Gender Representation in Media

Several advocacy groups, non-governmental organizations, and government organizations work for public service in India and worldwide. Gender is necessarily highlighted more sensitively in such organizations than in the MSM. However, as we all know, alternative media remains 'alternative,' with a restricted reach. The Internet has played a significant role in uniting gender advocacy groups worldwide in recent years. There are programs and organizations committed to promoting media literacy and gender equality.

Representation of Gender in Media

The Main Stream Media (MSM) is pervasive, largely commercial, and privately owned media. In India, too MSM constitutes a large part of English or Indian language media. MSM producers usually stick to what is supposedly expected by the large majority of their audiences; the conventions used in MSM are stereotypical and largely gendered. Various women's groups have monitored the media and discovered three major trends−

  • The deceptive and insensitive portrayal of women's issues in print media.

  • The highly patriarchal content of television programs portraying women as having little or no role outside the home.

  • Female models in TV commercials trivialize women's domestic work and achievements outside the 'home' domain.

When there is a success story, the sufferings/exploitations are not highlighted; when women are victims, their struggles/strengths are not portrayed; newsmakers were largely politicians and males; and the more local the media, the less reference to women there is.

The media makes it harder for women to break out from predefined roles, customs, and behavior patterns by promoting sex stereotypes and continually emphasizing motherhood and obedient wifehood. Such conservative portrayals turn the few references concerning sex equality and equal participation of women enshrined in the constitution to mere window decoration. Fair gender depiction may help today's society and tomorrow's. When children grow up with non-stereotypical gender roles and impartial gender identities, every member of society can realize their full potential. Fair gender depiction is a professional and ethical objective related to accuracy, fairness, and honesty. The flip side of the coin is that women need to be more visible at higher levels of the news industry, both at work and in unions. There is a need to advocate for gender equality in a society where male journalists still mostly cover and present hard news. This is not simply a women's concern; eradicating prejudice benefits everyone.

Women's Representation in Media

Women are also potential victims of the media's influence over society. The portrayal of women as sexual figures in popular culture also threatens our society's well-being. Frequently women are depicted or portrayed in some form of sexual representation. This portrayal has created a standard for the ideal female image that women are compared to by themselves or others. Research claims that the sexualized images of women in media serve as 'models of femininity' for females, especially young girls who are still developing their sense of self. Young girls exposed to these models may face future problems in mental and sexual development. Research also links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood, and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and women".

Objectification of women in the media

Objectification is the depiction of women in media as an object rather than a full human thing. This occurs in a variety of situations, including commercials and films. According to feminist researchers, objectification of women ignores a female's personal and intellectual qualities and capacities. It limits a woman's worth or function in society to that of an instrument for the sexual pleasure that she may cause in the mind of another. Media generally presents women in fragile and easily overpowered positions. Some photos will focus on a component of the body, such as a leg, a neck, or a headless torso, resulting in objectification and the introduction of the notion of Fetishisation. Its goal is to reduce women to inanimate components of their anatomy.

Gender Roles in Advertisements

Men and women are depicted in advertising according to the constructed concept of femininity and masculinity. Being a lady is being feminine and kind, and being a guy means being manly. There is minimal potential for change or a reversal of roles, save within the smaller frame of specialty marketing. Men and women have continually been depicted in stereotyped ways in advertising. Men are shown as more autonomous than women, with men depicted in various jobs, while women are depicted as housewives and mothers. Men were likelier to market automobiles or business products on employment websites, whereas women were largely featured in adverts for household goods. As depicted in advertising, some popular views of women include cooking in the kitchen, washing bucketful of clothing, and bandaging the wounds of their spouses and children. Men were significantly more likely to be exhibited outside or at work, whereas women were mostly presented in home settings.

Gender roles in Cinema

Women characters in movies often lack a realistic projection and end up on the screen as clichés. A 'good' and ideal lady in Bollywood has always been patient, obedient, chaste, and willing to make sacrifices for others, particularly the male members of the home. In contrast, the 'bad' woman has been portrayed as Westernized, blond-haired, autonomous, and sexually aggressive, eager to lead men astray. The Hindi film industry has constantly reinforced the concept that the splendor of the perfect Indian woman consists in her forbearance toward society and men, even when she is treated unfairly and cruelly victimized.

The Problem of Misrepresentation

Misrepresentation is an issue that is closely related to representation. How is one misrepresented? Systems are always incomplete and constantly vulnerable to interpretation; in the process, there is the potential for misrepresentation and misinterpretation. Misrepresentation includes −

  • Dismissing women and their concerns.

  • Portraying them frivolously or dismissing their problems as non-issues.

  • Deriding their feelings and sentiments or behavioral patterns.

Writing must disclose actual women's experiences, and the odds of distortion are reduced if we acquire things from women's perspectives. Women's experiences differ from men's, but diversity does not imply inequality; hence unequal interactions should not be assumed.

Accurate gender depiction will aid in reshaping socio-cultural perceptions of women. Let us take a little example of misrepresentation. A lady is considered a "devi" in Indian social customs. As a goddess, she is to be revered and elevated, but the social reality is much different. She is a real woman with genuine concerns; elevating her to goddess status involves absolving her of her human sorrows and joys. It is vital to investigate how women define themselves and are defined as women within diverse representational systems. Women have a distinct identities. If we empower children to identify themselves, we shall provide them with their distinct identity, which is crucial for their personality.


Society has always viewed women as weak, meek, and dependent. The written word questions how others see, read and understand us. When males display women's pictures, they look at them from their viewpoint. On the other hand, TV Women desire to record their own impressions and realities that are relevant to their life. Women may represent themselves in written or oral materials as a group or as individuals; others may also represent them. Representation also has a political connotation. When women fight for political representation, they fight for the right to represent and be represented.

Updated on: 28-Apr-2023


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