Introduction At a time where women are taking a stand for their independence, rights and identity, there seems to be a lack of acceptance, especially in developing countries, such as India. Although there has been a considerable amount of modernisation, India still seems to fall short of the concept of equality, despite the fact that gender equality is specified without restriction in the Indian constitution.
This can perhaps be attributed to the cultural norms. Being from India, with deep-rooted beliefs and values, I have no doubt that these ideologies affect my life. Limitations that may have occured in my research could consequently be present due to cultural bias and personal experiences in a patriarchal society. Fundamentally, the way the Indian society is perceived globally depends on the media portrayal. The way the media chooses to portray women and reflect society is extremely crucial, as it can build contrasting perspectives. This also highlights that both culture and media have an interdependence, where culture influences media and vice versa, which have imposed stereotypes.
A world studies essay in Global Politics and Language and Literature is of significance because finding the link will help shape the perspectives towards the Indian society, as well as prompting the behaviour and customs that take place in India. I have used primary sources such as interviews, Amartya Sen’s essays and several web pages to come to the conclusions of my findings and research. This essay will highlight and explore the ideas and investigate the relationship between culture and media. I examined the reasons why these two factors have an association with each other, for the purpose of finding appropriate means to educate the future generations about enforcing equality between the sexes. To investigate further the effects of cultural norms on the media portrayal of women, I interviewed several women, from a sampled network created in Singapore and India, who were mostly unknown to me. This was necessary to eliminate partiality and obtain a mixture of responses. The sample included Indian women, both in and out of India, working and non-working, to gain a range of perspectives to support my research.
Global Politics – Equality and DevelopmentGender Equality Gender equality is defined as “the state in which access to rights or opportunities is unaffected by gender”. Gender equality is a contested topic in India, in every sector of life. The last two decades have seen a spike in women fighting for their rights.
India has an annual GDP growth rate of approximately 5.8% and is known to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This may paint a picture of Indians growing into more modern and accepting people. However, cultural norms, which are affecting the ability of women to receive their human rights, have held India back from development.
Both these concepts, human rights and development, are crucial in the full growth of a state. Human rights, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are known as absolute, fundamental rights, to which a person is inherently entitled to simply because she or he is a human being, regardless of gender, nations, language, religion, ethnic origin and any other status. The global political challenge relevant to this issue is identity, on a local, national and global scale. It is a GPC because gender equality has not been fully achieved in any part of the world. Women all over the world continue to suffer discrimination on a large scale. The theory of Universalism can be highlighted in this issue, as it states that rights should be equally applicable to all people and countries, and do not vary according to local cultures and religious beliefs. This is another factor that makes this issue a global political challenge. The inequality faced by women is a violation of human rights, which can be linked to slowing development.
Interviewee #1, agreed that equality can help development, saying “Yes absolutely….but it’s slowly treading down that path. It took almost a hundred over years (sic) for a developed country like USA to reach the equality levels but it’s still not 100% so India still has a long way to go!”. DevelopmentDevelopment is referred to as the sustained increase in the standard of living and well-being of a level of social organization.
India has been independent from the British rule since 15 August 1947. At the time, there were riots and disagreements regarding the leaders and rulers of the country. This led to the partition of India which resulted in extreme poverty, broken economies and high amounts of illiteracy. In India, however, the rate and growth of development over the last 70 years have been promising. The literacy rate increased 12.
2% to approximately 74%. Healthcare and scientific achievements have all been beneficial to the growth of India on a global scale. With improved infrastructures, standards of living and overall socio-economic health, one would expect that India is developed. This is not entirely the case. Development is a well rounded aspect that all states must aim to achieve.
Based on research, development is judged based on gross domestic product, gross national product, general standard of living, industrialisation, per capita income and various other economic factors. However, it can be argued that development is not purely based on economic factors. Education, equality and human rights play an influential role in the development of a state.
Several issues that have been prevalent in the Indian society are inequality towards women, caste, income inequalities, poverty, environmental issues and corruption. Gender inequality however is the main focus. This is an important issue to appraise, as although equality does not affect only gender, it is an extensive concern in India. The Indian Human Development Survey, provides demographic and domestic statistics of women in India. Firstly, for every 1000 men, there are 946 women. This is attributed to gender-related abortions, infanticide and smuggling of baby girls.
Before girls are born, they are already considered a burden, their human rights are already snatched. Girls and women are subject to never ending discrimination, whether in the workplace, household or within families. Statistics show that approximately every 3 minutes, a woman is mistreated. 95% of women shockingly are familiar with their abusers.Gender equality plays an important role in the development of a country.
It allows more potential productivity and overall better efficiency in the workplace. Fig. 1In reference to the above diagram, increased gender equality means more economic opportunity, sustainability for the future generation in terms of knowledge and capabilities, decreased poverty and improved healthcare and productivity. Amartya Sen, an Indian economist, wrote The Argumentative Indian, containing four essays about tradition and culture, as well as their effects on identity, discrimination and how India is viewed in the contemporary world.
His third essay of the book, Part Three: Politics and Protest discusses different sorts of discrimination that women go through, such as abortion of female foetuses, gender disparity, sex ratios, inequality in terms of facility and victimisation. He believes that Indian social norms have organised the way people live and think. He says “Turning to India, it must be acknowledged first that the frequency of assault on women is high in the country. To that terrible general recognition has to be added the special role of violence connected with particular social features, such as dowry and economic settlements”. His work acknowledges the faults in the Indian society, which he highlights as highly dependant on religion and faith holding the country back. Many of my interviewees agreed. Interviewee #4 mentioned “I do agree that inequality in India stems from cultural norms.
In our culture it is often depicted that women provide for the house in terms of cooking and cleaning and taking care of kids, and men provide financial aid and strength, when technically either role can be shared between men and women. The fixation that people have on their culture doesn’t let Indians grow with an open minded brain(sic)”.Development and Culture In democratic India, the state actors are the government and political parties, as they are the ones who have major control over the function of the state. The state actors previously, were those who ruled and created laws. The non state actors are the non governmental organisations who support women’s rights in the workplace and household. The key stakeholders are the women and organisations affected by gender inequality on a daily basis.
Laws such as the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 and Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 are all in function today. These laws are extremely strong and have serious consequences if broken. In spite of this, women are not always paid equally, there are many incidents of sexual harassment on a daily basis and dowry is still customary. The power therefore of the state actors can be questioned.
The Manusmriti, an ancient legal text, was translated under the British rule back in 1794. It is written originally in Sanskrit and is said to be written in the 2nd century BCE. The Manusmriti has determined the Hindu laws and was the ancient text that enforced patriarchy in the Indian society. It is also important to consider that the current state actors are under the influence of the same ideologies. This conduct has an extremely authoritative and significant impact on the people who live in the country, as this perhaps leads them by example and does not make them fearful of wrongful doings. It can be seen that culture is of much more value in terms of societal decisions and ideologies, which can bring law enforcement to a lower position. In contrast, there are many developed countries such as Singapore and the United States, that have not achieved full gender equality. But which have strong economic growth, proper infrastructure and good education systems, despite discrimination against women which is still prevalent in society.
Inequality continues to exist, in many aspects such as maternity leave, wage gaps and male dominant STEM industries.Language and Literature – Culture and Media Media and Women in IndiaThe population of India is second in the world, at 1.2 billion. The mass media in India is known for playing a huge role in influencing, sensationalising and even exaggerating stories. Newspapers alone reach out to approximately 30,772,00 people daily. With approximately 398 publications circulating, in many different languages, the reach of the Indian media is widespread.
There are 63,000,000 television sets and 39,112,150 cable subscribers. These numbers alone represent how the media is everywhere and therefore is able to reach out and inform, persuade and remind people. 586.47 million are women (48%). Women make up 48.1% of the urban population and 48.6% of the rural populations.
The Indian media is an extremely flourishing industry being an entertaining source for not only Indians, but reaches other parts of Asia too. Many comment on the colourful costumes, the stunning TV and movie sets and the ‘homely’ feeling they get from the families they see. The news channels are known for being loud and amplifying, including a renown journalist, Arnab Goswami, who is recognised for his intimidating questions and thunderous debates. The media is a reflection of the Indian society. The way people are represented to the world in the media, influence perspective and ideas about Indian people. There are still extremely shocking portrayals of women, but, living in a patriarchal society, they often accept what is portrayed in the media. Despite this, several television advertisements, such as the ‘unisex’ washing machine have provoked negative reactions. Furthermore, advertisements in general tend to show women as only housewives.
There are two main ways in which women are portrayed. They are portrayed as quiet, traditional and obedient women, who follow whatever they are told. Or, they are portrayed as strong, independent and capable. It is worth noting, most shows with the latter, result in a dominant male involvement. The first type of woman, is always shown as shy and incapable.
She is always wearing traditional clothing and heavy jewellery, whether she is cooking in the house or sleeping. She is married, or will be, sometimes with very little or no education. Her goals to work and build a career, if any, are simply silenced or ignored. This portrayal of women makes them seem much weaker than men, and often they require absurd powers in order to get their way.
One example from a TV show, called Sasural Simar Ka portrays the protagonist, Simar, turned into a fly in order to bring her family back together and was successful. However previously, her attempts had gone into vain. This shows how the Indian media persuades the audience that women cannot do anything without men or extreme powers. A lot of this can be attributed to the conservative culture, where it is believed women must get married by the age of 25, otherwise it is inauspicious, women should do only domesticated work and take care of children, and should not speak up or have the upper hand in any decision making. When asked, interviewee #5 said, “India is a hierarchical society.
It is vital to comprehend the historical context to excavate deeper. This may be due to the values brought in by the various invaders, the British rule, etc. Our society categorizes individuals as per caste, creed, wealth, gender.” This is a very misleading idea, especially in the generations that are growing up, as this culture will embedded in their minds and influence the way they choose to live. Techniques of Influence The insidious technical production techniques that influence the perspective and portrayal of women in the media include lighting, visual composition, colour, sound, symbols and editing. They indirectly affect the way the message or idea is received by its viewers. Firstly, lighting, colour and visual composition focus on sharing the message through objects, different types of cuts and colours to determine the nature of the character.
For example, traditional women in Indian shows are shown in bright attire, and lighting, to show that they are a positive character. The colours used can affect emotions, for example, warm tones will provide a calming feeling, telling the viewers that everything is good. An example of this is when women are dressed in dark colours, walking in low lights so the viewer is automatically assuming something bad may happen to the character.
This portrays women being raped, abused and mistreated. Often, the visual composition of the TV show uses framing, which usually shows the men larger on the screen than women, showing a dominance through ‘size’ as seen on screen. Secondly, sounds, symbols and editing also impact how women are shown by the media. Certain sounds have the ability to provoke thought processes, emotions and therefore help the viewers understand the situation. Symbols are used various ways. For example, when the show is about marriage and family relations, they show the girl as very innocent, simple and she is often introduced with big, shiny earrings in traditional clothing.
These are common, and easily identifiable amongst Indian audiences. The Big Screen The censor board of India is often criticised for its backward thinking and conservative ideologies. It has been noticed that women oriented films have the largest amounts of cuts, censors or are even denied from being released to the public. The movies, which highlight important issues, can bring positive influences and take small steps forward in changing their mindsets. There have been two such movies in the course of the last two years, which have very strong social messages about women, however have been in controversy due to the censor board and public opinion.
One of these films, Pink, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, a courtroom drama social thriller, about women’s rights and dignity. The story revolves around three women and three men who meet after a rock concert in the outskirts of the capital city, New Delhi. The men attempt to approach the women sexually, which results in the girls fighting back – the men are injured and the women are accused of murder. The film was received exceptionally well and was praised by many. The media therefore can help raise social issues by using entertainment means to do so. Another film, was released in 2017, Lipstick Under My Burkha by Alankrita Srivastava, is a film based on women’s hidden desires, such as a 55 year old rediscovering her sexuality, a housewife living a secret life of an entrepreneur and stories of affairs.
The movie is based on rebellion, while accurately portraying how the Indian society disapproves of these actions. The movie was banned from release in January 2017, the censor board stating “There are contagious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society”. The sensitive touch they refer to is women.
The movie was later released in July 2017. One quote that has become extremely favoured was “why does our freedom scare you so much?”. Many Indian girls and women commented on this video in a positive manner, showing their agreement to this situation. In general, Bollywood movies have many stereotypes. Although there has been major progress, several movies today continue to enforce gender stereotypes. Woman characters are mostly described with surface-level qualities; attractive, beautiful—whereas men are represented as “strong” and “successful” associated with them.
These stereotypes are indicative of the India society, however are also reflected within the Indian society. The Effect of Norms on the Media It is very clear that the correlation between an inferior image of women and the culture of the country exists. The media is important in perpetuating and transmitting this information.
So the rest of the world understands India and Indian women. Culture is known as the set beliefs, values, attitudes, ideas and approaches. Indian civilisations have always relied and based their foundations on moral and religious values. It is important to understand, those working in Indian media have grown up in the same society, with the same mindset surrounding them questioning the partiality towards stories and films. The media can also take advantage of the culture and in order to profit themselves, show the audience only what they would want to see. For example, television soaps about family, with traditional and extended families, where women are part of domesticated work, have been the most successful. For example, an Indian show about family relations, called Kyunki Saas Kabhi Bahu Thi, was a show about the ideal daughter in law in a rich extended family and familial relationships. The show had extremely traditional customs, ideologies and portrayed women as conservative, fancily dressed and obedient to their in-laws and husband.
It is known to be one of the longest running television soaps in Indian history, running for 8 years, with 1833 episodes. It is known to have the highest target rating point (TRP) in India for a television show, spiking to about 22.4 in 2001, and averaging a 5.4.This shows the symbiotic relationship between the media portrayal of women and cultural norms, because norms influence the ideas in the entertainment industry, which could sometimes positively shape mindsets.Firstly, when broadcasting news, news channels will portray the news the way the audience would like to see it.
For example, when there are news reports of violence against women or any sort of discrimination, the news channels usually hold extensive debates. These debates almost always include one or two participants who will question why the girl was wearing a certain type of clothing or was on her own. Curfews for grown, adult women still continue to exist, certain clothing, behaviours and etiquette are still considered unacceptable. Interviewee #7 explained whether she’d faced inequality. “Never directly from my family, but my male friends were always quite free and out whenever they wished. Often my curfew was 11 pm while they were free to go, and when I asked my parents why, they said “he’s a boy, so it’s okay”.” This was something I very strongly reacted to, growing up in Singapore myself and facing a similar situation.
While the culture influences how the message is portrayed in the media, there are two outlooks. One, the media is taking the same, perhaps discriminatory message from culture and presenting it to the audience. Or two, against the culture, the laws and ideologies, trying to change mindsets. Many media platforms have attempted to positively spread equality and its link to development, which will effectively allow for maximum potential and improve the economy, infrastructure, and may reduce levels of poverty. This can be linked to global politics, where the poverty cycle can be broken and therefore improve health, sanitation and create a more educated workforce.
Secondly, films and television are sources of entertainment. This means that the production houses will make items that the audience enjoys – and often, people enjoy things that they are able to relate to. The Indian society is able to relate to women shown as incompetent, especially in extremely traditional families. Television shows, have a lot more relatable and enjoyable but contentious content which is watched on a daily basis. Often we will see women in much weaker roles, not being educated or forced into child marriage. Balika Vadhu, the first Indian TV show to air more than 2000 episodes, was based around child marriage, where the girl had to adapt and grow up very quickly. Another show, Saath Nibhana Saathiya, had a foolish stance towards women, where Gopi, the protagonist, decides to impress her husband to get some positive attention from him.
Her sister-in-law, who is educated and despises her, tells her to clean his laptop in the sink. She then proceeded to wash her husband’s laptop with water and hanging it outside to dry. It portrays women in a negative light, reflective of norms which are perpetuated. It can therefore be argued that the media has an influence on the culture of India. Many Indians disapprove of the way women are portrayed so boldly and independently. There are several women, who believe that the patriarchy is in fact, a good system to follow and are completely comfortable living in it. Interviewee #2 agreed that inequality is not holding India back, saying “No, I do not believe inequality towards women is holding India back.
At the outset, mindsets are changing most certainly in urban areas. Rural areas are a bit of laggards but the government has a lot of initiatives and programs to promote the girl child. and educating her.
It is promising and India is on the road to full development”. ConclusionIn conclusion, the effect of cultural norms on development and portrayal of women in the media is prevalent. It is a large, everlasting effect, based on mindsets, ideologies and historical beliefs. In such a culturally rich country, it will take more than just globalisation to change the way women are treated, the way they are portrayed and the way development occurs.
The extent to which these norms affect the external environment are significant, because we are able to see how the media reflects society. However, compared to many years ago, the media is able to synthesise cultured roots and make human rights and equality more pertinent issues in India. Campaigns, real life stories and films provide an idea that women are human and should be equals, which means they should not be restricted by dominance and patriarchy in the media, in reel or real life. It can be argued that one does not necessarily have to be bound by their culture, especially if it holds them back from their human rights. While India culture is deep-rooted and conservative, it must adapt to the modernisation taking place in the rest of the world. Overcoming a conservative mindset alone is a large success, especially in India.
If women are treated equally, then the Indian society will flourish.