A Shift In Women Representation And Portrayal In Visual Media

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Abstract

The paper focuses on the emerging trends in representation of women in the visual media. In the past, the abilities of women have been suppressed and they have been shown as passive and dependent on men, but now we see a change in the way women are depicted in visual media. They are portrayed as strong, courageous and more empowered. The Government of India has implemented many programs and schemes, especially for the upliftment of wome

Introduction

Women are subordinate to men in all cultural domains: familial, religions, political, economic, social, legal and artistic. They were disciplined and taught as weak, submissive and enduring creatures, in the process of being socialized, to internalize the reigning patriarchal ideology which is conditioned through historical inheritance to derogate their own subordination .And this mindset of women helped men gain advantage to control, conduct and organize women merely as puppets and to identify them as passive, acquiescent, timid, emotional and conventional. To keep on with this manipulating strategy, men brought new laws in to the society, to stick women to the periphery and to check adequately to never have their presence in the center which is always andocentric. Thereby, men ruled and ridiculed women easily, while women ignorantly submitted to thinking this as a role or karma. Thus, for centuries women hid their inborn talents and primarily, their individuality. In this adverse atmosphere, women suppressed their passions, never dared to follow their dream, rather they were domesticated. But women never allowed this to continue forever. Instead, they bravely began to climb the first step of the ladder of all cultural freedom and equality. Though the progress is slow, the liberation of women from the age-old customs and codes laid by men to freedom and equality is now a universal agenda.

When a woman breaks her silence, changes tend to happen and it brings in a great impact and leaves its effect for generations and generations to come. It is high time that women take a strong stand for their own rights not only as a female but also as a human who have been deprived from them centuries ago. Even the women of the current generation have to go through a lot in humanity as a part of the culture, tradition and of course due to the patriarchal politics. For men, women are weak because he views her only through the physicality that he himself assigned to her which is certainly not her unique physical capabilities and man never tried to understand women’s mental and physical strengths that makes the women and even today, men do not face this reality. But the real problem is women themselves have failed to recognize their bodies and strengths and are subjected to the subjugations of their own dignity and self respect.

Women and Visual Media

In the past, most of the people in India were limited to a single channel broadcast on Doordarshan network but now the average Indian consumer has access to more than 100 channels. It is a powerful medium influencing the people’s perception on a variety of issues. Media is an instrument to convey our thoughts, ideas, information and opinions. It can be both positive and negative regarding the position and views of women as well as a powerful mean for education and socialization. Although the media has played an important role in highlighting women’s issues it has also had a negative impact in terms of perpetrating violence against women through pornography and images of women as a female body that can be bought and sold. To a large extent, the treatment of women is stereotypical and reinforces gender roles and assumptions that women’s functions are that of a wife, mother and servant of man. A closer look at the vast area of advertising reinforces the patriarchy and negative attitude that existed in India for generations. Women were depicted as a submissive, nurturing care involved in household chores without their own independent needs and aspirations .They were portrayed as objects to sell products. The beaming wives with the spatula, the obedient daughter, the loving mother, the seductress, are some social conventions on women that the advertising has reinforced since time immemorial. Women have done it all: Washing, cleaning, cooking and most importantly pleasing men in their lives. We see men having conquered mountains, closed business deals, and succeeded in every walk of life, women in advertising are relegated to the confines of her house.

Advertising is a reflection of the life around us; showing women as homemakers obsessed with getting the Ziddhi stain out of clothes must have made sense a few decades ago, but today’s women have come a long way. In recent times, many advertisements have gone beyond the white picket fence when it comes to the portrayal of women. Thirty years back, the trend was that a woman has to take care of the house, the children, and the daily chores. Many detergents including Nirma, showed women enjoying washing clothes and they probably did enjoy it because of how they were raised and what they were taught growing up. But the role of women who were the voices of Nirma has changed. Instead of trying to get the perfectly white shirt white, the women were trying to help a struck ambulance. Breaking out of the confines of the house, the advertisement rather focused on women getting the job done, no matter how dirty.

The Role of The Government in Women Empowerment

The Government of India has implemented many programs and schemes specially to cater to the needs of women. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) aims at enhancing the livelihood, security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Sarva Shikha Abhiyan(SSA) is a Government of India flagship program for achievement of universalization of elementary education in a time bound manner. SSA has a special focus on girls education and children with special needs. Jenani Suraksha Yojana(SSJ) is a safe motherhood intervention under the National Health Mission. It is being implemented with the objective of reducing maternal and neo natal mortality by promoting institutional delivery among poor pregnant women.

The Government of India has launched many schemes for women aimed at their upliftment. Some of them are:

Mahila E-Haat

It is a direct online marketing platform launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to support women entrepreneurs, Self Help Groups (SHGs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to showcase products made and service rendered by them. This is a part of the Digital India Drive.

Beti Bachao Beti Padao

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This is a social campaign aimed at eradication of female foeticide and raising awareness on welfare services intended for young Indian girl launched on 22 January 2015, it is a joint initiative run by The Ministry of Women and Child Development, The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and The Ministry of Human Resource Development.

One Stop Center Scheme

It was implemented on1st April 2015 with the Nirbhaya fund. The One Stop Centers are established in various parts of India for providing shelter, police desk, legal, medical and counseling services to victims of violence under one roof integrated with a 24-hour Helpline.

Working Women Hostels

The objective of the scheme is to promote availability of safe and conveniently located accommodation for working women, with daycare facilities for their children, wherever possible, in urban, semi-urban or even rural areas where employment opportunities for women exist.

The Swadhar Greh

The Swadhar Greh was launched by The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2002 for rehabilitation of women in difficult circumstances. The scheme provides shelter, food, clothing and care to the marginalized women who are in need. The beneficiaries include widows deserted by their families and relatives, women prisoners released from jail and without family support, women survivors of natural disasters and victims of terrorist/extremist violence.

STEP

The Support to Training and Employment Program for Women Scheme(STEP) aims to provide skills that give employability to women and to provide competencies and skill that enable women to become self employed.

Nari Shakthi Puraskar

Nari Shakthi Puraskars are national level awards recognizing the efforts made by women and institutions in rendering distinguished services for the cause of women, especially vulnerable and marginalized women.

The Changing Landscape in the Portrayal of Women in Advertisements

In the Past, women in advertisement highlighted beautiful bodies and faces, smart clothes, makeup accessories, traditional mothers and wives who are eager to attend to the errand of their spouses, in-laws and children. These women do not think of themselves, they keep themselves healthy to serve their families. Among the stereotypes typically employed in advertising by the media are the ideas that women do unimportant things and that a woman’s place is in the home. In the Past, women were portrayed as such. But now, there has been a transformation in the way women are depicted in the visual media. For example, Ariel India’s 2016 campaign called ‘Share the Load’, a father watches his daughter juggle work and household chores. After introspecting his own role at his house, he tries to bring a positive change in the family. Another example is Britannia’s Resk advertisement, which tells that a little fun is very important for a healthy relationship, just like the goodness of wheat with the fun of butter and Herbs. Next, there is the Sunfeast Dark Fantasy advertisement, where we see a father struggling to feed his baby. Finally, we have and advertisement by a company that sells bug repellents, All Out, which came up with the message #standbytoughmoms with their advertisement which was made in support of mothers who are tough.

Instead of passive, secondary and unimportant roles, women are portrayed as independent, strong and empowered. Women’s roles have now expanded beyond the home and the kitchen. Women are targeted in Visual Media since they are the core consumers of their products. Despite all of this women are yet to be completely empowered, they are still trapped in the patriarchal norms of society.

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