Role of Media in Misinterpretation of Women
This Blog is written by Soham Kamble from School of Law, University of Mumbai. Edited by Ravikiran Shukre.
Of the many influences on how we view men and women, media is the most convincing and one of the most powerful tools. Women are displayed more in domestic roles in the media or seen as a supporting characters compared to their male partner, who is featured in a more powerful role. The primary way in which media twist reality is by misinterpreting women. The representation of women is less powerful and often highly sexualized. It is a very limited range of representation.
Gender roles are constantly reinforced throughout the media, which influences highly impressionable children and young adults as they develop and form ideas of their own. If men are displayed in the media as being weak or feminine for showing emotion, then adolescent males will assume that is a sign of weakness and try to suppress an entirely normal biological function.
If women are represented in the media as being a ‘bitch’ for being assertive in the workplace, then people assume confident women in leadership roles are bossy or authoritarian. Female characters in contemporary media have a stunningly low amount of diversity. Whereas male leads range from the roles of adventurer, fighter, joker, revolutionary, and a great number of others, all too often women are left with few options other than mother, lover, and bully. Older people not only are misinterpreted in media but also are represented inaccurately. Media consistently show fewer older women than men, presumably because our culture worships youth and beauty in women.
Further, elderly individuals are frequently portrayed as sick, dependent, fumbling and passive. This image of older people and especially older women in media, however, can delude us into thinking they are a small, sickly, and unimportant part of our population.
Media is a very powerful tool for the purpose of entertainment, knowledge, news, sports, education, and more. People are getting more dependable towards it. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone is forced to sit at their home which has increased the consumption of media rapidly. Therefore, things that are displayed in front of one’s screen the human mind consumes and are assumed normal and rational. Mainly, among the young generation who are still dependable on their spouses who are supposed to be the nation’s future are being fed with misinterpretation of women, and with a limited representation of women by the media is sickening.
In general, media continue to present both women and men in stereotyped ways that limit our perceptions of human possibilities. Typically, men are portrayed as active, adventurous, powerful, sexually aggressive, and largely uninvolved in human relationships. Whereas women are portrayed as young, thin beautiful, passive, dependent, and often incompetent and dumb. Female characters devote their primary energies to improving their appearances and taking care of homes and people. Because media pervade our lives, the ways they misrepresent genders may distort how we see ourselves and what we perceive as normal and desirable for men and women.
Humans tend to learn from things they are surrounded by from a very young age. We learn from things we watch, what we hear, and what we read, and as media being at the heart of things, its role is a crucial one in developing a person and setting the standard of what is the new normal. Media has the revolutionary power of setting a trend and even changing it. And as media is portraying a limited representation of women which is not only sickening but also a violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which promises equality before the law to every individual irrespective of their gender.
A woman can play the role of superhero there is certainly a crowd for it. Yesterday, I came across this article in the newspaper which read a couple whose male counterpart is a homemaker and takes care of the kids while the female goes to work and earns a living for them. In their interview, they were asked about what society will think about their decision. Their answer over it was they are happy with their decision and they do not care what society thinks about them.
This, I think is real equality where two individuals are on the same wavelength and are not bothered about what typical values are and what typically everyone does. I guess this is what our lawmakers meant when they framed Article 14 of the Indian constitution that everyone is to be treated equally. And as media plays such a big role in influencing the younger generation and setting standards, it should act as a professional medium and should not misinterpret women and display them with a minimum representation. As women in the 21st century are receiving the education they are becoming independent and much stronger than their earlier generations who deserve equality not only in the real world but on the virtual platform too.