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Indian Women in the Media

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Diana Mueller

on 14 December 2013

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Transcript of Indian Women in the Media

Indian Women in the Media
Let's take a look at a well-known Indian ad campaign
This ad campaign is popularly known as the 'Abused Goddesses.' There are three ads, each featuring a goddess, with cuts on her face. The ad campaign has gotten a lot of mixed responses...
Real life: The Women of India
The lives of females in India, from birth to death, are far from simple or easy. Through the news stories, we get a glimpse into the hardships that these women face on a day-to-day basis.
A Different Perspective
Here are a couple articles that seem to be more uplifting to the women of India. Or are they?
The Struggle Continues...
Women of India face constant discrimination. They receive less schooling and have lower rates of literacy than men. They have fewer opportunities to work in the modern world. They have less freedom than men to make choices in their lives. And when they choose to think freely, they are constantly being put down.
What is happening with women
from India in the media?
Women get portrayed by the media in a very negative light most of the time. But there are some articles that are surprisingly uplifting towards women too...or are they really? When a news story involves Indian women, it is quite clear that they are constantly being compared to men, and are considered inferior. The debate on women’s rights in India has been in the news a lot recently. We are constantly seeing stories about how women are trying to gain rights, yet there is always an underlying tone that women are inferior. Women write most of the articles on the subject, but at the same time, there are some articles written by men that give an interesting different perspective.
This ad shows Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, with a swollen lip, and a gash across her nose.
This ad shows Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, with a black eye, and a single drop of blood forming at her lips.
The last ad shows Durga, the all-powerful mother goddess with bruises on her face and a single tear running down her cheek
All of the photos have the same caption:
Pray that we never see this day

Today more than 68 percent of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to.
So what were the reactions to this ad campaign?
Rita Banerji's take on the ad:
She believes that the way that the ad is worded, lets men know the difference between women that they can beat (their wives), and the women that they cannot beat (the goddesses). Banerji also thinks that the ads do a poor job of showing what real domestic violence looks like. The goddesses have small dark bruises, but still have perfectly made up faces. In real life, there is swollen tissue, distorted facial features, broken teeth, or even broken bones. Women get covered in gasoline and set on fire. They get hanged. Their noses get chopped off. Banerji says, "How about superimposing the burnt out skeletal remains of the thousands of women burnt to death for dowry on the faces of these goddesses?"
This ad was put out by women's aid act and reads:
"What does it take to get people talking about domestic abuse?"
Rita Banerji thinks of this as a more proactive ad campaign to show the effects of domestic abuse.
Lakshmi Chaudhry, a columnist and senior editor at Firstpost, an online news site says“We don’t really have many symbols of unashamed, aggressive female power in this country...These goddesses are incredibly powerful, they represent emancipation, but these ads make them out as if they need to be protected." She went on to say that the ads were “very patriarchal,” and “a giant step backward for womenkind.”
Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Alliance, a women’s rights group, took the opposite side of the debate. “They are good, we need more of these...These are few and far between and they are welcome.”
“These were unprecedented in India...They were bold, yet the point was made subtly...Domestic violence does not have a class and society...There is no statistic that says it occurs only in rural India. It’s just that in urban India, especially women from the affluent class are reluctant to report it.”
- Sattvik Mishra, the co-founder of ScoopWhoop, where the images were posted
Fortunately, in April this year (2013), the Indian government amended ancient laws to include a harsher sentence for rape, stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks and trafficking of women and children. This comes following a rape of a woman on a bus in New Dehli last year. But is it enough?
There still seems to be a double standard for women in India. Women are goddesses to be worshiped. Yet they are beaten, tortured, and/or killed for making their own independent choices.
The stats:
A child that is a girl has less of a chance to be born than a boy. The gender ratio in India is 915 girls to a 1,000 boys. With a population 1.2 billion people, you can see how many million baby girls are exterminated every year: poisoned, buried alive, left out to die in hot sun or freezing winter or, most often, just scooped out of the womb.
There are two views that men have towards women:
They are
A banker in Srinagar said, “To me, a woman is a pearl that is safe inside a shell. Keep it open and everyone will try to snatch it." Compare this to all of the negative things men have to say about women...
An auto-rickshaw driver in Delhi said, "If someone offers you fruit on a plate, will you deny the invitation? Delhi girls are like mangoes. What do you do with the fruit? You eat it, suck it, and throw it away."
An office bearer of a lawyers’ association in Karnataka said, "Women today have become too wayward. They have moved away from Hindu culture. Boys always know when they see a girl who is ready to sleep around. Why can’t women wear churidars instead of skirts?"
To men such as these, women are never victims. In their eyes, women are the ones provoking them. The burden of social order lies only with the women.
"...in a poor family, the girl child is less likely to be fed and less likely to go to school than a boy. Further into her life, be it in rich or poor settings, she is less likely to have a say in her life, more likely to be married off early, be killed for dowry, sold into prostitution, have acid thrown on her face, or die during childbirth. She is more likely to have anemia and calcium deficiency and less likely to have a right over property. She is also less likely to get the job of her choice. In a nutshell, in every way possible, a woman in India is likely to live as an inferior being."
-Shoma Chaudhury, Managing Editor, Tehelka New Delhi
Check out this video:
It is only necessary to watch the first three minutes, but feel free to watch as much as you like. I had to use this video, as the original video with the article I found had since been removed. What does this tell us about how much of a voice women in India are getting in the media?
The girl alleged that Metro guards and its management didn't help her. "I sought their help but none came forward," she told senior police officials. The police are now on the lookout for the four men. But why has the video been taken down? Why did the Metro guard not help her?
Another story focusing on elderly Indian women shows yet another negative point of view towards women, and how widows have everything to lose.
“In our country, when women become widows, they cease to exist,” says Winnie Singh, executive director and co-founder of Maitri. “It is a failure not only of the government but of society at large.”
The article tells the story of Dasi: The 66-year-old has been on her own for three decades, forced out years ago, she says, by her own sons. “If I asked for money, they would beat me,” she said. She eventually signed away her rights to the small grocery store she ran and set out on a one-way pilgrimage to Vrindavan. Illiterate and unskilled, Dasi, like most widows in Vrindavan and Radhakund, sings religious songs for many hours a day, earning less than a dollar, or sometimes some food. Her ankles are bruised purple-black from standing for hours during the hymns and chants.
Dasi is one of the 500 widows who eat at the Bihari temple kitchen in Radhakund, a few kilos from Vrindavan. There are about 15,000 widows between the two cities.

“In India widows are treated as untouchables.”
-Bindeshwar Pathak
Bindeshwar Pathak is the founder of Sulabh International, a Delhi-based nonprofit. Sulabh is working on a draft bill, which it hopes to table in Parliament next year. The draft suggests a monthly pension for abandoned and destitute widows and to make their eviction from either their parental or husband’s house a punishable crime.
All of these articles talk about a similar idea:
Indian women have difficult lives, from the moment they are born to the moment they die. Unfortunately they are just telling us about the problem. So many articles focus on telling us what is going on, and how bad it is for these women. We keep seeing these articles which talk about how women are less than men. This is just reinforcing what our society expects of India's society. When will it change?
The city of Shillong, Meghalaya
There are two matriarchal tribes, the Khasis and Jaintias. These two tribes differ very greatly from everything that has so far been talked about regarding society in India. There is no dowry to be paid for weddings, and children take the mother's last name. Daughters inherit family property and the Khatduh, or youngest daughter, is the anchor of the family. She takes care of her elderly parents, provides for the unmarried siblings and watches over property. There isn't a social burden for having a child out of wedlock, and most businesses are run by women. Yet only four of the sixty lawmakers are women in the state assembly, as they believe politics to be a man's domain. Even in a matriarchal society, they still believe that men should run the state. Does that really make sense?
I find it interesting that out of the 10 articles I looked at, the only one written by a man was this one about the matriarchal society, where women are in control. What does this tell us about men in society at a whole?
I think the problem of men seeing women as lesser is not just a problem within India, but throughout the world. The problem may be bad in India, but it exists everywhere. And the reason that the media is showing it the way they are is because this distorted view is all over the place.
Role Models
I found an article titled "Role Models: Women of Substance." There are a few problems even with the title of this article. Women of Substance. This is pointing out that not all women have substance, but there are actually some women that exist who have substance. It makes it seem as though women with substance do not exist, or if they do are very few and far between. Right after the title, the subtitle reads "Indian women have made their mark in various walks of life despite facing societal prejudices and institutional hurdles." This again makes it seem as though it is nearly impossible for women to achieve anything. It puts them at a disadvantage before they even get a change to try to achieve anything.
I find it interesting that the articles that try to show an opposite perspective end up reinforcing the negative perspective without most people even noticing what they are reading. This shows that no matter what, we still have the predisposition to think of women as lesser because of the media's twist on the information that they give us.
The struggle is far from over for the women of India. As the mother of the woman who died after being raped on the bus in New Dehli put it:

“First, we have to change ourselves. Until we change the mindset in our homes, this will continue.”
By: Diana Mueller
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