Media is a cultural force which not only reflects the social reality but also modifies it according to the demands of the age . The contents of communication are reflective of the values of society which in turn , are nurtured and sustained through communication media.The treatment meted to women and girls in different modes of human communication mirror the prevailing attitudes and values towards women in particular society and reflect their role and status there .
State sponsored discourses discriminate against women at two levels _ the symbolic and the physical . The former has to do with the concept of women as a collective social being and the concept of femininity and the latter with the overall being of women .The underlying assumption is that media in Pakistan reinforce perpetuate and project a specific image of women ( certain stereotypes ) as desired by the state , government and the media people .
Survey of the women related literature used in media brings out the fact that all over the world images of the women projected through the media tend to reinforce the traditional attitudes and often present a degrading and humiliating picture of the fair sex. This picture is not true of all cultures and societies nor does not reflect the changing attitudes of the society nor does it the present age.
The dominant stereotype media images of women which are common to almost all cultures are that of less competent human beings, objects for exploitation by men and key to commercial success in this age of advertising .Women occupy passive role than men in the media and are generally seen in the role of housewives and homemakers only. Employed women are usually shown in traditionally female occupations where they are subordinate to men, and they enjoy little status or power.
The print media has perpetuated the neglect of and the damage to women. Almost all magazines and newspapers have special columns \ pages for women . In addition , there are exclusive magazines for women in almost all Pakistani languages . Invariably their fiction sections glorify patriarchy and women’s roles as housewives , mothers and dependents only . Atrocities against women , from eve teasing to wife beating are usually portrayed in neutral terms . The emphasis remains on females being good enough for such stuff as embroidery , cooking and home management skills .
The advertising world continues to use women as sexual objects to peddle their products. Advertising also reinforces housework as the sole responsibility of women with household equipment advertisements addressed only to women.The media has given tremendous spurt to indecent posters ans hoardings which are displayed everywhere , and are crude reminders of distorted images and attitudes to women.
The passivity of female characters in films and television is also disparaging . Rarely is a woman shown as capable of solving her problems , standing up to indignities or violence , facing challenges on her own , or taking decisions . The image of the educated women is typecast as insensitive , self-center and uncaring . The economically independent woman is shown as domineering and ruthless . The women is ideal only when she is in her nurturing roles and as a supplement to man .The portrayal of the female child in the media especially films and television is also very disparaging . Girls are usually showing 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 .
Specific programmes for women on radio and television perpetuate sex stereotypes and cater to women as housewives and mothers , rather than provide knowledge and skills for their role as economic contributors .
In fact the idea of the divinely ordained anonymity of the “ good’’ woman interacts with belief that designate the woman as the property of the man and valorise her as a symbol of her honour . Questions of the woman’s image in media is subject both to patriarchal norms and to power strategies and underline the ideological stance and vested interests of the groups in power and the monovisual approach of the authorities has encouraged the one dimensional approach in media, especially in the state-owned electronic media towards the world it portrays .
Although media contents like tv and radio plays draw their inspiration from real experiences , based on a system selection and omission , it flattens out the multidimensionality of drama experience and translate the reality into stereotypes .Such representation is also the consequence of the development of a national-popular will , aided through centuries of religious and cultural indoctrination that designates the woman as the property of the man and depicts her as asymbol of his honour.
Due to the recent trend towards commercialisation, even feminist centered texts cannot be telecast without sponsorship which effectively denigrates and demeans women .Since these commercials are the norm , and feminist text s are rare , it is likely that the message of the text is processed as aberrant , and that of the commercial validated .
The struggle to alter the face of the mainstream media is desirable and important because being the citizens of this country, women have a right to equitable representation in media.
Besides media has a direct effecton the process by which children acquire sex-appropriate behaviour. If children are to acquire a balanced conception of both genders , they need to be exposed to equitable representation as the norm .
In fact the image of the women projecting by the media constitutes a major obstacle to eliminate the discrimination against women throughout the world , and is a main factor in preserving the traditional sexist attitude towards them It hinders their progress both at individual and public levels and is prejudicial to aspiration for improved status , rights and participation in society .
Thus there is need for special and sincere efforts by all the intellectual sections of society to change this image and replace it by a truthful honest and desirable representation of women .
Positive role models of women as cultivators, producers, managers, etc. should be forcefully projected on media. In order to change the attitudes towards women and girls and raise the social consciousness of the country, a conscious strategic change is required in the national media. The communication policy for women and girls needs constant monitoring and reappraisal as the question of communication and image portrayal of women and girls is a sensitive and complex one.
For this purpose, a ‘Media Advisory Committee’ consisting of eminent social workers, writers, social scientists and media practitioners may be constituted. The committee besides operationalizing the communication policy will keep constant vigil on media contents and contents of other forms of social communications.