She is impulsive, mindless, proud and pretty. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she never cares about money, nor does she understand the bitter realities of life. One day a Mr. Perfect enters her world and falls in love with her despite her brainless antic. Eventually, he brings her to the right path through his consistent efforts. An age old formula of famous TV plays such as yesteryear’s Shahzori and today’s Kuck Pyar ka Pagalpan Bhi Tha still continue to click with the same theme.
TV is around fifty years old in Pakistan but its characters, especially the female ones, have not yet matured. What it portrays are either angels or devils. They only fall in two categories — good and bad women. A woman in our TV plays is either a sacrificing mother/wife, accepting her husband’s abuse and infidelities, giving up her own life for the sake of her children. Or she is an obedient daughter or sister, dependent on her father and brothers whom she serves like a maid servant and sacrifices her love for the honour of her family, which turns out to be in the best of interest for everyone.
Occasionally the viewers can see a sad widow or a deserted wife on the screen, all of us loved Humsafar’s Khirad. Mostly portrayed as a pitiful creature, if young, waiting for another man; if old, devoted her life for others.Regardless of her characters on the tube, she is expected to be endlessly sacrificing, extremely submissive, virtuous, modest, religious, traditional, domesticated and at the same time emotional and irrational to get the title of `A good woman’.
On the other hand, when our television projects cunning or vicious women it’s because they have deviated from our tradition and culture. Employed women are usually shown in traditionally female occupation where they are subordinate to men and enjoy little power. Educated women are more or less typecast as ambitious, insensitive and self-centered while the economically independent woman is shown as domineering and ruthless, neglecting her family and children. Middle-aged, well-to-do mistresses are usually as party animals whose sole aim in life is socializing. The only escape for woman is to realise her mistakes and ultimately return to the four walls of the home, reaffirming her innate dependency on men.
The portrayal of the female child in the media, especially films and television, is also often disparaging. Girls are usually shown looking after the younger siblings and imitating the nurturing role of their mothers, while boys, on the other hand, seek adventure, solve problems, and follow the role model of their fathers. Women programmes on radio and television perpetuate sex stereotypes and cater to them as housewives and mothers, rather than provide knowledge and skills for their role as economic contributors.
Media is a cultural force both reflects and affects the social values. It not only shows reality but also modifies it according to the demands of the age. The treatment which is meted out to the fair sex on our television and in other media mirrors the popular attitude towards them. In our country, television is also used as a tool of state machinery thus it projects certain stereotypes as desired by the people in power to propagate their ideologies and vested interests.
Survey of the women-related literature used in media brings out the fact that all over the world the image of women projected through the media tends to reinforce the traditional attitudes and often presents a degrading and humiliating picture of the fair sex, which is not representative of the present age.The dominant stereotype media images of women are that of less competent human beings, objects for exploitation by men and key to commercial success in this age of advertising.
In Pakistan, women’s image has undergone several unjust projections at the hands of the media. The print media has perpetuated the neglect and damage to women. All magazines and newspapers have special women columns/ pages. Besides there are exclusive female magazines in various languages. Mostly their fiction sections glorify patriarchy and women’s roles as housewives, mothers and dependents. Atrocities against fair sex, from eve- teasing to wife-battering are portrayed, as routine. The emphasis remains on females being good enough for such skills as embroidery, cooking and home management.
The advertising world continues to use women as sexual objects to peddle its products. Almost all commercials from the one for Dalda oil to that of washing machine reinforce housework as the sole responsibility of women with household equipment advertisements addressed only to women .The media has given tremendous spurt to indecent posters and hoardings which are displayed everywhere, and are crude reminders of distorted images and attitudes to women.
The main problem is that women’s issues are always judged on gender basis. The day our society will give women the status of human beings, the day we will accept their rights as human rights, the day discrimination against women will be identified as violation of human rights, is the day when most of women’s problems will be automatically solved.