This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Samadrita Chowdhuri. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

More Women Than Men In The Cultural Industry, But Does That Mean It’s Less Patriarchal?

India is known for its cultural wealth, and enriched art forms and industries of culture and performance. The creative or cultural sector in India seems to represent women a lot more than compared to other professional sectors. But does it really offer equal opportunities to both men and women?

The answer would be no. This is because creative and cultural sectors are not segregated from economical, social, political and historical dimensions that shape the country. It is true that culture is never static, which also means that ‘power’ as a cultural reality also changes. But in India, men have always been and are still ‘controllers’ of power hierarchy, even in cultural industries.

In dominant discourse, women are found to be associated with this sector more than others because art is considered to have ‘low-skill’ requirement. This is even more evident in the fact that in the arena of education, science and commerce streams are preferred over arts since there are more opportunities, more respect and most importantly, more money in science and commerce.

Bollywood is one of the leading film industries in India and perpetuates patriarchy and inequality in every aspect of filmmaking — be it casting, screen appearance, characters, script-writing, giving due credit, payment and even safety. “When it comes to gender disparity in terms of wages, Bollywood leads the pack despite being one of the biggest industries globally and minting millions of rupees each year. According to most surveys, A-list actresses get paid 40-45% of what their male counterparts make (Doshi, 2020).”

“There are large numbers of female actors, dancers, musicians, arts managers, producers and creatives on the whole. But, in big decision making roles, prize winning works, names hitting the largest stages and recognition, more often than not the winners are men (Kaur, 2017).” Representational image.

It is no surprise that male stars dominate this industry — this phenomenon can be attributed to centuries of internalised patriarchy and misogyny. Before liberalisation policies swept across the country in 1990s, this process was not questioned as such and after liberal policies were included in the functioning of India, the issue of unequal pay started to come up. People were exposed to global ideas and members of the industry became more aware of the international industries.

In general, producers and scriptwriters are blamed for male actors or members of the industry being preferred over female professionals. Their justification is unacceptable but undeniable. The principle of “whoever attracts the crowd is more important” becomes significant. The concept of market, which was supposed to liberate individuals more, has in turn stagnated the career of women. Market justified social inequalities. “When male stardom accounts for a massive portion of the money a film makes, as compared to the contribution of female actors towards the box office, it only seems fair that men are paid nearly twice as much as women (Doshi, 2020).”

Maximum films are centred around men who are the ‘heroes’ of films, acting next to female actors who are less important than the male actor, irrespective of whether they are prominent in the industry or not. This hierarchy is evident in the actors’ fee, dialogues, screen presence and even during promotions. Even when films are focused on women, male actors in them are never the ‘conventional’ heroes or men who usually dominate Bollywood. Women-led films never make as much money as those starring male actors.

Commercial films are created based on the assumption that women’s strength to attract the crowd is based on their physical appearance and sex appeal, and not talent. These filmsc are segregated from ‘art films’ where ‘unconventional’ beautiful women are cast based on their talent.

However, in both instances they are underpaid as compared to their male counterparts. There are very few female directors in the Indian film industry — a reflection of how producers are reluctant to trust a woman with the money they put in a film. The most evident gender inequality is seen in the increasing sexual harassment and casting couch incidents that are mostly faced by newcomers in the industry who don’t have a large network yet.

In case of performing or fine arts, there is a clear majority of women. “There are large numbers of female actors, dancers, musicians, arts managers, producers and creatives on the whole. But, in big decision making roles, prize winning works, names hitting the largest stages and recognition, more often than not the winners are men (Kaur, 2017).”

In India, only prominent famous women who come into the limelight through reality dancing competitions, run mostly under the Bollywood industry, can be said to be somewhat economically affluent based on their profession. But dancers across India, who are into other modern dance forms or even classical dance styles, are known just in name — they never get their due.

The reason is the transitory nature of Indian society. Since liberalisation, with the influx of global influence, the demand of the society or the market of art is inclined towards Western styles. This is another reason why even in this space, where men are less in number, they continue to dominate. It is because they easily imbibe the western art forms unlike most women, who find it difficult to break away from traditional societal culture based on the patriarchal practices of controlling women. This restricts their occupancy in the public sphere, which in turn restricts their liberty, recognition and economical independence.

Maximum films are centred around men who are the ‘heroes’ of films, acting next to female actors who are less important than the male actor, irrespective of whether they are prominent in the industry or not.

Dance groups led by women are paid less than those led by men. In India, the already weakened reputations of arts as something to be associated with leisure has resulted in payment discrimination as compared to other professions. It is not taken ‘seriously’. This position of the field acts as an added disadvantage for women. Thus, discrimination in the arts becomes layered — it is perpetuated through layers of patriarchy, inequality, hierarchisation of professions, oppression and question of capability.

This is also seen among painters and artists. Art critic Deepanjana Paul stated, “Despite the fact that we have so many women gallerists and artists, the ones who are taken more seriously are the men. As a society, we take women less seriously. When you look at artist couples — Atul and Anju Dodiya, Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta — both might be taken equally seriously by critics, but for a long time, the pricing has been completely different. It’s an unconscious bias.”

Anjali Purohit, a renowned artist, explained it in this way: “Men are seen as professional from the moment they start working as artists. Women have to prove their credentials because they’re seen to have other competing priorities — children and family. A gallery thinks before investing in a woman artist: how seriously does this woman take her art? Will she last?”

We hardly know or remember any female magician in the country. It is another industry or part of our culture that is automatically assumed to be a ‘men’s thing’. Women are never active subjects in magic shows, but are displayed as objects. Thus, it is no surprise that they are immensely underpaid. The same goes for women who are in the other visual arts sectors- photographers, cartoonists, illustrators, sculptors who are female are not given their due recognition and remuneration unlike their male counterparts.

According to the World Economic Forum, there is no country at present where women make as much as men for the same amount of work. It predicts that this gender pay disparity that is a global reality may take up to 170 years to change. Gender and culture are interdependent, so there needs to be a change in both for gender equality (Bielby, 2009).

‘Solution’ is a very problematic term when we speak about inequality, since it is a reality, a social construct that itself is a solution to the patriarchal structure. It can be argued that the situation is improving and pay gap is decreasing, but we still need to go a long way to experience actual ‘real’ equality.

It will only be possible when underlying structures and the core of India becomes dynamic, and not emanate images that reflect mere concepts of inclusivity, cosmopolitanism and ‘progress’. Art needs to be seen as an essential part of people, and not an external reality associated with leisure or luxury. Artworks need to supersede all kind of distinctions, especially gender.

You must be to comment.

More from Samadrita Chowdhuri

Similar Posts

By Rohit Prashar

By Aditya Jaiswal

By Arun Kr Jaiswal

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below