evident in television portrayal of men and women in their appointed roles.Especially in print media, the lack of gender sensitivity is evidenced in the failure to eliminate gender- based stereotyping. Generally, the media do not provide a balanced portrayal of women’s diverse lives and their contributions to society in a changing world, often reinforcing stereotyped images of women and their roles in society. It is a common practice to assess the professional success of a woman through questions and claims about her related to being a good mother and a wife. This is exactly the type of writing in the media that undermines the efforts of activists, who aim to establish gender equality in all areas of society. Ms. Anusha Chopra inserts that positive images of women have a narrow scope and are based on new stereotypes of women’s success: a pop star, a beauty queen, and a sport’s woman with an outstanding result. There is an absence of the image of an active, assertive workingwoman, of a successful businesswoman, or a positive image of a woman politician. Additionally, average women are nearly always portrayed as victims of poverty, social injustice, domestic violence, and organized crime. Misogyny in the form of rude jokes, mockery or open verbal aggression has become an accepted way of a systematic backlash against women activists working for women’spolitical empowerment or individual human rights.“Day after day we read and imbibe skewed images of womanhood in print and these images are incorporated and in our experience of living. Newspapers have a very important role to play in the society,” Chopra Says. Yet even here, when women achieve positive or even spectacular results, men find ways of undermining or ridiculing their success.Women’s image, therefore, has gone through several unjust projections at the hands of the media. Women are portrayed in stereotypical roles more visibly in magazines. Some of these stereotypical roles include women being as only sexual items, and submissive towards society especially men
Magazines contain primarily and predominantly volumes of advertisements and sexist writings, portraying women as consumers and slaves. Women Here again women are women journals on their part are mostly discriminatory and sexist — portray women as sex objects Video games are another subject of concern. Studies indicate that the film industry is seen as not only pandering to stereotypes, but also discriminating against older women in leading roles. The number of roles for leading women is far below that of men. Some popular video games even portray, and some say glorify, violence against women. This is not to mention the indecent posters and boardings displayed everywhere as the crude reminders of distorted images and attitudes to women. Most devastatingly, As The Indian writer Rana Gupta has indicated, the advertising world continues to use women to peddle its products and to present women as sexual object. The image of the educated woman is typecast as insensitive, self-centered and uncaring. The economically independent woman is shown as domineering and ruthless. The woman is considered ideal only when she is in her nurturing roles and as a supportive supplement to man. A recent UNESCO report describes the litany of common images of women in the media: “the glamorous sex kitten, the sainted mother, the devious witch, the hard-faced corporate and political climber.” The report, released in 2009, states that, at the current rate of progress on stereotyping women, it will take another 75 years to achieve gender equality in the media. It is , therefore, the time for a major shift in the way women are portrayed in the media. Its consequence, otherwise, would no doubt be detrimental. Ms. Chopra has put it: widespread consequence of distorted women portrayals does not only influence the social image of women but also their self-image. Most women are themselves uncritical consumers of anti-women media. Media affects their socialization process, it influences their choices regarding what they consume and wear, how they behave, what they learn, and to what they ultimately become.Media does not only help women and society to redefine their own and men’s roles; it has also ignores, even trivializes whatever attempts women have made to redefine their roles, to create alternative behavior pattern and life styles. By doing so, media has clearly discouraged the emergence of a new woman, a new man and a new relationship between them. Such a treatment of women by the media instead of reducing their isolation increases it further. Instead of empowering women, it weakens them. Women remain unheard, unrepresented and more ‘incommunicable’ than before. Moreover, the media, if persists this way, reinforces biases in development plans. It reinforces the conservative view of women and ignores their economic participation and contribution, especially that of rural women. All this means that media, instead of challenging the view that women are inferior, subservient, unimportant, reinforces it and it establishes man as the active force, the doer, the one who matters. The needs and concerns,the problems they face are not articulated publicly, no public thinking and debates are initiated on their real concerns. Because their concerns and interests remain unarticulated in the print, women also remain neglected.There is indeed a ‘symbolic annihilation’ the consequence of a combination of condemnation, trivialization and absence as far as communication support to women’s developments is concerned. Mass media have a social responsibility to promote well being of women in particular.The portrayal of woman in the media is, therefore, quite degrading more often than not depicting her as commercial commodity. It is necessary that public should be motivated and sensitized to the issue of criminalization, politicization, and commercialization of women vis-à-vis their projection in the media in a healthy manner.In order to enhance the status and position of women in society the information messages should portray women in career oriented, leading roles and in a holistic image. On the other hand, women must resist being sold in this manner and it is time they took the power of this medium in their own hands to create truth in their idiom or the pressures of the mass market will make their struggle for change increasingly difficult. The sex-class bias simply conceals women.Ms. Chopra is right to say: “As we unite to struggle against sex oppression, we must struggle too for equal space in the media. We must make media work for us and not against us.”
The cumulative and unconscious impact of these media messages, or lack thereof, can very often worsen gender discrimination. In general the lesson girls learn from this is that they’re not encouraged to speak up or speak out or take up leadership roles. The mass media could exercise significant influence in helping to remove such prejudice and promote processes as equal partners. Clearly,themediadoesnotprovide a balanced picture of women’s diverse lives and contributions to society in a changing world. Much remains to be done with regard to the “participation, portrayal and access of women to the media and its impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women”. However for media to promote balanced and non- stereotype portrayal of women in their multiple roles, it is imperative that government, media, NGOs and private sector should come together and forge joint strategies to promote gender equality and gender justice.