To examine the portrayal of women in media, the inequalities perpetuated till date, and access of media to women and girls, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi presented a discussion with Anita Parihar on Gender and Media as part of the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps.
Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor at, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), as the chair of the talk, began the talk by mentioning the improper portrayal of women in the media. She also spoke about the different movements involving women since before independence, including the #MeToo movement where women began voicing the discrimination faced by them.
Gender is a construct
Following this, Anita Parihar, Media Practitioner; Researcher and Academician, Media Studies, the speaker of the session, talked about the influential work of Ester Boserup who focused on economic and agricultural development. She reaffirmed that gender is a construct, determined by societies and culture. While we are born as males and females, we grow to be men and women as described by society as a whole.
At the same time, consumers have become the makers of media as we learn about how to communicate information in various ways. Good research is important for film-making and media so that the reality is reflected. Typically, women are relegated to soft stories while men are assigned to work on more crucial issues.
Young people have to join hands to come up with workable and innovative solutions during these difficult times.
Dr Khevana Desai, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Mithibai College of Arts, Mumbai, spoke about regional media and multilingual media on OTT platforms. She posed a question: “What is gendered media?” Is the focus on how many women are there in media or what kind of women are portrayed? The question of representation vs recognition as well as women in media vs media by women is also pertinent in this regard. Predominantly, West Indian media revolved around food, film, and fashion on one hand and content on academia, activism, and literary aesthetics on the other.
Several shows with women-centric content contain stereotypes and social issues are glorified. Meenal Patel, Trupti Shah, Sarrop Dhruv, and Kama Bhasin have been focusing on feminist content while maintaining literary aesthetics.
Invisibility of Women
Dr Saptam Patel, Assistant Professor, Amrut Mody School of Management, and Assistant Dean, Undergraduate College, Ahmedabad University, said that such critical issues should be incorporated into academic discourses. The issue of invisibility of women has always existed as women have been deprived of recognition for a long time. Misrepresentation of women in arts and media has confirmed a systematic subordination of women and although collective individual efforts to shift the landscape and address the issues are emerging, they have not led to much progress.
It can affect the pace at which social change is happening. Also, media projects gender as a binary, and mostly, the different gender identities are neglected. Gender misrepresentation and stereotypes can lead to a very distorted idea of self in people. Usually, gender non-binary does not feature in media apart from in documentaries and a few commercial films, and people from such communities are not empowered, struggling to make a living. The art world, whether visual or performing, is typically a man’s world and feminist works have not been able to break the barriers yet.
Empowerment of girls
Nischint Hora, Honorary Co-Projects Director, Vacha, Mumbai, said that Vacha is a resource center for women that mainly focuses on the empowerment of girls. One of their projects involves training girls from socially and economically backward backgrounds and enabling them to write and tell their stories. Every community brings out a newsletter once a year, discussing their own issues and conducting interviews. Various skills were taught to the girls including photography and technology became an enabling factor for them as previously, boys received technological devices before girls.
After further discussion upon receiving questions from the audience, Dr Simi Mehta, CEO (Honorary) & Editorial Director, thanked the discussants and the audience.
Acknowledgment: Ritheka Sundar is a research intern at IMPRI.