Portrayal Of Women By The Indian Media

Posted on February 1, 2010 in Specials


Movies, or for that matter media in general, are often said to be the reflection of the society. Or at least that’s what majority of people in India consciously or unconsciously tend to believe. While it’s arguable whether the media truly reflects the society or not, there’s no doubt that media has a big sociocultural influence on the society.

The way women are shown in movies these days is hardly different than those before a decade or a few. Women have been shown to consider being an ideal homemaker as the goal of their life. Leaving few exceptions, movies of recent times have hardly shown an ‘ideal woman’ doing anything but being a housewife. Even in those movies where a woman is shown to have more decision power in hand than her husband, the wife is almost always portrayed in bad light.

A few days ago, while watching such a scene from a movie, one of my roommates actually said, ‘This is the reason why a woman should not be given power. She doesn’t know how to use it.’

As far as showing women in advertisements is concerned, things seem to have only worsened over time. In most of the advertisements, a woman is either washing clothes and/or utensils, cooking, serving food to family members or trying to make her husband feel better who’s at that time reading a newspaper or suffering from cold. A woman does all this even when she has headache or backache. These advertisements arguably encourage sexism. They reinforce the old belief that a woman is supposed to forgo her own comfort and keep on doing household chores without getting tired.

The same has remained true for the soap operas of earlier times and of recent times. While in many of these soaps, a woman has more decision power than their male counterparts, it’s very difficult to come across such families in real life. Moreover, those women who wear modern clothes and appear very confident more often than not have bad intentions than their conservative and not-so-modern counterparts.

I recently came across this: ‘The media should refrain from portraying women as commodities and sex objects.’ The media still portrays women as objects showing whom in certain way can catch the attraction of people. It’s very amusing to see a woman in advertisements for products like cement.

A women holds utmost importance in the Indian culture and household. It is the sensationalism by the media that women today are not receiving the much needed aide from their families. It is high time we portrayed women as progressive yet positive, especially in daily soaps.

The writer is a Mumbai based correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.


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sneha you have said everything…in a nation where 47% is female yet 8.8% in parliament is women, there won’t be social parity for the next 500 years unless and until we fight for our rights. objectification is the very first step to justify against a human being and women are objectified and pornified. their existence is limited to just child-birth while existence of our male counterparts is all about power and dominance.

Snigdha kapoor

hi haresh,

You have done a very good job with the topic but i dont agree with you on few points like you have mentioned about one of your friends having seen a movie where women’s power lead to abysmal condition. Movies are just fictitous and we should stick to facts. If you have forgotten our country was lead by Mrs. Indira Gandhi for starters and now also congress is led by Sonia gandhi. Indira gandhi was the second female prime minister of the world after Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka..She freed punjab from terrorism with operation blue star. These powerful icons have contributed a lot to the indian society because they had POWER.

and secondly you have said that women are shown as a ‘ home maker’ these days in movies.. wake up, which world are you living in?? Katrina Kaif in rajneeti was the leader of her political party, in Ek Tha Tiger she was shown as a spy of ISI (intelligent force of pakistan), Vidya Balan in Paa was shown as a doctor,Chitranga singh was shown as a professor of economics in Trinity college. Women have stepped out of the boundaries of their homes and entered into all walks of life. Right from politcs to entertainment industry and from police to sports there is no field where women has not excelled.

roshni nair

hey Snigdha,
i think i will just have to come here in Haresh’s rescue and tell you that i think he was drawing a very general picture about how our movies portray women. no doubt that movies today are reinventing themselves and showing women in a more positive light than they did before but what is the ratio of such movies to the n-number of other movies that still use women as objects of titillation. i mean which movie today doesn’t have an item song in it? isn’t it a sad state of affairs that songs that don’t even have relevance to the movie are made and sometimes the whole movie is marketed on that one song? ohk we can argue that it is a marketing technique and since everyone is here to make some money selling one’s product is the utmost need but aren’t the lyrics so vulgar that they make you cringe? what are we saying about women through such representation?
just some food for thought.

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