Common female stereotypes found in the media have a powerful influence over how society views women and how women view themselves. What is the media portrayal of women today and how does this impact how young girls perceive themselves? With programs such as The Bachelor and Flavor of Love showing a dozen women competing for the attention of one man, often using their sexuality, magazine ads displaying a half-naked female body to sell a fragrance or cosmetic product, and television commercials highlighting a woman’s thigh and butt to sell sneakers, it may be difficult for society not to be influenced by the overwhelming message to objectify women.
Negative Female Stereotypes
Female stereotypes in the media tend to undervalue women as a whole, and diminish them to sexual objects and passive human beings. According to research done by Children Now, a national organization trying to make children a public priority, 38% of female characters found in video games are wearing revealing clothing, 23% are showing cleavage. Magazine ads show a dismembered female body, with parts, instead of the whole, a practice that according to media activist, Jean Kilbourne, turns women into objects. Disney movies, from Beauty and The Beast to Aladdin show slender, unrealistically curvaceous, and quite vulnerable young women, who are dependent on male figures for strength and survival, not their own sense of empowerment. Media stereotyping of women as objects and helpless beings creates very low expectation for society’s girls.
When a woman is in a position of power, such as the rare female boss portrayed in The Proposal with Sandra Bullock, or Disclosure with Demi Moore, she tends to be a cold-hearted, detached career woman with sociopathic tendencies. This sends the message that a powerful woman sacrifices a healthy relationship, family, and possibly even her sanity to be extremely successful at her career. For the young girl who dreams to run a company, or become a famous journalist, astronaut, or scientist, the media does not provide enough models for her to look to for encouragement and inspiration.
Positive Female Stereotypes
Despite the many negative female stereotypes found in movies, television, and advertisements, there are positive examples of intelligent, empowered young girls and women as well. These characters can serve as role models for girls who are looking for female characters to exemplify. Lisa Simpson from the popular cartoon sitcom, The Simpsons is a classic example of a positive female stereotype. An intelligent and gifted girl, this character thinks for herself and sticks to her ideals, traits that young girls should be able to find in the media. In the TV series Doctor Who, The Eleventh Doctor is accompanied by two female characters, Amy Pond and River Song, through space and time.
They portray themselves as highly intelligent and display emotionally strong traits such as the ability to overcome traumatic events, strong sense of self-preservation, resourcefulness and faith in their own strength. Dora the Explorer is an inquisitive, adventurous young seven-year old girl, who is not only a positive female character, but one of the few minority heroes or heroines of children’s television. A conscious effort on the part of the media can offer much to the dreams and self-worth of society’s girls
How the Media’s Portrayal of Women Impacts Girls
The media’s portrayal of women affects the self-image of girls dramatically. Concepts of beauty and personality are found in movies, magazines, and video games; as long as there are enough positive examples, young girls can be free to be themselves. When there are not, the pressure is to be thin, physically attractive, and pleasing in order to be likable and popular. According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, studies have found that the media’s focus on body image and submissive female stereotypes has affected children’s thinking. For example, in television comedies it was found that thin women were both praised more and less likely to be made fun of by male characters. In commercials directed at young girls, half mentioned physical attractiveness. As a result of these and other similar trends, both boys and girls describe female characters as “domestic, interested in boys, and concerned with appearances.”
Both young girls and teenagers are increasingly concerned with their weight and unhappy with their bodies. Stereotypes in the media inevitably affect our culture, especially the young. As Susan Fiske, professor of Psychology at Princeton University and researcher of stereotyping and discrimination, says, “stereotyping exerts control or power over people, pressuring them to conform; therefore, stereotyping maintains the status quo.” To help combat the influence of negative female stereotypes in the media, and therefore help not only girls, but all of society transcend these limiting expectations, it is important to expose our children to positive role models and to let young girls know just how amazing they are and always will be.
“Media and Girls.” (Media Awareness Network).
“Sex and Relationships in the Media.” (Media Awareness Network). Durik, Amanda and Janet Shibley Hyde. “Psychology of Women and Gender in the 21st Century.” (University of Wisconsin). “Media’s Effect on Girls: Body Image and Gender Identity.” (National Institute on Media and the Family). The role of media is crucial to the issue of violence against women, both in terms of how media cover (and often distort) the issue, and how media may be used as a tool to help activists and governments raise awareness and implement programs on this issue, according to Rina Jimenez David, a long-time journalist and women’s rights activist from the Philippines. Rina, who was interviewed by María Suárez on FIRE’s first Internet Broadcast at the Beijing +5 women’s conference in New York writes a column called “At Large” for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and is an activist and national chair of a women’s political party called “Philipinas Advance.”
“Many women have said that the media coverage (of rape or other violence) was like a second assault all over again, because of their insensitivity in using pictures, publishing names, and other violations of privacy,” said Rina. “And the way they portray violence reinforces stereotypes, when they focus on the appearance of the victims, especially if they are young, attractive, or are questioning the way they were dressed.” FIRE is producing live daily Webcasts June 4-9 in New York during the UN Special Session of the Beijing +5 Conference on Women, which has attracted over 10,000 women activists, journalists and government delegates. The daily programs in Spanish and English focus on the role of media in relation to each of the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action.
The first program focused on violence against women. In addition to describing how media tend to portray women who are victims of violence, Rina talked about her efforts as an activist to raise awareness of this issue among journalists, especially those of the younger generation. Specifically, Rina described a series of workshops conducted by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in the Philippines. The 3-day session included a gender sensitivity workshop, and also talks by women activists on issues of concern to women, including one by Rina about violence against women. “I believe we really reached about 400 journalists,” said Rina, “because at the end we asked them about the impact, and the men especially had their eyes opened to the situation of women, and said they were going to try and be more sensitive.” Rina noted that the young journalists seemed to be the most receptive to these ideas.
During the live FIRE Webcast, Rina also noted how critical it was to have violence against women recognized as a violation of women’s human rights at the U.N. World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. The Beijing Platform for Action, now being discussed at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly recognizes more forms of violence. “In the past it was only military rape and state torture (that were recognized), whereas the Beijing Platform for Action was a landmark by including domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment.” Before 1995, such violations against women “were often not recognized due to culture or tradition.” Rina described new laws and actions related to violence against women in countries in the Asian Pacific region, which have been enacted since the IV World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995, when governments committed themselves to implementing the Platform for Action .
For example, in Japan, there was not even a term for “sexual harassment” in the language, whereas recently legislation was passed there to prohibit this violation of women’s human rights. Likewise, Rina noted that in the Philippines there is a new sexual harassment law, although it is somewhat narrow, and a domestic violence bill is pending in Parliament. Rina noted that a big accomplishment of the UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 was to have “fundamental rights” of a person recognized, regardless of country or culture, which opened the door for the recognition of women’s rights as universal human rights. “It was only recently those women’s rights as human rights were recognized,” said Rina, whereas in the past many of these rights such as violence against women “were violated with impunity under the guise of culture and religion.” Women in media in the Philippines: from stereotype to liberation.
The success of women in the Philippine print and electronic media is contrasted with the negative image in which they are presented in mass media such as television, radio, comics, tabloids and magazines. Philippine women began entering journalism early in the century, becoming established in the female oriented press by the 1960s. As the repression of the Marcos regime intensified, women journalists excelled in writing vanguard pieces, using allusion, allegory, indirection or metaphor, interviewing prisoners, founding alternative newspapers and even initiating the successful boycott of the 3 major crony papers when Aquino was killed.
The participation of women in television journalism is parallel, but more limited due to the nature of the medium. Women’s cultural role as multi-track organizers of family, finance and work is credited for this success. Dozens of names with titles and paper names are cited, as well as tabulated in an appendix. In contrast, women’s image in the popular publications and electronic media is that of sex object, victim, ideal submissive wife-mother, or gracious lady shows little evidence of improving. This deleterious, backward and inaccurate image is likely due to all-male ownership, management and profit motive of these popular, vernacular mass media. —
The pressure on women to look and behave in certain ways is deeply ingrained into our culture. It is often easy to overlook the impact that culture has on how we feel about ourselves and bodies. Watching TV, reading magazines, newspapers, or surfing the internet it is all we see are airbrushed images of perfect bodies of women. Images of female bodies are everywhere. Women and their body parts sell everything from food to cars. As humans we absorb relentless message that beauty is the norm and the standards of beauty are being imposed on women. April 30, Monday — “Muslim Women in the New York Times 1980-2011: Liberalism, Feminism and Racism,” is a conference looking at examples of articles, photography and headlines in The New York Times that portray Muslim women in stereotypical and negative ways. Research will be presented by professors, doctoral students and recent graduates of the University of California, Davis.
A complete conference schedule is available at: http://sjoseph.ucdavis.edu/media-project/muslim-women-in-the-new-york-times-1980-2011-liberalism-feminism-and-racism. This event is free and open to the public. UC Davis Conference Center, Ballroom A (across from the Mondavi Center) on the UC Davis campus. Suad Joseph, founding director of the UC Davis Middle East/South Asia Studies Program and a professor of anthropology and women and gender studies, graduate students and recent graduates counted by hand and used computer-generated word counts of key words used in articles about Arab and Muslim Americans.
They found systematic misrepresentation of Arabs, Arab Americans, Muslim Americans and Islam. The misrepresentation focused on Muslim women and the “veil.” The conference is co-sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Anthropology, Middle East/South Asia Studies Program and the Women and Gender Studies Program. The project is funded by the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, UC Berkeley. The center was founded in 2001 to better apply technologies to research throughout the UC system. Funding also was provided by the University of California Center for New Racial Studies (a multicampus, interdisciplinary program). The portrayal of women in Asian scary movies
The shift away from the “submissive, helpless, damsel in distress” character in scary movies is beginning to take place across the globe as well. Trencansky talks about how women are beginning to be portrayed as stronger more dominant characters that aggressively fight against whoever is haunting them instead of waiting for a man to save her. Two Asian movies, Shutter (which was adapted into an American film) and Alone embody dominant female characters, just like in Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Shutter was about a couple who notice that strange images keep appearing in the pictures that they take; the main female character determinedly goes on a discovery to find out what these strange images mean and comes to discover that it is actually the image of a ghost. After a lot of digging, she finds out that the ghost who is haunting them is a girl that her husband and some of his friends had harassed and murdered a few years ago. This woman is a portrayal of the “Final Girl” who actively solves the problem and prevents this ghost from further haunting them. She is clearly a female who has “refused her assigned subordinate role” (68) by leaving her husband after she realizes what he has done and he is sent away to a mental institute. The woman who is haunting them, however, embodies a more submissive role as she is subject to harassment by three strong men. She comes back to haunt them because of this, proving that ghosts are psychologically disturbed. Women and the media in South Asia.
This article gives a brief overview of women’s access to journalism and communication training, status of women in the media, their needs for development of skills, and portrayal of women in the media, in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. 5 authors from those countries contributed sections subdivided into each of these subheadings. In India, women have access to training, but their positions in the media are limited. They are often falsely stereotyped, sensationalized or exploited, or totally absent. In Sri Lanka, however, women are closer to being equal to men, in terms of training, hiring and employment, although they tend to work in women’s periodicals. Women are shown in most of the advertisements, and are generally portrayed as perpetually in pursuit of glamour, food, clothes and cosmetics.
Media in Nepal are comparatively new; for example, television is only 1 year old. Therefore, opportunities for women are few, and men dominate the hierarchy. Women are portrayed in the media negatively or sensationally, and used extensively in commercials. Women’s position in Pakistan is limited in the cities by purdah and in rural areas by the feudal heritage, in which women are chattel. A minority of women are enrolled in journalism schools employed in the media: those are excelling. Women are often idealized, abused or caricatured as interested only in consumption. Women have recently entered the journalism profession in Bangladesh, now totalling 24 women. Mores do not permit women to work at night or on outside assignments. The media are liberal in Bangladesh, airing news about dowry abuse and female oppression openly. In most of the countries, women tend to work only until marriage, or afterward are limited by domestic duties. —
The Unrealistic Portrayal of Women in the Media: Beauty and Body
There are many levels of influence in our society and media plays a major role in dispensing influential images to us. Media comes in many forms, television, radio, newspapers, movies, and advertisements. The media is so intertwined in our lives that we do not truly comprehend on a conscious level how much influence it really has over us. Some of the images and messages we see and hear can be both positive and negative. More often than not, we are exposed to images that are so unrealistic and unattainable by the average person that we become discontented with our lives and ourselves. Images of luxury homes, cars, glamorous clothes, and glamorous body images make us more self-conscious of how we live and how we look. Based on the above observations and the information I have researched on this topic, the media has an incredible influence over the perceptions we have of ourselves. Historically, women have been more susceptible to stereotyping and marginalization than men. The history of a woman’s ‘usefulness’ basically began with being a sexual plaything, a mother, and a caretaker.
Prior to the 20th century, men saw women as people without a voice, caretakers of the family, or just objects of sexual desire. Although we have recognized the many talents of women through the decades of the past century, we still have much further to evolve in our thinking. I believe most women would like to be thought of as equals in our society, but we are too preoccupied with them being sexual objects. Advertisements have women selling everything from food to cars. We continue to see that women are the focus of most advertisements and the biggest selling point for the product being sold. At the same time, men continue to be the strong, handsome leader in both our families and our society as portrayed in the media images. Although there have been many strides, the stereotypes have remained consistent whereas the women are the sexual objects and the men are the decision makers in our society. There has been a consistent theme throughout the centuries where women have been thought of as the ‘lesser’ sex. They have always been thought to have lesser intelligence than men do.
It was only in the early 1900’s that women were able to have a voice in our political elections with the right to vote. Unfortunately, the marginalization of women continues but is being exploited through a different venue – the media. The images portrayed in the past 30 years especially have been promoting the use of diets, exercise, and cosmetics for women to look and feel young. Aging, especially for women, has become a negative in our society. The media has perpetuated a society of unattainable goals for most women. The media industry as a whole is a multibillion dollar industry, and the fact that women are constantly being told that they need to look better, feeds into the bottom line of these industries selling the perfect image. It is a lose-lose situation for the American female. While women spend endless dollars on trying to perfect themselves, the companies that create the fantasy of the ideal female body, just keep getting richer. I believe women should be accepted for whom and what they are without trying to fit into some ideal that a male dominated corporation has created to expand their profit margins.
Unfortunately, we as a society have bought into what the media have been selling and there seems to be no turning back. By focusing on the issues that have arisen from these media images and damage it has caused our female population, in particular our youth, it helps us learn about ourselves as a society and as a human race. This helps us to understand our expectations for one another, in a society where looks and image have become the most important part of the human existence. In learning about ourselves and examining these expectations, we examine the flaws within the society we have developed. We are all responsible for the effect that the media has on our young people, because not enough is being done to deter the false images that are being portrayed. Women more often than men are expected to live up to these media images of perfection. There are more diet ads for women than men both on television and in magazines.
Celebrities are even contributing to the false images we see and hear by participating in makeup and diet advertising. We need to be more aware of the media messages being absorbed by our society with regard to body image. Unfortunately, as long as people are buying, the corporations will continue to sell their ideal body images to the public. We need to take a hard look at the fact that we, as a society, are enabling these corporations to dictate the ideal female image by buying into their perceptions. This leads to a female youth that is dissatisfied with her body, has low self-esteem, and in some cases develop eating disorders. We continue to walk a very dangerous path in our culture, where the female youth are the most vulnerable in defining their self-image and self-worth.
These images of thinness continue to represent what the masses prefer to see when viewing television and magazine advertisements. This is what the advertisers claim sells products and so far it seems to work. If we could start thinking about what is reality as a collective society, then maybe we can also accept that reality without constantly trying to change it. These types of media images only perpetuate more insecurity as opposed to positive images about oneself. We need to accept people for how they look, no matter what they look like without trying to live up to some unrealistic image in the media. —
Portrayal or Betrayal? How the media depicts women and girls NEW YORK – When Jan Floyd-Douglass decided to buy a new car, she bypassed suitable models from many different companies – and then wrote to tell them why. “I wrote to eight manufacturers saying, ‘I love your car but I didn’t buy it because I don’t like your advertisements because they demean women,'” said Ms. Floyd-Douglass. She told the story during a panel discussion titled “Portrayal or Betrayal: How the Media Depicts Women and Girls,” which was held 3 March 2010 at the UN offices of the Bahá’í International Community. The event was one of dozens of side events planned in conjunction with the annual session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, held 1-12 March 2010, which this year examined progress made for women since the 1995 Beijing conference. As a contribution to this theme, the panel sought to consider how images in the media – whether television, movies, or advertising – affect the way women are perceived and treated.
Ms. Floyd-Douglass was joined by Michael Karlberg, an associate professor of communications at Western Washington University, and Sarah Kasule of the Mother’s Union in Uganda. The panel was moderated by Baroness Joyce Could, chair of the UK Women’s National Commission. Baroness Gould opened by noting that several recent studies have shown that images that objectify or demean women are now more widely used in the media than ever. Moreover, she said, those studies show that such “sexualized” images have an unhealthy impact on the psychological development of young girls – and on young boys. “It gives a very disturbing perception to girls and young women,” she said. “For girls, it is about being told they need to be more attractive to men. And for boys, it is about looking upon girls as sexual objects.” Dr. Karlberg said this trend in the media is a result of both individual choices and institutional forces.
“On one hand,” he said, “people everywhere are choosing to consume media that feeds base appetites that we have inherited from our animal nature. On the other hand, media institutions have been constructed in ways that purposefully stimulate, reinforce, and exploit these base appetites.” The result, he said, is a “feedback cycle” that has created a media environment that is “unjust, unhealthy, and unsustainable.” Dr. Karlberg said efforts to address the problem must consider the structure of media institutions. “The assumption is that the media is just another commodity,” he said. “But the media is not just another commodity. It is a process that facilitates democratic deliberations. It is a process that creates culture.” Part of the problem, he said, is that the media’s real product is not content but the delivery of an audience to advertisers. The result is that the media strives to manufacture audiences in the cheapest way possible.
Media junk food
“The cheapest way to manufacture audience is through a high sex, high violence, high conflict content. It doesn’t take talent or research or investigative journalism. Yet it stimulates the appetites, much the same way that a high salt, high sugar, and high fat junk food diet does.” Dr. Karlberg, who is a Bahá’í, also discussed efforts the Bahá’í community has undertaken to offer moral education for children and young people, which he said can help to counter the ill effects of exposure to sexualized or violent images. “Bahá’ís, like people everywhere, are struggling to raise and educate children,” he said. “They are trying to do this in a way that cultivates their inherent nobility, that releases their spiritual potential, and that helps them recognize the deep sources of purpose, meaning, and happiness in life. “Such spiritual education can be a very important factor in making children less susceptible to messages in their media environment. It is also a very important factor in making children more likely to make thoughtful choices about media consumption as they grow older,” said Dr. Karlberg.
Ms. Floyd-Douglass said she considered her effort to write to various automobile manufacturers that use sexualized images of women in their advertising as one among many weapons in the battle against the problem of such images. Like the other panellists, she noted that such images are so commonplace as to seem innocuous. Parents, she said, should explain the existence of such images to their children – and make efforts to counter their harmful effects. “We have to question stereotypes in the media. We have to laugh at them. “My message is, if we don’t actually do anything about this, we are complicit in it,” she said. Ms. Kasule said the problem is not confined to western countries.
“In the African context, much of the time, the way women are depicted in the media is quite negative,” she said. “They are depicted as symbols of sex. Or as something to do with making men comfortable, or giving care.” There are some counter trends to the problem, she added. She described a national television project in Uganda that gives free air time for women to talk about things that matter to them and noted that educational levels for women and girls are rising. “There are many programs for girls to read and write. This is important because they will be able to access information, to access media reports, and then they can respond,” said Ms. Kasule. Media Portrayal of Women is Harmful
BY CAITLIN CARTER
The media’s portrayal of women and men is harmful to everyone, and college students are not exempt. Women are the more obvious victims of the misuse of sexuality. Advertisements on television, the Internet, and in magazines all over America use female sexuality to sell their products. Breasts, legs, and alluring faces sell beer, furniture, energy drinks, and even the woman’s sexuality itself. Women in sitcoms and reality television shows, such as “America’s Next Top Model,” represent a body type that very few women possess. According to the documentary “Killing Us Softly,” the average person spends three years of their life watching television commercials. Still, many people view themselves as unaffected. We see the effects every day. Recently, Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer underwent a “makeover,” from average child to sexed-up preteen.
Have you noticed that within our lifetime, music videos have become more and more like cheap porn? Young adults reading Cosmopolitan or Seventeen may think they’re just learning about work-outs and skin care, but the subliminal message remains: meet this standard, or constantly be less than what you should be. This urgency is clearly evident in the ever-rising rates of eating disorders, and the level of naivety and interest in them. Tons of feminists give lectures, write books, and make movies on the effect of female sexuality on women, but the topic of how the male sex in the media effects men is often blatantly ignored. Of course, the presence of women in the media is dominant, but this does not mean that sexualized men do not exist, nor that men don’t feel the pressure.
Ever heard a friend voice a deep concern over his scrawniness? Have you been to Goolrick and seen the hordes of men lifting weights on any given day? Men see the huge Abercrombie ads, with almost naked, sweaty, built men – and they also see women drooling over them; just as women see men with Sports Illustrated calendars. As college students, many feel the pressure to look better than their best every time they go out on the weekend, and even when they’re only going to class, or to the Nest for a late-night snack. Although the media seems to be spiralling out of control, there is one thing that we can control: how much we internalize the messages it feeds us. Generate conversations with your family, your friends, co-workers or classmates.
By simply raising the awareness of ourselves and others, we can realize that the image of the “ideal” woman or man is nearly impossible to achieve. If no one is immune to this never-ending craze for perfection and if everyone feels the pressures and angst to fit the desired role, is it really right for us to judge one another on the very issues we worry about ourselves? We can build each other up higher than these images can tear us down- a compliment goes a long way. Caitlin Carter is a junior.
Women And Negative Stereotypes:
An End Before A Start
By Divya Bhargava
06 July, 2009
We may be reluctant to believe that discrimination against individuals because of their sex, race, age, sexual orientation or health status still exist in institutions in most countries. We also may not want to accept the fact that sexual violence is common in all culture, that women are victims of rape, battering and sexual harassment each day, despite legislation prohibiting such violence, common policing, workplace policies, counselling and training programs exist. Yet this is the reality for most women. The fact that individuals are likely to think of man when they hear a word surgeon illustrates how we all hold beliefs, attitudes, the stereotype that influence our perception of the world around us. Which sex do you associate with elementary school teacher? With model? With engineer?
Most individuals still indicates that elementary school teachers are female, models are female, and engineers are male. Individuals also mark the occupation if they believe the sex of the person performing this job is typical. Stereotypes refer to individuals cognitions that typically do not correspond to reality. A stereotype is a picture in the head not an accurate mirror of the real world. Stereotypes occur when individuals are classifieds by others as having something in common because they are members of a particular group or category of people. Gender stereotypes are a psychological process which illustrates structured sets of beliefs about the personal attributes of men and women.
An awareness of the contents of gender role stereotypes begins in the preschool years and is rather well-developed by the time children enter first grade. Parents are among the more important socializing agents for children in shaping values, beliefs and behaviours related to gender. Furthermore knowing the sex of the baby conjures up all kinds of personality characteristics and physical attributes even when these factors are not present in the child. Parents communicate their stereotypes to children in numerous ways. Boys are given building blocks, sports equipment and model vehicles. Girls, on the other hand, are encouraged to play with dolls, dolls houses and miniature household appliances.
Cultural images of women:-
Culture ideas, symbols, norms and values play a significant role in the creation of women images and the differentiation of gender roles. The purpose of the present article is to understand the images of femininity in Indian society from ancient to modern times. India, a heterogeneous society, presents conflicting women images. The normative model image of Indian womanhood has displayed remarkable consistency. Images of women have not remained static and have undergone numerous changes. However, certain basic models have widespread acceptance. Various cultural images of women:- Pativrata- unconditional devotion to husband, Glorified Motherhood, Bharat Mata Image. First at the societal plane, the perception of different categories of women is distinctly shaped/conditioned by the popularly accepted female images/stereotypes.
Secondly, at the interpersonal level within the family situation, these images frequently impinge in a variety of ways. Indian girls grow up with deep rooted sense of fear and insecurity which not only restricts their social mobility in the mundane day to day life but also often psychologically cripples them to face the hardships of life in general and resist gender based discrimination in particular. These gender dichotomies, flowing almost directly from the popular images fostered most significantly, these images in most Indian families. Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, these images leave a deep imprint upon women’s self-perception.
Women in Advertisement:-
Advertising has been a prime target of attack and scrutiny. The basic explanation for the critical focus on sex role portrayal in advertising lies in the close relationship, which exists between advertising, the consumer goods industry and the crucial economic role of women as consumers. Generally it is shown in advertisement a woman’s goal in life is to attract and attain a man:-women are shown in advertising as always young and attractive. They are frequently depicted as sexual objects. Women in advertisements are restricted to the home and isolated from other women outside home, man is her favourite companion. Domesticity is the second role of two dimensional image of femininity in advertising.
Sex Stereotyping in the Media:-
Far more dangerous than the overtly obscene advertisements are the sexual stereotypes that are found in different media. The Indian version of sex stereotyping would have all women behaving like mythological sita and savitri- docile, submissive, sacrificing, sentimental, superstitious, and incapable of rational action, their primary duty being wives, companions and devoted mothers. Films are the largest disseminators of stereotyped images. They have a package formula for women: the latter are shown as traditional, truly Indian women, who are devoted, son producing wives etc. so far women’s protests and criticisms have not had much effect on the commercial Hindi film industry.
Television also perpetuates sex stereotypes. In it’s a woman’s world all that has happened is that the traditional sitas and savitris have given way gracefully to an alien creature who is new role model for the Indian woman who has the best of both worlds, is economically independent, progressive, ambitious and very very feminine. What is being peddled here is grotesque caricatured western lifestyle which is quite far removed from the average Indian woman’s struggle to survive totally negating and never questioning her reality. Even though 60% of women are involved in agriculture, radio programmes for the rural areas are only directed to men. Women’s programmes almost never discuss technology, banking facilities, new laws or any such issues.
Consequences of Negative Stereotype and sexism for the individual:-
Society suppresses the choices of males and females through cultural tyranny. The socialization process forces males and females into behavioural modes, personality characteristics, and occupational roles deemed appropriate by society. Most important, these constraints bring about system that is biased in favour of males. Men have the opportunity to develop their talents while women may only within a severely limited range. The consequences are as follows:- Relative Powerlessness of Women, Limited Range of Occupations for Women, Loss of Academic Potential for Women, Lack of Respect for Women’s Abilities, Low Self-esteem among Women, Trials of the Aging Women.
Research interests in women have not only gained momentum since, 1970, but the stance and areas of researches have also significantly changed. Women’s position has worsened considerably in almost every sphere with the exception of some gains in education and employment for middle class women. What is worst, there has been growing violence against women. Women’s studies can be classified into 5 broad categories:- Studies on Women’s Problems, Studies on Changing Status of Women, Studies on Different Aspects of Women’s Life, Studies on Women’s Organization and Movements in India, Studies on Conceptual, Ideological and Methodological Issue Involved in Research on Women. Given the various waves of women’s studies, it would be in order to demonstrate the specific concerned of researchers in social, economic and political dimensions. In the social dimension, a large numbers of factors were emphasized as the cause of women’s subordination and low status in society.
The marriage and family found utmost attention, for; the private sphere has been considered as one of the root causes of women’s problems. The abhorrent customs that attracted attention of scholars are infanticide, prostitution, purdah, dowry and divorce. These studies examined the legislations made towards eradication of these evils and highlighted their shortcomings in tackling the problems. Education of women is another popular theme, studies directed towards the status of rural women’s education- both formal and non-formal, revealed very disturbing trends. The illiteracy is more rampant among women than among men. The women have been prey to various constraints in pursuing their education, for, many girls act as surrogate mothers, share household responsibilities at an early age, assume other sex roles, and confront parent’s apathy or reluctance resulting in drop out of many girls from schools.
While it was expected that education will give more employment to women, it is creating more unemployment among married women graduates as compared to women as a whole. Without providing any alternative, women’s education was found eroding the traditional parental ties. Health problems of women are another area which attracted attention of scholars. The studies reported the poor health condition of women due to poor access to health services and lack of nutritional diet. In the economic dimension, three themes have attracted attention of scholars; women’s employment, their participation in development, and impact of technology on them. In the political dimension it has been summarized that women suffer from powerlessness.
Women laws in India:-
1. Constitution of India 1950
2. Penal Laws
3. Family Laws
4. Labour Laws
5. Human Rights and Women Legal Aid
6. Domestic Violence Act 2005
7. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956
8. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971
9. Hindu Succession Act 1956 and Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 10. Special Marriage Act 1955
11. Child Marriage Act 1929
12. Hindu’s Widow Remarriage Act 1865
13. Custody of child- Hindu, Muslim, Parsi and Christian Laws 14. Adoption of child- Hindu, Muslim, Parsi and Christian Laws 15. Maintence- Hindu, Muslim, Parsi and Christian Laws
16. Guardianship- Hindu, Muslim, Parsi and Christian Laws
In summary, then, the preceding analysis of some of the selected socio-demographic, legal, educational, economic, political and socio-cultural indicators on the situation of women reveals that even after four decades of assiduous effort women’s condition continues to be miserable and they still confront immense problems in all these domains of life. However, recent international and national spectacular developments have turned the attitude of society towards women and women’s perception of their own situation. Consequent upon these efforts and development, a spate of women’s studies in different directions were made which inter alia raised new question on Women Question.
1 .Ashmore, 1998
2. Deaux and Kite, 1993
3. Doyle and Paludi, 1998
4. Heyman and Legare, 2004
5. Indian Past, 10.7.1988
6. Forum Against Oppression Of Women In The Media Committee, New Delhi 7. Women’s Organization In Bombay (1985), Patna Conference (1988) 8. Krithi (1985)
9. Bhasin K. and Agarwal B. eds. 1984
10. Quotation in the Feminine Gender by Bibekananda Das and L.N. Dash (pg. 154-159) 11. Neera Desai – Women Studies in India
Divya Bhargava is a law student in Bangalore