Human Rights, Gender & Environment
2 LESSON 2 GENDER, CULTURE AND HISTORY
Man is said to be the most intelligent being that god ever created. He could sway the direction of wind, he made wonders with mud and soil, and he could change the course of rivers. He no more looked at nature with awe. He started believing every thing under his control. He could tame the most furious and deadly animals with force and technology and use them for its own benefit. Similarly, he enslaved women and the tool he used was the ideology of patriarchy.
The objective of this paper is to show the relationship between the culture, history and gender with the social construction of femininity and masculinity in India .we saw absence of women equality and equal status is missing in the pages of history. What could be reason for this? Was it a deliberative attempt that mutes the voiceless? History is an aspect of one’s culture. History registers only those aspects which is highlighted in one’s culture and our culture is such that only men and their activities have been highlighted. History was the story of great heroic deeds of great kings and individuals. There has been a conscious effort on the part of feminist to resurrect the lost data on women folk, their lives, their aspirations, and their deeds of heroism. It has been buried in the past and memory has faded because their retriever called history has conspired with patriarchy to push them into world of anonymity. Sadly though, we often see not the exaltation but the exploitation of women in the media. How often are they treated not as persons with an inviolable dignity but as objects whose purpose is to satisfy others' appetite for pleasure or for power? How often the role of woman as wife and mother is undervalued or even ridiculed? How often is the role of women in business or professional life depicted as a masculine caricature, a denial of the specific gifts of feminine insight, compassion and understanding, which so greatly contribute to the "civilization of love"? The rapid acceleration in the growth and development of the mass media over the past fifty years is the most significant of the factors that have led to the redefinition of contemporary women status. The growth of television especially has produced socio-cultural changes in women life could barely analysis of ‘images of women’ raised many question for feminist critics in context of mass media: were the roles ‘believable’ or product of (generally male) fantasy? How did women embrace the diversity and complexity of women in a period of such political and social change? A desire for self- recognition through the screen representation of real women’s complex lives was combined with a desire for roles that would be inspirational to female audiences. The possibility for equality is understood to lie in the representation of real women (project through to be the aim and responsibility of women directors in particular).
Sex and Gender: Equality and Differences- Biological Determinism and, Social, Cultural (Matrilineal and Patrilineal) and Historical Constructs.
Patrilineality is a system in which one belongs to one’s father’s lineage; it generally involves the inheritance of property, names or titles through the male line as well. Matrilineal or Matriarchy is a term, which is applied to a gynocentric form of society, in which the leading role is by the female and especially by the mothers of a community. The word matriarchy is coined as the opposite of patriarchy from Greek mater “mother” and archein “to rule”. Matriarchy is defined by some as distinct from matrilocality, which some anthropologists use to describe known societies where the maternal side of the family manages domestic relations, owing to the husband joining the wife's family, rather than the wife moving to the husband's village or tribe. If, additionally, family property passes down the maternal line (matrilineality), the wife effectively is supported by her extended family, especially her brothers, these maternal uncles serving children of the couple as "social fathers", while the husbands tend to be more isolated.
The term patriarchy is distinct from patrilineality and patrilocality. Patrilineal defines societies where the derivation of inheritance (financial or otherwise) originates from the father’s line. Patrilocal defines a locus of control coming from the father’s geographic/cultural community. Most societies are predominantly patrilineal and patrilocal, but patriarchal society is characterized by interlocking system of sexual and generational oppression.
According to Gerda Lerner, patriarchy means the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over the children in the family and the extension of male dominance over women in society in general. It implies that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that women are deprived of access to such power. It does not imply that women are either totally powerless or deprived of rights, influence and resources. One of the most challenging tasks of women’s history is to trace with precision the various forms and modes in which patriarchy appears historically. The Encyclopedia of feminist theories defines patriarchy as the hierarchical relations between men and women, manifested in familial and social structure alike, in a descending order from an authoritarian if often times benevolent male head-to-male dominance in personal, political, cultural and social life as well as to patriarchal families where the law of the father prevails.
What is the difference between sex and gender?
Sex refers to biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs. Genderdescribes the characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine. In sociological terms 'gender role' refers to the characteristics and behaviours that different cultures attribute to the sexes. What it means to be a 'real man' in any culture requires male sex plus what our various cultures define as masculine characteristics and behaviours, likewise a 'real woman' needs female sex and feminine characteristics. To summarise: 'man' means male sex plus masculine social role; (a 'real man', 'masculine' or 'manly'); 'woman' means female sex plus feminine social role. When is it sex difference and when is it gender difference? How do you know when to call something a sex difference rather than a gender difference? Using the definitions given for sex (biological differences between males and females) and gender (socially defined differences between men and women), sex differences therefore refer only to those differences that can be attributed solely to biological difference. Medical literature most commonly addresses biological sex differences.
The terms sex, gender and sexual orientation are often used interchangeably. Despite sounding similar, they actually have three distinct meanings. Sex means Biological maleness or femaleness. Males have XYchromosomes. Females have XX chromosomes. Sex is determined the instant a woman's egg is fertilized by a man's sperm. If an X sperm fertilizes an X egg, the fetus will be female. If a Y sperm fertilizes the X egg, the fetus will be male. Gender means The behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits typically associated with one sex. Babies are usually assigned a male gender at birth if they have a penis, and a female gender if they have a vulva. Gender identity is how someone feels about their gender assignment. Sex difference is a distinction of biological and/or physiological characteristics typically associated with either males or females of a species in general. Differences between men and women include all the features related to reproductive role, notably the endocrine (hormonal) systems and their physical, psychological and behavioral effects. Such undisputed sexual dimorphism includes gonad differentiation, internal genital differentiation, external genital differentiation, breast differentiation and hair differentiation.
The sociological approach to "gender" (social roles: male versus female) will focus on the difference in (economic/ power) position between a male CEO
The philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir applied existentialism to women's experience of life: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” In context, this is a philosophical statement, however, it is true biologically — a girl must pass puberty to become a woman — and true sociologically — mature relating in social contexts is learned, not instinctive. Within feminist theory, terminology for gender issues developed over the 1970s. In the 1974 edition ofMasculine/Feminine or Human, the author uses "innate gender" and "learned sex roles", but in the 1978 edition, the use of sex and gender is reversed. By 1980, most feminist writings had agreed on using gender only for socio culturally adapted traits. In gender studies the term gender is used to refer to proposed social and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities. In this context, gender explicitly excludes reference to biological differences, to focus on cultural differences. A Gender difference is a distinction of biological and/or physiological characteristics typically associated with either males or females of a species in general.
In the Indian constitution, our Fundamental Rights Article 15 talks about, the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth or any of them. Our constitution has given the right to prevent discrimention on the basis of sex and empower gender equality. Some of the other important laws and regulation in this regard are as follows:
Sex determination Act (SDA) 1975: Prohibits sex discrimination in employment, education, the provision of goods, facilities and services and in the disposal or management of premises. Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 prevent discrimination against transsexual people in employment and vocational training. Vocational training refers to education provided in further and higher education establishments only. It does not include education provided in schools but schools in their capacities as employers and providers of vocational training (such as teacher training) must comply with the law. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows transsexual people to gain legal recognition in their acquired gender. The Act enables transsexuals, over the age of 18, to gain legal recognition in their acquired gender thus allowing them to marry and to be given birth certificates that recognize the acquired gender. Employment Directive Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, Outlaws discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in fields of employment and vocational training including further and higher education institutions.The Gender Duty will aim to ensure that public bodies’ policies and services are sensitive to the different needs of women and men; public bodies act fairly as employers towards women and men; and, in both they work to tackle inequalities and deliver fair outcomes. This general duty will require public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, and to promote equality of opportunity between men and women. The Women and Equality Unit within DTI is currently analyzing responses to recent consultation on policy proposals to introduce a public sector duty to promote gender equality. This duty will apply to education institutions. http://www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk/legislation/index.htm
Women’s images (Images of Women, Roles, Responsibilities & Rights, Stereotypes and Iconography)
The word ‘image’ is used in many different ways and contexts. The words Rupa, Bimba, Murti, Pratima are synonymously used in diverse contexts. Thus, everything is the rupa of Brahman. Temples display the worshipable forms of Gods called Murtis, Pratimas or Vigrahas. Generally, when we speak of the image a society projects of its women, we have in mind its ideals of womanhood, or its popular stereotypes or the vision implicit in its institutionalization of the role or position of women, or the vision of poets, artists and prophets relating to women. Image regularly accompany desires, feelings, actions, perceptions and opinions, their ultimate value lies in their being rooted in a spontaneous and revelatory power of the mind. An image is generally considered to be the likeness or representation of the object- real or unreal. It is something which may be apprehended sensuously or mentally as a distinct form which refers to something other than the presentation itself by virtue of some intrinsic feature such as resemble rather than mere convention. The image of women is ultimately the image of shakti, of corresponds to man’s higher nature and potentiality. So, nature and power are imaged as feminine.
The success of modern feminism in its moderate version requires the economic independence of women but how that is to be combined with the proper care of children and home and the stability of domestic life is not a problem which has been fully resolved yet. The traditional image of womanhood, thus, emphasizes the complementarily of men and women rather than the independent equality of women which would introduce competition and strife. It looks on woman primarily as the mother who is the centre of the family and social tradition. It does not exclude women from the pursuit of higher life. It projects them as the embodiment of love at various levels. Siva-parvati and radha- Krishna are divya- mithunas (divine couples) illustrating selfless love for men and women on earth. The literature written under the influence of trantricism, i.e. tantrika ideal of union of shiva and shakti (in shakta and shaiva schools), pragya and upaya, or their variants (in Buddhist schools of mantrayana, sahajayana and vajrayana) , radha.
Radha and Krishna (in Gaudiya Vaishnavism), Sita and Rama (in shri Rasika school), Lakshmi and Narayana (in shri Vishnavism ) gave equal, if not more, importance to female principle. Shakti in this view represents self-critical consciousness, dynamism, creativity, grace and Ananda (rapture, bliss). Various forms of Bhakti movement also take the character of Trantricism. There is enormous literature, particularly devotional (Stotras) in Sanskrit, which is inspired by the Tantrika view of pre-eminence of female principle of its equality with male principle. Hybrid Sanskrit of the Buddhists, Jains and Tantrikas who espoused the lower caste women in its religious rituals and practices changed the language and style of paninian Sanskrit. Vedic women- seers had composed the hymns, numerous women poets wrote verses in Sanskrit. These have survived in anthologies. Some works may be found in the manuscripts. Maitreyi debated and discussed philosophical issues with Yagyavalkya in Upanisadic age, Avantisundari held fast her opinions on literary issues. Much of this intellectual freedom and creativity vanished gradually in medieval age and the centuries that followed.
With the advent of freedom of the country and the dawn of new ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. Without distinction of caste, creed or sex and new concepts and tensions of modern society, new images of women are in making contemporary Sanskrit literature.
Agnishikha, a collection of poems by Pushpa Trivedi , ira ( experimentalist poems ) by Devadatta Bhatti, Amrapali (a drama) by Mithilesh kumari Mishra, Pramadvara (a drama) by Abhiraja sindhu Kanya (a novel ) by Shrinath Hasurkar and many other literary works are experiments in new images of women reflecting the cravings and aspirations, conflicts and tensions of that period of times.
The male construction of female as an object of sex has been going on through a variety of forms of expression- literature, sculpture, songs, paintings and photographs, dance and media. The fantasy world that veils experience of female is the world of sex as seen through male eyes. The fantasies women take are male fantasies about women (Pratibha Jain and Rajan Maham: 1996).
Indian sculptures present various facets of the image of women in Indian society. They reveal the high position and esteem that she commanded in her position from a pursuer of knowledge, connoisseur of art and custodian of culture to a mere object of entertainment. This degeneration in the social image of women is reflected in the secular as well as religious, sculptures during the 8th and the 10th century.
The sculpture identifies the image of women regardless of its peculiar divine character, legend and function .among the various aspects of women, three types of the sculpture representations have been selected which project women images as , individual and independent members of society and women displaying interest in fine arts, specially dance and music and women displaying her physical charms. The sculptures of Saraswati, Gajalakshmi, Gauri and Mahisamardini were derived from the images of those women who led an independent life in society .the worship of their images indicated that they were ranked high in society. In craving of their images, the emphasis was not on the depiction of physical beauty but on the qualities of their head and heart.
Besides the sculptures of celestial women, there are quite a large number of them displayed on the exterior of the temples, which represent women as performing dance, playing musical instrument or revealing their physical charms in different postures by way of bedecking ornaments, busy at toilets etc (Heinz Mode: 1979:27). These sets of sculptures have no religious or divine veils or symbolism but they are certainly important for studying the social images of women. This image of women as displaying physical charm emerged predominant with the eclipse of her mental accomplishments, creativity and her enforced seclusion and consequent isolation from the productive processes of contemporary society (Pratibha Jain and Rajan Maham: 1996).
Institutions of family, kinship, religion and popular culture
The definitions of the family have varied tremendously from culture to culture, and for different social groups within each culture. Some groups practices polygamy and others monogamy, for some, the most important unit was the nuclear family of a man, a woman and their children, while for others the extended kin network was most important, in some groups the family was primarily a unit of production, while in others it was primarily a unit of production, in some group married couples lived with the wife’s (matrilocality or uxorilocality ) and in others they set up their own household (neolocality ), in some groups non- related individuals such as slaves or servants were considered part of the family, and in others they were not, in some groups adoption or good parentage created significant kinship like ties (termed fictive or spiritual kinship ), while in others only blood mattered, in some groups martial partners were chosen by parents or the family as a whole, and in others by the individual themselves. All of these variables interacted and often changed over time because of internal developments or contacts with other culture.
Though patterns and structure differed tremendous sly every group had notions of proper family life which reinforced through law, codes, religious prescriptions, taboos, education, or other means. But all of these together have operated to link woman’s experience more closely than men’s to family life in most cultures. Marriages in the ancient world not only linked two individuals but also two families, so that the choice of a spouse was much too important a matter to be left to young people to decide. Marriages were often arranged by one’s parents, who assessed the possible marriage partners and chose someone appropriate (Merry E. Wiesner-Hank: 2001:27).
The earliest power structure in human society were kin groups in which decisions were made at the local level within these kin groups individuals had a variety of identity, they were simultaneously fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers,or mothers, daughters, wives and sisters. Each of these identities was relational (parent to child, sibling to sibling, spouse to spouse) and some of them, especially parent to child, gave one power over others. The interweaving of these relationships and their meaning varied from culture to culture, but one’s status in the others, and often changed throughout one’s life. A woman situation as daughter or sister in a specific kin group, for example, shaped her relationship with her husband, her becoming a mother often further altered her status vis-à-vis her husband or other kin group members. A man’s relationship with his father and his status in the kin group often changed when he married, and in some areas changed again if he became the father of a son.
In many areas kin group remained very significant power structures for millennia, and in some areas they still have control over major aspects of life, such as one’s choice of a spouse or share of inheritance. Kin, tribal and village structure of power were almost always gender and age related, and in most parts of the world, adult men had the most power. the leaders of a village was often termed the ‘big man’ or some variant of this, and village or tribal councils or voting bodies were made up of adult male heads of household or heads of families. There are some culture where this was not the case. Among some Native American groups kin groups were organized matrilineal and residence was matrilocal, so that one’s mother’s kin were more important than one’s father’s kin and related women often lived together. Some group had a tribal council of adult women along with that of adult men, which had power over certain aspects of life, such as martial partners or the fate of prisoners captures from another tribe during warfare .some African peoples, such as the Igbo of Nigeria also had separate women’s councils that organized aspects of life in which women predominated, such as agricultural production and locals trading networks (Merry E. Wiesner Hank: 2001).
In India as well as china gender structure developed in the classical era which lasted for millennia, and which were shaped to a great degree by religious and intellectual systems.
Hinduism is a synthesis of many traditions it often contains conflicting ideas about gender hierarchy, with some structures and ideas clearly placing women in an inferior position, others stressing the complementarily of men and women, and others valorizing women and the feminine. The normal life-cycle of a person from one of the upper castes,, particularly from the highest caste, the Brahmins, marked women as inferior. When a boy in one of the three upper castes reached the age of about eight or twelve, he went through a ceremony giving him the sacred thread to wear over his shoulders marking him as one of the ‘twice born’. By contrast, a girl in the upper caste did not receive a sacred thread, nor go through a period of studying sacred texts.
During the Vedic age (1200-600 BC) women appear to have been able to study and a few highly educated women are mentioned in the Upanishads, such as the philosophers Gargi who engaged in a debate about the true self. In later centuries service to her husband was to replace education for a Brahmin woman, so that while her brother were off, studying a Brahmin girl learned housekeeping and domestic religious rituals. Her entry into adulthood was marked by marriage, not only by a separate ceremony, which generally occurred at a much younger age than that of her brother- her teens or even earlier. She then went to live her husband’s family, and heard the names of his ancestors, not hers, recited in religious ceremonies, if she were a Brahmin. She was instructed to worship her husband as if he were a god, making and serving him all of his food so that it was pure enough, entertaining him and demonstrating her devotion.
At the end of her life she could expect a period of widowhood, which might be quite long given the disparity in normal ages at marriage for men and women, a dismal time during which she was considered inauspicious i.e. unlucky, and so not welcome at family festivities or rituals. Reports of killing of young wives because their families are slow or remiss in making dowry payments are more numerous, and dowry deaths, along with the status of widows, are a central concern of Indian feminist. In many ways women clearly have a secondary status within Hinduism, but there are also traditions that stress the power of women. Many of the Hindu deities are goddesses, who range from beneficent life-givers like Devi or Ganga, to faithful spouses like Parvati or Radha, to fierce destroyers like kali or Durga, and may have been viewed as empowering by women.
Buddhism rejected certain aspects of Hindu teaching about men and women, but it also accepted others, like Hinduism, it incorporated many ides and traditions, some of them contradictory and later split into different branches with different emphasis. Many Buddhist texts view that feminine as horrific encouraging those who would achieve enlightenment to mediate on images of women’s diseased, dying, or dead bodies in order to cultivate detachment from desire. Despite the popularity of some female bodhisattvas such as Kuan Yin in china, human women who chose a life of religious devotion as nuns were often regarded with suspiciousness. The ideal woman in Buddhism-both historically and in sacred texts-was more often a lay woman who supported a community of monks or who assisted men in their spiritual progress. By about the fifth century in India, nuns appear to have become much poorer and less popular, with the communities of monks who were regarded as spiritually superior receiving more support.
The mixed messages about the relative value of men and women found in Buddhism may be found in Christianity, which is based on the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ. Some of Christianity‘s most radical teaching about gender also came to have negative consequences for women. In its first centuries, some women embraced the ideal of virginity and either singly or in communities declared themselves ‘virgins in the service of Christ’. This was threatening to most church leaders, who termed such women, at best, “brides of Christ”, that is in a dependent relationship with a man. Even Christian mythology perpetuates such gender stereotypes, portraying the women as inferiors. It says that Adam was first created by god and eve was created later, to fulfill Adam’s need. Thus, she is the inessential, the other, who has been created to keep men at ease. Christianity preaches, God is the father, a male Jesus was a man. Christianity has always given importance to men in its biblical texts.
If the interplay between the gender and religion is an issue in contemporary Christianity , it is even more of an issue in contemporary Islam, and all sides draw on history to buttress their position. Muhammad which gave advice on matters which went beyond the Qur’an were collected into books termed Hadith, which are second only to the Qur’an in authority in these works marriage is recommended for every one, heterosexual sex is approved fro both procreation and pleasure, and homosexual acts are condemned; the emphasis on marriage has meant that unmarried men are not accepted as teachers, judges or religious leaders in traditional Muslim societies. many scholars not that the Qur’an holds men and women to be fully equal in God’s eyes, both are capable of going to heaven and responsible to carry out the duties of believers for themselves. The Qur’an does not make clear distinction between men and women, it allows men to have up to four wives and to divorce a wife quite easily, sets a daughter’s share of inheritance at half that of a son’s and orders that the prophet’s later wives be secluded. Gender structure also have other bases, including religious-the sharia’s- which is regarded as having divine authority, though women played a major role in the early development of Islam- as they had in Christianity- and appeared to have prayed and attended religious ceremonies, in public, after the first generation the seclusion of women became an official part of the Sharia. Men are to fulfill their religious obligations publicly, at mosques and other communal gatherings, and women in the home, though they generally have access to a separate section of the mosque unless they are ritually unclean (because of menstruation or childbirth).
Every religious tradition has idea about proper gender relations and the relative value of the devotion and worship of male and female adherents, every one stipulates or suggests rules for the way men and women are to act. Thus, within most religions there is a fundamentalist wing advocating stronger gender distinction and hierarchy, and a more liberal wing, advocating greater gender egalitarianism. The ultimate outcome of these development is , of course, uncertain, but it is clear that religion will continue to be one of the strongest shapers of gender structure in the future, as it was in the past (Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks :2001).)
Status of women through the Ages
Women’s movement in India have posed challenges to established patriarchal institutions such as the family, and to dominant social values and structures, most significantly in the arena of legal interventions in the areas of violence against women. Within feminist activism and discourse in India, debates on the role of law have been central. Feminist interventions and attitude to law are varied, and multiple, but are united in that they contain an implicit or explicit critique of patriarchy. Debate on law have also politicized, and brought to the forefront, an understanding of violence against women, based on the perception that there is systematic and systematized aggression against women, naturalized through different forms of violence. These includes rape, sexual harassment in the working place and in public places, pornography, trafficking, prostitution, selective sex determination, female infanticide, child marriage, dowry and domestic violence. In other words, a range of events and incidents experienced by women both within the home, and outside; where perpetrators can be male or female family members, members of the wider community or representatives of the state are conceptualized as violence. The advancement of women's genuine emancipation is a matter of justice, which can no longer be overlooked; it is also a question of society's welfare. Fortunately, there is a growing awareness that women must be enabled to play their part in the solution of the serious problems of society and of society's future. In every area, "a greater presence of women in society will prove most valuable, for it will help to manifest the contradictions present when society is organized solely according to the criteria of efficiency and productivity, and it will force systems to be redesigned in a way which favours the processes of humanization which mark the 'civilization of love'" .The "civilization of love" consists, most particularly, in a radical affirmation of the value of life and of the value of love. Women are especially qualified and privileged in both of these areas. Regarding love, women can bring to every aspect of life, including the highest levels of decision-making, that essential quality of femininity which consists in objectivity of judgment, tempered by the capacity to understand in depth the demands of interpersonal relationships. The communications media, including the press, the cinema, radio and television, the music industry and computer networks, represent the modern forum where information is received and transmitted rapidly to a global audience, where ideas are exchanged, where attitudes are formed - and, indeed, where a new culture is being shaped. The media are therefore destined to exercise a powerful influence in determining whether society fully recognizes and appreciates not only the rights but also the special gifts of women. Women themselves can do much to foster better treatment of women in the media: by promoting sound media education programmes, by teaching others, especially their families, to be discriminating consumers in the media market, by making known their views to production companies, publishers, broadcasting networks and advertisers with regard to programmes and publications which insult the dignity of women or debase their role in society. Moreover, women can and should prepare themselves for positions of responsibility and creativity in the media, not in conflict with or imitation of masculine roles but by impressing their own "genius" on their work and professional activity. The media would do well to focus on the true heroines of society.
Image of women in the world of advertisement:
Slowly but surely, our advertising industry is fashioning out a new woman for us.
Short skirts and noodle-strap tops, see-through shirts with shorts that barely cover her derriere, hard drinking and hard partying. Impossibly slim and dizzyingly tall, a go-getter career girl with snazzy mobile phones to match every outfit. Anything-but-black hair colour that comes out of a bottle, green and blue eye lenses.... And she's selling soap, jeans, shoes, cars, mobiles, washing machines, skin whitening creams and lotions, perfumes and watches. (Geeta Seshu)
The basic criterion was simple: Anything that used an image of a woman to sell the product. The ads were categorized into those that used women in traditional roles (mothers and wives); ads that used the image of a beautiful woman somewhat out of context (like a bikini clad young woman selling a car); and of course, a category specifically selling beauty products.
What came across was the insidious change in the overall 'look' of the women in the adverts. 'contradictory messages' continue to co-exist - the sari-clad, large bindi, magalsutra and sindhoor sporting women, and the sex symbol images in which the bodies of motorcycles and women are placed side by side in a comparison of curves!
For the advertising, film and television world, the sari-clad image has - weirdly enough - become a pan-Indian symbol of marriage for women. Some details connected with the sari-clad image don't conform to the traditional image in certain communities.
Magazines are full of ads that depict either explicit or implied sexual assault of women by men. There is little diversity in the image of women’s beauty. The message seems to be: be Indian, be sexy, be thin, be glamorous even when your back aches, be a superwoman but what ever you do - don't think!
Let’s have a look at another TV advertisement of a famous Cosmetic Company. It displays that---- ‘A young girl failed to collect any job in the job markets. Later she started to use beauty cream and she became beautiful within two weeks and gets a rich job easily.’ What does the advertiser want to mean by this advertisement? Are all the jobs reserved for white skinned women? There are huge advertisements (Soap, cream etc) are shown in the various TV channels where that the black skinned women are underestimated. These advertisements make very sorrow to the black skinned women and make a negative sense to the male persons against black skinned women.
Few days ago I saw an advertisement of a car fair in a daily news-paper where some new model cars were with two young girls. Those girls wore nice and short dress. I did not understand why these girls are beside these cars. I know that new cars are used by rich businessmen or high officers. Are not these girls used as goods or sex object? We can see on the TV commercial everyday in many advertisements that women are using as goods and sex objects if you look these by your naked eyes. Add producers, TV commercials and women/models who act in these kinds of advertisements should think about the add concept before making those. We know media is the conscience of the society. The society can be affected by the media both positively and negatively. We hope the media will take step to make awareness in the society and help to reduce the negative sense on add concept.
“Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest one of all?” Society’s standards for body shape and the importance of beauty is promoted by various media. The media links beauty to symbols of happiness, love and success for women. Media portrays these images as achievable and real. Until women accept their body image, they will continue to measure themselves against societies “perfect image.” Media representations of body image contribute to social trends of unhealthy lifestyles. Female children learn to worry about their appearance from an early age. Huge quantities of girls between the ages of three and ten have one or more Barbie dolls. On television children are bombarded with commercials showing tall and thin women promoting dieting products and leading a “dream” life. Being exposed to numerous “perfect” female images leads girls trying to defeat their imperfections into their adult life. Parental messages about appearance also have large impacts on young girls.
In the advertisement industry, females are judged by standards of ‘cuteness’ and ‘prettiness’ and these shifts with age into standards of ‘beauty’ and ‘glamour.”
In the daily fight for the emancipation of women and the pressures and influence of advertising, women of all ages are coerced into physical and psychological self-torment trying to achieve an optimum look or image. This is something not limited to a few. One can see the work of television advertisers in high schools everyday as girls wear the same clothing, makeup and accessories as their favorite stars. They may also try to imitate models they see in teen magazines. While it is fairly obvious that such a phenomenon exists, what is not so obvious are the detrimental effects. The Influence of the Media on Women's View of Beauty and Self-Worth another way in which the media has had a great influence over women is by controlling the image of what is beautiful for a woman in our society. The more technology that is created, the more unrealistic our ideas of the "perfect" woman become. "The body beautiful is a woman's responsibility and authority. She will be valued and rewarded on the basis of how close she comes to embodying the ideal. Whatever the current borders of beauty, they will always be well defined and exceedingly narrow, and it will be a woman's task to conform to them-for as long as humanly possible" This leaves little room for interpretation to the idea of beauty. There is no flexibility in it; the media creates an image and women try to live up to it.
Such words are used for women by general public places by so called educated and decent males in the society– e.g., “good taste,” “public sensitivity,” “general community standards of decency and civility,” “excessive violence, nudity, obscenity and vulgarity,” The power of advertising to change, shape and mold the public's opinion has had a major impact on the lives of women. Women are the main target for many advertisements and are used in many forms of advertising. The media has historically used propaganda to define who women are and what they should be.
Harsh reality of women in Indian Journalism
The recently released `Status of Women Journalists in India' report, commissioned by the National Commission for Women (NCW), presents a disturbing picture of women journalists. Prepared by the Press Institute of India (PII), this report is the first such attempt in the country to look at the harsh reality - for women - in this often glamorized profession. PII's National Study Group (NSG), consisting of media representatives from across the country, approached 3,500 women journalists working for 141 newspapers and publications (including several regional language dailies and magazines) for the preparation of this report. However, only 410 women responded.
The report says many women journalists (even from established newspapers) work as daily wage labour, without an appointment letter, signing a muster roll at the end of the month to get Rs 1,500-3000. "In Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Chhattisgarh (where media giants like Dainik Bhaskar and Nai Duniya flourish), there is no woman journalist who has a permanent job. The `lucky' ones are those on contract for two-three years," says Sushmita Malaviya, who is part of the NSG. "If a journalist has to be axed, it is most often a woman," she says. In fact, Malaviya noticed a pattern in MP, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand: 30+ women were the first to lose their jobs. In the conflict-ridden northeastern part of the country, only 35 women work as print journalists in the seven states. Only 35 per cent of these are full-time employees; 40 per cent say they have never been promoted. The 'secret' contract system, in which none of the journalists know what the others are getting, is often used to play one journalist against the other.
Women journalists across the country are rarely promoted; some go without a promotion for decades. Where women have been promoted, they have faced trouble and rebellion from male colleagues. A Trivandrum-based journalist says promotions don't come to them because there's no "bar-room bonding" for them as there is for their male colleagues. Another said: "Women journalists are conscientious, diligent and people relate more easily to us. However, male bosses do not give credit for professionalism, instead they speak of women exploiting their gender." Child care facilities and maternity leave are still not a right in most media organisations. A senior woman journalist from Bihar said that when she returned from her maternity leave she was demoted. Another from MP said she was fired when she left to have a baby. Lekha, who works in a reputed national English magazine, says before her baby arrived, she was considered very "responsible". But after she became a mother, an impression was created that she was not "reliable" anymore. While a majority of the women respondents said that having children did not affect their professional abilities, they were forced to slow down because of their organisations' bias against working mothers. This bias forces bright women into less paying, less prestigious and often less exciting jobs. Sadly, as Pande comments: "Women's productive years are also their reproductive years."
The report also dwells extensively on the divide between the English and regional language press: women journalists working for dailies in English get a better deal in terms of salaries, job security, facilities and choice of assignments. "This differential treatment is apparent even when the same management brings out both the English and local language daily."
However, something that is rampant in both the regional language and English press is sexual harassment. About 22 per cent of the 410 respondents said they had been sexually harassed at some point of time, but only 15 per cent made a formal complaint. A significant 40 per cent said they did not complain because the issue is not taken up seriously in their organisation or that they would be seen as over-reacting to a situation. Dr Poornima Advani, Chairperson of NCW, said that despite a Supreme Court order, several media organisations have still not set up the committee required to look into cases of sexual harassment. The report claims that some women have learnt to "manage" sexual harassment instead of seeking redressal. Advani added that despite the small sample size, the report clearly spells out the challenges women journalists in India face, even today.
We all know the stereotypes—the femme fatale, the super mom, the sex kitten, the nasty corporate climber. Whatever the role, television, film and popular magazines are full of images of women and girls who are typically white, desperately thin, and made up to the hilt—even after slaying a gang of vampires or dressing down a Greek legion. Many would agree that some strides have been made in how the media portray women in film, television and magazines, and that the last 20 years has also seen a growth in the presence and influence of women in media behind the scenes. After watching television and flipping though ads and articles in several magazines, the stereotyping of men and women is so apparent but at the same time society is so blind to it. In society parents teach their children gender role at a very early age.. Males are traditionally expected to show aggressiveness and toughness, and females are expected to be passive and nurturing. For example, little girls play with baby dolls and play "house" and little boys play with toy guns and play "cops and robbers." Mass media are powerful factors that influence society's beliefs, attitudes, and the values they have of themselves and others as well as the world. If a male is seen in media doing "feminine" things, such as shopping or cleaning he is seen as weak, and women who are seen doing "masculine" things such as car repair and management positions she is seen as callous and cruel. Even though media still pretends that men and women in society are equal, it isn't the case. Women are still seen as homemakers and men are still seen as professional, successful and independent. In the past fifty years women have been marginalized and were represented as the weaker sex. The objectification of women is commonly used to refer to the presentation of women in the media as an object. Women's bodies are routinely used as objects to sell various products. In certain pictures women are presented as being vulnerable and easily overpowered especially in ads were they have on revealing clothing and take on submissive roles. These images are found in music videos as well, where the focus is only a particular body part. In today’s society if people watch television programs such as Chingy featuring Snoop & Ludacris – Holidae; Charlie's Angels; the Z100 commercial with Britney Spears; or Baywatch they will see that the feminine image is presented differently than the masculine. In these programs men are typically placed in sexual situations fully clothed, while women are presented in provocative clothing or less. The camera will frequently zoom in on body parts to focus on the woman’s buttocks, midriff, and legs. Society is still dominated by men who control what people see. As a result women are increasingly portrayed as sex symbols as a way for a media company to turn a profit. The Internet has grown to be the biggest exploiter of women. Through pornographic chat rooms and on-line “dating” services, women are commonly depicted as nude in images that has them submissive to men. In a world dominated by patriarchy, with men exercising authority over women and children
Gender is the psychological characteristics and social categories that are created by human culture. Doing gender is the concept that humans express their gender when they interact with one another. Messages about how a male or female is supposed to act come from many different places. Schools, parents, and friends can influence a person. Another major factor that influences millions of impressionable females and males is television. Not only does the television teach each sex how to act, it also shows how one sex should expect the other sex to act. In the current television broadcasting, stereotypical behavior goes from programming for the very small to adult audiences. In this broadcasting range, females are portrayed as motherly, passive and innocent, sex objects, or they are overlooked completely or seen as unimportant entities. Stereotyping women is not only rampant in the adult world; it also flourishes in the kiddie universe as well. With society becoming more aware of the influence of the mass media, and exposure increasing, inaccurate views of gender continue to twist reality by altering viewer perception. These gender stereotypes, both visible and invisible, need to halt the casting of women in traditional and inferior roles, and begin placing them in equal roles comparable to that of their male counterparts. Women are forced to live within the constraints that the media puts on them because these constraints become societies "ideal." The media can even go so far as to pick a hair color that society will adopt as more desirable for them. It is important that women start to differentiate myth from fact when the media is concerned. Many disorders that women have when image is concerned come from trying to perpetuate a beauty myth inflected by the media. Media needs to be held accountable for the societal ideas that they are perpetuating.
Feminism and Technology
The development and the impact of feminist theory within the field of digital technology, particularly in relation to the social use of and meaning surrounding the growth of the internet. Cyber feminism have offered a rich new area of study for feminist historians, scientists and sociologist alike, who have generated new categories for critical analysis and posed new question about the nature of identity and visually in a computer-dominated era. The term cyber feminism have emerged as central to this new discourse, both have been interpreted, represented and appropriated in a number of different ways in academia and in mainstream media. Cyber feminism simply a rebinding exercise or it is a real shift in the way feminism tackles patriarchy and other given hierarchies embedded within the contemporary society. Cyber feminism is an insurrection on the part of the goods and materials of the patriarchal world, a dispersed, distributed emergence composed of links between women, women and computer, computer and communication links, connections and connectionist nets. Stabile argues in her book ‘feminism and the technological fix that feminist interpretation of technology is no longer a strictly polarized field of enquiry, and she cite more recent work which mediates between two opposing voices apparent within the body of feminist literature on technology. Attempting to bridge the gap between two technophobia and the new techno mania. Feminist theorist have now produced a body of work analyzing how techno science has inscribed itself on the bodies of female as feminized subjects. Similarly, Judy Wajcman in her book ‘feminism confronts technology shows how recent feminist thought has sought to engage with a revised notion of technology, and how new theoretical insights have therefore emerged which recast women’s relationship to technology, over-riding the essentialism, binaries and humanism which characterize most previous accounts
The Portrayal of Women on Television
Earlier there was the under-representation of women on television, which can be spoken in terms of the ‘symbolic annihilation of women which left women largely invisible in the ‘world’ that television claimed to bring into home and when women did appear on screen they were usually represented in traditional domestic roles and frequently reduced to ‘female type’. Much has changed since the 1970s, and women are now much more visible on television, in far wider roles. After 1980s there have been not only quantities, but also a qualitative shift. ‘Contemporary popular television fiction offers an array of strong and independent female heroines, who seem to defy not without conflicts and contradictions stereotypical definitions of femininity. Such representatives and especially the ‘conflicts and contradiction’ which they address, offer new pleasures of identification for female viewers. Television is a business and if, in the 1980s and 1990s, female consumers can be attracted to programmes and advertisers’ products by the addition of a dash of feminism, then that is as much a matter of economics as of politics. Time has changed for women now and many women are working as a producers of television content ( as writers, performers, directors and produces) and increasing number of hour of watching television are also increased, now with satellite, cable and digital services, television has been inscribed as a technology.
The portrayal of women is widely known to represent and reinforce the mainstream ideology of contemporary western culture: patriarchy. While television representations of women have changed greatly in the last twenty years alone, in order to accommodate the changing role of women in society, one is led to ask how much the ideology has changed behind the more modern representations of women. Television is regarded by many viewers to be the most 'real' form of media. If this is the case, then it is important for us to question how real the representations of women are on television and how this affects the attitudes of those who watch. Women are often punished for pursuing their careers at the expense of their men. Soaps often show women as having jobs, but rarely pursing their careers, and if they do, more often than not, they are unsuccessful. While television can be said to reflect the changing roles of women, it seems to portray them in a light of approval or disapproval, positive or negative according to the roles that patriarchy favors: the housewife is favored, whilst the woman in power is often shown to be the villain. More importantly, women are often represented as not being as intelligent as men, and having to rely on them. It is also shown that a woman is either intelligent or beautiful; but rarely both. It is important to note also, the effects that these portrayals have on people, and while these interviews are by no means representative of the population, it proves that they do affect people’s views of what women are really like.
The study found rigid gender characterization in the serials that dominate the coveted ‘9 p.m. to 11 p.m.’ slot on satellite channels. For instance, the percentage of married women is 55 per cent, higher than the number of unmarried women (38 per cent). While 80 per cent men across popular channels—Zee, Sony and Star Plus—wear modern clothes, 64 per cent women are seen in traditional outfits. The study notes that scripts revolve around family interactions in all channels —Star (84 per cent), Sony (56 per cent) and Zee (53 per cent)—with women involved in 57 per cent of these scenes. Only 21 per cent of the women are shown at workplaces as against 79 per cent of the men. Empowerment for women on prime time television is thus confined to domestic space.
Serial-makers have empowered women with a major share of domestic responsibility. She controls the house but this control is sanctioned by the elders. The black and white images of women on television disturbing. “If a woman opts out of the joint family, she could be justified in her decision and need not be shown in negative light,’’ Neena Gupta’s Saans was closer to reality as the characters had shades of grey, However, the television industry contends that women characters do have a distinct identity. So, stories on single women or working women continue to be elbowed out by family sagas. When Udaan, a serial on Doordarshan in the 80’s, showed a young girl as a bold police officer, it not only became a hit across the country, the Indian Police Services also witnessed a steep rise in the number of women applicants.
Says director and actress Kavita Choudhry that family interactions, though identifiable, are not essentially an enlightening experience for the audience. “A programme is able to exercise a positive influence when its protagonists overcome real problems, their own weaknesses. To show games of one-upmanship between a perfect woman and a vampish woman and play on the fears and insecurities of a housewife is not an uplifting experience for her. Even though battles of ego supremacy are identifiable by people, they end up increasing trivia and pettiness in society.’’ Channels and serial producers maintain that reality doesn’t sell. “Television hence focuses on emotions and not career choices,’’.
Cable Television Raises Women's Status in India
Cable and satellite television have grown rapidly throughout the developing world. The availability of cable and satellite television exposes viewers to new information about the outside world, which may affect individual attitudes and behaviors. The villages that added cable were associated with improvements in measures of women's autonomy, a reduction in the number of situations in which wife beating was deemed acceptable, and a reduction in the likelihood of wanting the next child to be a boy. And, the effects were quite large Cable also increased the likelihood that a girl aged 6-10 would be enrolled in school, although it had no effect for boys, and cut the yearly increase in the number of children or pregnancies among women of childbearing age.
Hindi cinema has been a major point of reference for Indian culture in this century. It has shaped and expressed the changing scenarios of modern India to an extent that no preceding art form could ever achieve. Hindi cinema has influenced the way in which people perceive various aspects of their own lives. Film-makers like Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, Mehboob Khan and Raj Kapoor in the 50’s and 60’s, marked an exception with their brilliant presentation of women excelling as wife, mother and beloved. Some of their films portray the brilliant craftsmanship of the ‘flesh-and-blood’ women, with all their inner depth and exquisite spirited individuality. Take for instance, “Mother India”, “Pyaasa”, “Kaagaz ka phool” and “Madhumati”. A close look into all these four films will show you how they celebrate the extreme gracefulness and vigor of women in the face of personal adversity. These film-makers gave constant effort to present the constructive world of the female protagonists’ emotions with their supreme artistry and depth of human understanding. Again, the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s witnessed a severe decadence in the portrayal of the ‘heroine’ in mainstream Indian cinema. It was then that the ‘female’ protagonist was reduced to a ‘heroine’, connoting the image of mere glamour-dolls, dancing around trees with heroes and performing cabaret numbers.
Today, directors like Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair and Meghna Gulzar are upright enough to depict ‘taboo topics’ like lesbianism, polygamy and even surrogate motherhood, where its woman who takes the lead role in proposing, making love and even in deciding to “lease” her womb without the permission of her husband-to-be! While in “Fire” and “Kamasutra”, the women brave the world to explore their sexual desires, in Mahesh Manjrekar’s “Astitva”, the soulful Aditi gives birth to a child out of wedlock and shatters the vain world of male vanity when ultimately the truth is disclosed. The film questions the feminist moral concerns through the detailed examination of sexual and familial relationships. Again, very recently, in “Shunyo-e-buke”, a Bengali film by Koushik Ganguly, the protagonist is a flat-chested woman of the 21st century who questions the very basis of judging the worth of a woman “by her cleavage”. In a vain society where a well-rounded, curvaceous figure is regarded as a supreme embodiment of female beauty, where her bust line holds more value than her brain and her emotions, this hard-hitting film questions the projection of women as sex objects in Indian society. Thus, from Hritwik Ghatak’s “Subarnarekha” to Rituparno Ghosh’s “Bariwali”, from Raj Kapoor’s “Ram Teri Ganga Maili” to Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Chandni Bar”, we see the changing face of Indian women enmeshed in their private world of inner turmoil and the external world of multiple challenges. Women in India, defined by a set of relationships and models of conduct within the framework of a created society, have over the years, learned to live under the twin whips of heritage and modernity; and it is welcome if more and more directors in the coming years project the awakening feminine consciousness, breaking arc archetypal patterns with their clarity of perception.
Chak De India was aimed at promoting the sport of hockey in India, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan said more than sports, it was about woman empowerment. ''Chak De India' is about sports - it could be any sport, be it hockey, cricket, football or chess. However, more than that it is about the empowerment of women, the right of the woman to choose what she wants to do in Indian society.
Awakening :empowering women through micro loans film: documents the social and economic empowerment of women in Afghanistan and India whose roles have traditionally been restricted by their cultures. Awakened to new possibilities through education and access to micro-loans these women are redefining their roles in society. In Bihar, India’s poorest state, Sister Mary Lobo organizes village women into groups where they learn to save small sums and invest their capital as a group. In Afghanistan, the nation’s first woman-led micro-finance institution believes the nation’s long-term success is dependent on women’s economic freedom.
Significant Women Roles in Indian Cinema
Innovative women roles in Indian films, especially mainstream cinema, are few and far between. Some creative directors, working within the mainstream format, however have given us some meaty characters. Several women-significant films were made in the early days of Indian cinema like "Achchyut Kanya," which touched the theme of untouchability. Bimal Roy made a few films inspired by the novels of Sarat Chatterjee like "Biraj Bou", "Devdas" and "Parineeta." "Biraj Bou" was a film based on a selfless Indian woman, who endured hardship and pain for the sake of her husband. Films like "Ramer Sumoti," based on a Sarat Chaterjee work, were remarkable and depicted the love and warmth which existed within the extended Indian joint family. In later days, filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee gave us memorable heroine-oriented films in "Guddi," "Abhimaan", "Mili", "Khubsuroot", and "Majhli Didi". "Guddi" and "Khubsuroot" were simple films in which the heroine matures from a chirpy girl into womanhood. "Abhiman," inspired by "A star is born," dealt with ego clashes when a woman's musical talent and fame surpasses that of her husband. "Majhli Didi" was again based on a Sarat Chandra novel, about a woman's compassion towards an orphaned child. Basu Bhattacharyya's "Griha Pravesh" was a realistic depiction of the obsession of a married man for a much younger office colleague. Raj Kapoor's "Prem Rog" was a convincing portrait of the agony of a young widow. A few years back, Basu Chaterji's "Triyacharittar" was a powerful film on exploitation of women. (Subhajit Ghosh : 2002). Bengali filmmaker Tapan Sinha has created strong female characters in several of his films viz "Jatugriho", "Adalat O Ekti Mey", "Apanjan", "Nirjan Saikate" and others. "Jatugriho" dealt with marital discord, the bone of contention being the infertility of the woman. "Apanjan" was remade in Hindi as "Mere Apne" by Gulzar, and had an elderly woman as the protagonist who finds, in some unemployed street boys, a reason to live when her own relatives forsake her. "Nirjan Saikatey" dealt with the plight of five elderly widows, while "Adalat O ekti Mey" was on a rape victim shunned by everyone. Asit Sen's "Deep Jele Jai," remade in Hindi as "Khamoshi" was on a nurse who eventually becomes insane play-acting with a patient.
Strong female roles have also been witnessed in parallel cinema. Here, Mrinal Sen appears to have an edge over others. His "Neel Akaser Neechey" (1959) was a beautiful film about a brother-sister relationship between a Chinese hawker and a Bengali housewife. "Punoscho"(1961) dealt with the question of economic need of the heroine, a theme later tackled by Satyajit Ray in "Mahanagar." The roles of the female protagonist in Sen's "Bhuvan Shome", "Khandahaar," "Ek Din Pratidin", "Antareen" and others have been an interesting mix of innovation and fresh characterization. Satyajit Ray's films have female characters of substance. In "Pather Panchali" the relationship between Durga, an innocent but mischievous girl and her grandmother Chunnibala was beautifully depicted. "Charulata" based on a Tagore's novel dealt with marital discord with much finesse. "Devi" was on religious bigotry when an elderly man starts thinking of his daughter-in-law as a Goddess after a dream. Ritwik Ghatak's "Meghe Dhaka Tara" and "Subarnarekha" are considered path-breaking films about the agony of the Bangladeshi refugees, shown through the eyes of the woman protagonist. Aparna Sen's "36 Chowringhee Lane" is an unforgettable film exploring the loneliness of an elderly Anglo-Indian lady. Sen's other efforts "Paroma" and "Sati" questioned the traditional roles of women in Indian society. Her latest award-winning work "Paromitar Ek Din" is also a women-centric film. Nabyendu Chaterji's "Atmaja" had a power-packed role of a mother caught between the divergent ideologies of her two sons, enacted with conviction by Gauri Ghosh. Nabyendu Chaterji's latest "Sauda" (Bengali) reveals negative shades of some women characters. In this film made in the 90s, the director, possibly the first in Indian cinema, portrayed how the wife and the daughters of an accident victim, now in the operation theatre of a hospital, craved for his death instead of his recovery, because the family has been promised a huge sum of money by an industrialist (Vasant Choudhury) as compensation, whose car was involved in an accident with the victim. The latest talent on the Kolkata filmmaking scene, Rituparno Ghosh, has women-related subjects as theme in all three of his award-winning films "Unishe April", "Dahan" and "Asookh" and his latest "Bariwali" (featuring Kiron Kher). The women characters in the films of Gautam Ghose & Buddhadeb Dasgupta are equally intriguing. In Gautam Ghose's "Antarjali Jatra" a young bride is forcibly married off to a dying Brahmin, while marital disharmony was the subject of films like Buddhadeb Dasgupta's "Griha Yuddha" and "Lal Darja" and Aparna Sen's "Yugant". Sanat Dasgupta's "Janani" featuring Rupa Ganguly was a poignant Bengali film about a woman who was ostracized and labeled a "witch," but in the end sacrificed her life for her son.
Ordinary women characters, rising to extraordinary levels, were witnessed in films like Sushant Mishra's "Aasha" (Oriya), Arinbam Shyam Sharma's "Imagi Ningtem" (Manipuri) and Sanjeev Hazarika's "Meemansxa" (Assamese). "Aasha" dealt with a courageous lady journalist hounded by corrupt politicians. "Meemansxa," dealt with the agony faced by a woman when she moves to court after being molested by a powerful man. Shyam Benegal in films like "Ankur", "Sardari Begum" and "Mammo" have given us some unusual female characters. "Mammo" was an elderly lady who went through an ordeal when she comes to visit her relatives in partitioned India from Pakistan. Govind Nihalani in "Rukmavati ki Haveli", "Dhristi", "Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa" has given us women characters of myriad hues. "Dhristi" was on marital discord, while "Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa" saw Jaya Bachchan giving a fine performance as a woman trying to cope with the death of her son. Ketan Mehta's "Mirch Masala" with the powerful actress Smita Patil demonstrated the strength of women, when a group of village women unitedly bring about the fall of a tyrant police officer. Muzaffar Ali's "Umraao Jaan" gave Rekha one of her finest roles in her career as a 'kotha ' dancer. A disabled dancer overcoming her problems to rise to great heights in her field was the subject of "Nache Mayuri," with Sudha Chandran playing the lead role. Prakash Jha's "Mrityudand" witnessed a new face of the educated Indian women, willing to rebel and fight for her rights. (Subhajit Ghosh : 2002)
Likewise, Deepa Mehta's "Fire" brought to the fore hitherto taboo subjects like lesbianism to the Indian screen for the first time. Women characters in Mahesh Bhatt's "Arth", "Swayam", "Kaash" and "Tamanna" were interesting. Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi gave great performances in "Arth" while in "Kaash," the wife tries to cope with a failed actor husband who turns a derelict and a little son diagnosed with a terminal disease. Likewise Gulzar's "Andhi", Mausam" and "Koshish" and Kalpana Lazmi's "Ek Pal" was noteworthy. "Aandhi," was on the life of a lady politician and in "Koshish," Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri gave mind-blowing performances as a hearing impaired couple. Sai Paranjype's "Saaz" and "Sparsh" deserves a mention. Amol Palekar's "Dayaara" and "Kairee," too, are exceptional. "Dayaraa" dealt with the life of a transvestite. "Kairee" is about a little girl and her relationship with her aunt. "Rao Saheb," "Chakra" "Mother India" and "Dahej" dealt with the theme of subjugated women who were exploited.
Yash Chopra's portrayal of women have been extraordinary. Be it Nanda in the role of a murderess in "Ittefaq" or that of Rekha and Jaya Bachchan in "Silsila" women in his films have been consciously different from their peers. Recently the film "Astitva" ( featuring Tabu) explored sensitively a women's role in a marriage when her husband discovers after twenty-five years that his wife had a sexual relationship with a man which resulted in an offspring, and the offspring is actually the same whom he had been considering his own son.
Lately in Assamese cinema several strong women characters was evoked, like in Bhaben Saikia's "Agnisnaan", Jahnu Barua's "Firongoti", Dr Shantanu Bordoloi's "Adajya" and others. In "Agnisaan," the female protagonist (Moloya Goswami) has a relationship with another man when her philandering husband crosses all limits. "Firongoti" was based on the life of a lady school teacher who tries to bring education among poor villagers.
In films from the South, K.S.Sethumadhavan's "Stri", Prema Karanth's "Phaniyamma", Girish Kasarvalli's "Kraurya", Balu Mahendra's "Moonram Pirai" (remade as Sadma in Hindi) or Adoor Gopalakrishnan's "Mathilukal" have intriguing female characterization. "Stri" dealt with the wife of a drunken man, who in spite of all her husband's faults and their apparent differences, could never forsake her husband. It did carry the message "Pati is Parmeswar," but in a beautiful way. "Phaniyamma" dealt with the agony of a young widow, whereas "Kraurya" dealt with the neglect of the elderly. In "Sadma," SriDevi gave a fine performance as a girl whose mental condition reverts to that of a five-year-old when she meets with an accident. In conclusion, several filmmakers have earnestly tried to portray women in a dignified, realistic, and an intriguing way and have succeeded considerably. Of this genre, filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Mahesh Bhatt, Amol Palekar, Tapan Sinha and Girish Kasaravalli and a few others seems to have given us the best of such women-significant films(Subhajit Ghosh : 2002).
Profile of women directors of Hindi films undergoing a change
Sushmita Sen announcing her intention to direct a biopic on Rani Laxmi Bai and Neelima Azeem also declaring her intention to step into the arena of film direction, a new paradigm shift is being experienced in the arena of film direction of India. In a close parallel to what is being done by their male counterparts in the industry, now the female actors are also ready to wield the megaphone. The difference in the present times however, lies in the fact that the actors are the female actors who are still in the prime of their career are now jumping on to wield the megaphone. The category is getting quotient of glamour in more than adequate proportion. In the modern times, the inclination on part of the mainstream female actors to test the choppy terrain of direction seems to stem from the urge to be on par with their contemporary male actors. The urge also seems to have been triggered from the success stories that their male contemporaries are achieving by stepping into the field of direction. However, the experimentation that Sushmita Sen and Neelima Azeem are trying to attempt would make a hole in the way in which a life span of a female actor in the Indian film industry is concerned. A new and refreshing phase for the film industry indeed is in the offing as films from the perspective of a female actor would make their debut. Already women directors are making waves, but of these, it would be difficult to single out one who would have acted in front of the camera and has now shifted to wield the megaphone. It is the sheer economics as well, that seems to be the triggering factor in making this change being introduced in the industry. Any fresh wave that comes in is an indication about a vibrant and pulsating industry and is a pointer towards the spirit of dynamism present in the industry.
Freedom of Expression is a fundamental human right as stated in Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. On the 60th anniversary of that declaration. At this year’s World Press Freedom Day celebration, UNESCO explored how media freedom and access to information feed into the wider development objective of empowering people. Empowerment is a multi-dimensional social and political process that helps people gain control over their own lives. This can only be achieved through access to accurate, fair and unbiased information, representing a plurality of opinions, and the means to actively communicate vertically and horizontally, thereby participating in the active life of the community. However, in order to make freedom of expression (FEX) a reality, a legal and regulatory environment must exist that allows for an open and pluralistic media sector to emerge; political will to support the sector and rule of law to protect it must also exist, and there must be law ensuring access to information, especially information in the public domain. Finally, news consumers must have the necessary media literacy skills to critically analyze and synthesize the information they receive to use it in their daily lives and to hold the media accountable for its actions. These elements, along with media professionals adhering to the highest ethical and professional standards designed by practitioners, serve as the fundamental infrastructure on which freedom of expression can prevail. On this basis media serves as a watchdog, civil society engages with authorities and decision-makers, information flows through and between communities.
The fuel that drives this engine is information and therefore access to information is critical. Freedoms of information laws, which permit access to public information, are essential, but so are the means by which information is made available, be it through ICTs or the simple sharing of documents. Open and pluralistic media are, perhaps, most precious when they simply provide the mirror for society to see itself. These moments of reflection are instrumental in defining community objectives, making course corrections when society or its leaders have lost touch with each other or gone astray. Increasingly, this role has fallen to the smaller community media sector as financial imperatives drive corporate media away from these core principles and into profit centers that do not cater to smaller or marginalized populations. This concept paper aims to set a framework for WPFD 2008 by examining some of the mechanisms through which community empowerment can be achieved.
In order for citizens to engage in public debate and to hold their governments and others accountable, key elements of living in a participatory democracy, citizens must have access to free, pluralistic, independent and professional media. The idea that communication and dialogue between different members of society will occur naturally cannot be taken for granted, and the media provide a means of access to information and igniting dialogue. Fueling the democratic discourse the media can fulfill a watchdog role by reporting on the activities of governments, civil society and the private sector. A plurality of media outlets is key for this to occur because of the breadth of material to report on and to ensure that different opinions will be heard. The media enables citizens to be informed and participate in their society, which generates real empowerment. Accurate, fair and unbiased reporting is the best defense against ignorance and uninformed decision-making.
Even though many media outlets have made provisions for audience participation and have therein become more accessible to the people they serve, nowhere is accessibility and specificity of purpose so well defined as with community media. Currently radio is the most widespread form of community media in the developing world because it is cheap to produce and to access, can cover large areas, and overcomes illiteracy.
Community Media, Media with a mission Community radio defines itself more by its mission than its size or location. It usually evokes a grassroots attitude and a bias toward the free flow of opinions and ideas. It seeks to educate and entertain, to inform and amuse, and to create a big tent under which its listeners can engage and challenge each other as well as their political leadership. These operations tend to be smaller, community based and managed, with a reliance on local support that may include advertising but more often is reflected in donations and volunteerism. Community media will often fill the void left by larger corporate media entities that operate under different imperatives that may not include the underrepresented or marginalized populations in a society.
While not always the case, women and young people will find a home for their issues and encouragement of their participation within the community media framework. The inclusion of women remains a challenging development issue because they are habitually excluded from the decision-making processes within their own societies, whilst being the first point of contact on many health and educational issues. Similarly, more attention should be given to the inclusion of youth within the media and to developing their media literacy skills. Over the long-term, local media can create a coherent narrative of a region’s development and help people formulate goals and plans for how to improve their situation. The media can help contextualize national development programs within community frameworks and bring these goals closer to their intended beneficiaries. Effective local media can also help people understand the history and evolution of oppression or discrimination and give them the necessary perspective to make rational choices to emerge from it. With this information, people have the means to participate in democratic processes and shape their own futures locally and nationally.
Making every citizen a “reporter” Professional journalists are the core of a reputable media environment. However, they are by no means the only ones actively chronicling the world around them. New technology is giving an unprecedented opportunity to citizens to inform others. . In crises, citizens reporting like journalists may be the only way for human rights abuses and other violations of a criminal or environmental nature to be brought to face broad public scrutiny. Citizen reporting may also be a way to work against censorship, following protests or political turmoil. If information becomes decentralized, censorship becomes less effective because it is no longer containable within the media outlets. Information can change the way we see the world around us, our place in it, and how to adjust our lives in order to maximize the benefits available through our local resources. Fact driven decision-making can significantly alter our political, social and economic perspectives. The right to access information can be interpreted within the legal frameworks that support Freedom of Information as it applies to information held by public bodies, or in a wider sense to encompass both access and circulation of information held by other actors, where it becomes intrinsically linked to Freedom of Expression.
The Basis of informed decision-making Information is power. Freedom of Information and Freedom of Expression work against the concentration of information within the hands of a few. Of course, all information is subject to interpretation. For this reason, the clearinghouse function of an open and pluralistic media sector is critical to a better understanding of any issue. In terms of encouraging the empowerment of citizens, Freedom Of Information is at the heart of a participatory democracy. Consider the consequences of an uninformed electorate going to the polls; consider the consequences when information flows are curbed or manipulated in times of political crisis or ethnic strife. Freedom of Information promotes a true sense of ownership within society and therefore gives meaning to the concept of citizenship.
The practicalities of access Freedom of Information does not guarantee access. Even if governments were to become models of disclosure through e-governance by putting their information online, without a means to access that information people would not be more empowered. Internet connectivity and IT resources have become crucial to unhindered access to information. This is also true for accessing national or international news or even simply to provide a plurality of media options. If the absence of connectivity or equipment can highlight the digital divide and the ensuing knowledge gap that separates developing and developed countries, groups within a country can also become further marginalized by their inability to access information on the internet. The Sixth National Meeting of the Network of Women in Media, India; Pune, 8-10 February 2008, media women gathered at the sprawling campus of the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) in Pune for the sixth national meet of the Network of Women in Media, India. The Network of Women in Media, India, registers its concern about the Broadcast Bill (Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2007) and Content Code (Self-Regulation Guidelines for the Broadcasting Sector). As media professionals aware of the important role of media in society.The Supreme Court of India has also clearly stated that the airwaves belong to the public and that their use is to be regulated by a public authority in the interests of the public. The first step towards media regulation that respects and protects freedom of expression is the setting up of a properly constituted, competent and independent public authority empowered with a clear mandate and guaranteed autonomy. 17th Annual conference of the Asian Media Information and Communication Center (AMIC) also talked about the importance of media in contemporary times for gender sensitization.. The event focused on how an active and vibrant media can achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). MDG’s were formulated in September 2000 when the United Nations (UN) gathered at the Millennium Summit to cooperate towards reducing poverty and other forms of human deprivation. The 8 goals embodies specific targets in eliminating poverty worldwide including achieving gender equality The question of gender equality is a subject of much debate across Asia today as more and women enter the workforce, especially at top professional levels which were previously male domains. This is changing relationships between men and women both at work and in the home. Traditionally the importance of motherhood is what has defined the role of women in Asia, but this is also changing as women become more financially independent. Yet, these ideas may even have to undergo some change in thinking. In the new economical era, as working women begin to shape the economic and social scenes, empowerment is more about the ability to make choices. Looking at the society, mass media can be considered a powerful agent in society in transmitting values, perceptions and influencing attitudes. Perhaps the media industry itself may be the best indicator of this changing role of women in Asia. Looking within the industry there is a general positive shift in the profile of women. Women journalists are on the rise and in broadcasting women are more prominent as compared to other industries. On the same note there is a long drawn criticism regarding the negative or stereotypical portrayals of women in media especially on television which the most popular medium. If women are continued to be portrayed in the traditional roles or portrayed as sex objects achieving gender equality becomes a distant dream. There is a constant struggle between gender sensitivity and commercialization within the industry. The political solution is to employ strategies to improve girl’s development, and then changing traditional culture will be one of the most significant solutions. In this respect, media will play an important role.
Consumerism and the consequent vulgarization of the fabric our cultures are bound to grow unless serious effort is made to curb the menace. It is essential to enlist the support of policy makers, parliamentarians on the appropriate policy and guidelines for the media to ensure that there is no negative portrayal of women. Although many excellent women have contributed regularly to the journalism, media, television, a constant problem has been identification of the right kind of approach. Because professionalism needs ability to produce articles which are sensitive to the issues and problems concerning women, for the most part, such training should be given to women journalist who is based on deeper sensitivity and awareness related with women aspects. two important element are basic to the development are: need for consciousness raising sessions which encourage women journalist and second is the need for more information among journalist about what is going on in their region and else where in the way of women and development projects. They need to travel, discuss, to exchange ideas, to learn what has been successful and what has failed. Moreover, correspondent needs to come together from time to time, at least within their own regions, in order to break down feelings of isolation and to promote a sense of cohesion and identity with a larger network. The citizens both man and woman, who constitute media audience, must act as pressure groups and monitor media performance in gender sensitive issues. Ensuring freedom for the media around the world is a priority. Independent, free and pluralistic media are central to good governance in democracies that are young and old. Free media can ensure transparency, accountability and the rule of law; they promote participation in public and political discourse, and contribute to the fight against poverty. An independent media sector draws its power from the community it serves and in return empowers that community to be full a partner in the democratic process. Freedom of Information and Freedom of Expression are the founding principles for open and informed debate. New technology will continue to evolve and allow citizens to further shape their media environments as well as access a plurality of sources. The combination of access to information and citizen participation in media can only contribute to an increased sense of ownership and empowerment.
Bhasin, kamla and khan, Nighat Said, “Feminism and its Relevance in South Asia” Women Unlimited, Delhi, 1980.
Bhasin, kamla, “what is Patriarchy?”, Women Unlimited , Delhi, 1999.
Brown, M.E,: Soap Opera and Women's Talk - The pleasure of resistance. London: Sage, 1994.
Dines, G. and Hume, J., Gender, Race and Class in Media. London: Sage, 1995.
Fiona Carson and \Clarie Pajaczkowska (ed), ‘Feminist Visual Culture’, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2000.
Gunter, B.,Television and Sex Role Stereotyping. London: John Libbey , 1986.
Heinz Mode, ‘The Woman in Indian Art’ Bombay, Allied Publishers, 1989.
Heywood, Andrew, “Political Ideologies”, Pal Grave Macmillan,2003.
Irvin D. Solomon, “Feminism and Black Activism in Contemporary America: An Ideological Assessmen’, Green Wood Press, New York, West Port, Connecticut, London, 1989.
Karat, Brinda (2005), “Socialism and Women‘s Emancipation” pg.33-47 in Survival and Emancipation: Notes from Indian Women’s Struggle, Three Essays, Collective.
Kuhn, A.(1985): The Power of the Image - Essays on Representation and Sexuality. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul
Lisa, Turtle, Encyclopedia of feminism, Harlow, Long man, 2004.
Margaret Gallagher, ‘Unequal Opportunities: The Case of Women and the Media’, Paris, UNESCO, 1981.
Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, ‘Gender in History’, USA, Blackwell Publishers, 2001.
Minh - Ha, T.T. (1991): When the Moon Waxes Red. London: Routledge
Moore, ‘The Cultural Constitution of Gender’ in Polity Reader in Gender Studies, Polity, 2002.
Peterson. Spike and Runyan, Anne Sisson, “Global Gender Issues: Dilemmas in World Politics”, West View Press Inc., USA, 1993.
Pratibha Jain and Rajan Mahan, ‘Women Images’, New Delhi, Rawat Publication, 1996.
Purvis, ‘Hidden From History’ in the Polity Reader in Gender Studies, 2002.
Resolution of the 1971 Conference, ‘Revolution: From the Doll’s House to the White House: Report of the Fifth Annual Conference of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Los Angeles, California, Sep.3-6, 1971, National Organization for Women Papers, Schlesinger Library, Cambridge. M A.
Spigel, L. & Mann, D.(1992): Private Screenings - Television and the Female Consumer. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Tong, Rosemarie, Feminist Thought: A Comprehensive Introduction, Boulder: West View Press, 1989.
Trowler, P. Investigating the Media. London: Collins, 1988.
Uberoi, ‘Patricia, Family, Kinship and Marriage in India: A Reader, OUP, Delhi, 2000.
Van Evra, J. ‘Television and Child Development’, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1990.
Walby, Syivia, “Towards a Theory of Patriarchy” in the Polity Reader in Gender Studies. Polity, 1994.