The Role of Media in Stereotyping women

Media is vital for society because it shapes the mind of people living in a society. So it is a responsibilty of media to break the stereotypes that exist in society by the effective use of medium. Media has an immense effect on people and it could help in bringing a change in society and stereotyped perceptions.Media plays a significant role in shaping a society where women and men enjoy equal rights. It is very unfortunate that Mass Media reproduce discriminatory stereotypes about women and portray them as commercial commodities promoting the sale of a product in a predominantly market oriented society or are shown in the traditional mould of a housewife, mother or a sister tending and maintaining a man’s home or at best fulfilling a subsidiary role to man.

‘Men look, women appear’, these words indicate that media were initially managed solely by men. The media images of men and women were customized to men’s preferences. Hence, the creation of images by media of both the gender as men wished to see in reality.

The sub-ordination of women in different human societies is a fact of history and unequal distribution or the lack of access among women to socio-economic conditions is a prime determinant in all societies. And, the concept of femininity and Masculanity are socio-cultural constructs rather than biological. So the representations and manifestations of femininity differ across culture, time and societies. This concept is cultivated by the society, education and largely, the media.

The depiction of women in media remained a means of cheap and popular entertainment devoid of any meaningful social purpose. The negative effect of such a situation is the depiction of vulgarity or excessive importance to female sexuality, be it relevant or not to the product.

The woman portrayal are always in black and white but not in various shades of grey that encompasses any issue including the woman. A woman either a Phoolan devi or Indira Nooyi in a news story. She is either Sita or an achiever to be fit to be in the media. Worse still, women are occassionally seen in clear contradiction or contra-indication to man where the interests of the two sexes  cannot be harmonised on issues like prohibition etc. why must prohibition be a woman’s issue so acutely and not just society as a whole is because of the essential flaw in understanding that a woman is traditionally more concerned about the economic well-being and welfare of her family and children than others. Why this portrayal of traditional mother-figure in a Durga mood? or so-called ‘special treatment’.

The ubiquitous way of looking at a woman especially in India still continues to be ‘manusmriti’ view. For instance, association with wicked people, separation from husband, rambling abroad and sleeping at unreasonable hours are facts to brand a woman ‘ruined’. Not only the representation and manifestation but the plight of women in media industries as an employ is also not very progressive. Till today women in such a mindset are considered fit only to write on subjects like cooking dress designing, fashion, religious matters etc. The employers, whether men or women very often are reluctant to employ women because of a general bias against them and due to a low perception of their capabilities. They discounted on the account of higher costs involved by waybof maternity leave, duty at odd hours, odd places etc. Also, the sexual innuendoes against women employees and hesitation of male colleagues to take instructions from women in such positions.

The special journals for women make the issues stand on their head. The acute and obtuse treatment of the subject becomes abominably boring or completely one-sided. And in the hands of campaigners, especially the foreign fund, guzzling NGO’s, the issue becomes wholly commercial. It is just a method to secure a jaunt abroad with many NGOs. Though, without doubt, there are exceptions.

Though the contemporary media increasingly associate femininity with independent and powerful women, qualities informed by sexuality continue to play a dominant role in the shaping of femininity. But, the long term change in women’s images in media could help change the perceptions and stereotypes women face in society.  Hence, with the emergence of technology and New media, the image and voicing of women and their concerns are also changing in a very revolutionary way. Today, an era of user-generated content where we are not only consuming the content but at the same time producing also and anyone man or woman can raise their voice by themselves. It has some negatives also as if we see closely in traditional media, it is possible to work with the leadership and staff to undergo training and achieve some results Whereas in Social Media the threats and offensive comments about women are much more sexist and patriarchal.

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