Public exposure to media is like flesh to the body and so is its impact on us. The images in media mould our opinion and affect the way in which we see the world around us.
Television is the spinal source of information for the youth of today. The youth reflect what they see and try to emulate that in their day to day lives. The way in which women are represented in the media, especially on television could lead to the continued oppression of women and the continued belief that they are the objects of male satisfaction (the pervasiveness of such stereotyping is evident in advertising).
In the early 1970s there was an upswing in feminist movement which affected the television market as many women oriented issues were taken up by the tele directors. But there was a fall in the trend by the next decade itself therefore the impact was somewhat limited. The images in the media have by and large proved to be detrimental to women as the portrayal of such imagery has clearly reasserted the patriarchal superstructure rather than helping women assert their own ground. Images running through the media not only affect men’s behavior but also affect women’s interpretation of conducting themselves in a particular fashion. The images that prevail in the media are social dangers to women as it circumscribes them from breaking the societal stereotypes.
Media as an agent of socialization (Holtzman,p.76,Weimann,p.20). Sreberny and van Zoonen p.226) stated also in the meaning theory that “by presenting endless portrayals of reality in its content, mass communications provide experiences from which we collectively shape our meanings” and in this way not only does the media influences the society but it also upholds the current societal values and views solidifying the societal norms of the time and hence aiding in creating the social structure.
If we compare the decades of 50’s and 60’s where the women performed their “engendered roles” of submitting to their husbands and were affectionate and consummate homemakers, only 32% of women were seen in television characterization. Later on during mid 70’s as mentioned earlier a slight transformation was seen which also was not that long lasting. For instance, the Charlie’s Angels who were the epitome of strong, tough and independent women crime fighters also worked and took orders from the mysterious male Charlie. In addition, they were dressed to accommodate the male gaze that in no way makes them epitome of impressive independent female crime fighters or women who know what they want.
Another important point to be noted is that women in television are more concerned about sex and marriage as compared to their male counterparts. The Indian television is flooded with the stereotypical storylines comprising of “kitchen politics” where women hold their ground in terms of back biting at domestic level, decorating themselves with ornaments and rearing their children in the most “moral and pro societal” ways. Society’s bias is so commonplace and is more or less a normative thing for the society to commoditize women in terms of their beauty and the kind of work that is “allowed” to them.
The images of professional women which are also taking up the television industry are problematic. The “superwoman” imagery of women who are able to prove their acumen at work and are also identified as model home makers and mothers give the illusion that professional women are capable of “multi tasking” and they can be able breadwinners and at the same time can handle domestic chores without any extended help. This is not a favorable situation for women in any way. There is a great deal of “illusion” of celebrating the spirit of womanhood. When the women were toiling their voices for equality in job, it now seems that the media imagery is depicting women having achieved their aspirations as television every now and then comes up with images of equality won and women across the country are empowered. There is a created sense of women having no reason to fight over anything or demanding equality because the “media reality” depicts the realization of such equality which leaves no reason to fight.
When we see the news on the television, there we witness the male and the female news anchors and along with the “weather girls” which are also a measure of amusement. In addition to this, while participating in interviews women are much more likely to be asked questions about their love life than men while men in all probabilities would be questioned about their careers, goals and accomplishments.
Also issues affecting women are also not issues of grave concern, the issues are mostly overlooked as they are “not to be brought beyond the realm of private”. We rarely hear about the stoning of women in Afghanistan and the genital mutilations that prevail all over Africa and the Middle East. Marital rapes, domestic abuse and wage inequality are also some of the issues which are not brought out into the open.
Also the women issues which are covered did not involve any sort of interpretation in terms of critical thinking of the issues rather they were merely taken to be at the face value and were more or less left at that.
Women depicted in the music videos and other “glamour” performances is another major source of commoditization of women where women are nothing more than merely objects of male desire and the sexual violence in such videos adds to the desirability quotient of the male gaze. The fast growing trend of artificial treatments like “plastic surgeries” and “liposuctions” to turn attractive overnight is also part of “fitting” well in the male gaze where one caters to somebody else’s expectations rather than their own.
Women have been effectively portrayed in the typecast gender roles where the advertisers can sell domestic use products to the ever smiling happy mothers who are symbolic of happy homemakers having no issues with their condition.