This research work is an honest, unbiased and gender neutral work, which
tries to show how our movies, advertisements, books and print media etc. has cut
the wings for opportunities of women. This research paper tries to answer
questions such as is Indian culture teaching us to dominate women? How our
brains are stuck in stereotype thinking loop? Did media played any role in
defining gender roles? Etc. Also this research paper tries to give solutions for
creating gender equality within India. The language used in this research paper
is very simple English language, because motivation behind this research paper
is to spread knowledge as well as awareness about gender stereotypes within
Women plays the most vital role in development of any country and community. Dr.
B. R. Ambedkar has said a very beautiful quote for development of any community
"I measure the progress of a community with the degree of progress women have
achieved". This quote also displays the significant importance of role of women
in development of a community.
Indian culture is praised all over the world but if look closely we can see that
Indian culture is like the moon the world is able to see the only one side
(bright side) of the moon and other dark side of moon is always hidden no one
has ever seen it, but we at least know it exists. The dark side of Indian
culture is not known to the world and it is known to the Indians but we ignore
it like we are ignoring an elephant in a room.
Indian culture has misrepresented women from a long time and no one has courage
to raise questions to government as well as so called dharma gurus and no one is
allowed to say anything or write anything regarding pavitra granths which
teaches how to dominate a women, which teaches what are duties of a women,
compares women with animals and list goes on.
In this century electronic and print media plays an important role in
development of women in any community, but if we look closely then we will be
able to notice that how print media from Indian history has misrepresented women
and currently how electronic and print media is still following our historical
books to define gender roles and engrave patriarchy on our minds. All the issues
related with women are completely neglected in this Nation and no one has a
courage to ask why actual issues of our culture are getting neglected? 4
Misrepresentation of women in Indian History
Print Media and Electronic media plays an important role in development of
women. In ancient India print media was the only form of media existed. In
ancient India print media contained Vedas, Purans, Smrities and various books
written by the dharma gurus. During those times women were represented as a
property which belonged to fathers, then husbands then their sons.
These books have defined our Indian culture and many Indians follow these books
very strictly and obeys the things and guidelines written in these books without
questioning them. We can list thousands of books which misrepresents women but
we are focusing on three major books that defined women, put limitations on
women and caged women in four walls of a house and tied them to strict cultural
- Misrepresentation of women In VEDAS
Vedas have given a significant importance to women but it also binds them in
various cultural rules which creates a gap between development opportunities
for women. There are many verses in these books which are very derogatory
when it comes to women and it is still followed in India. According to Vedas
gender roles were defined very strictly, role of men included supporting
their families and carry out their duties according to their class and role
of women included becoming a mother, raising their children, do housekeeping
work and support their husbands in their work.
During vedic times women had little freedom and equal status as male members
of the society but vedic content were full of conflicting statements when it
came to women's rights. A verse in athrva veda says "Let a female child be
born somewhere else, here let a man child be born"1 . Also a verse in righ
veda says women are compared and with hyenas and also called as hyenas.
- Misrepresentation of women In Manusmriti
According to stories Manu was the first male on this planet and he wrote his
thoughts in a book named manusmriti and then he gave that book to rishis in
India. Manu killed the freedom of women by his manusmriti. Before his
manusmriti women were allowed to study vedas but when he wrote his
manusmriti he specifically wrote in a verse that women are not allowed to
study vedas and people blindly followed it and banned women from studying
A verse in manusmriti converts women to a property of male according to it
in childhood women is subject to her father, in her youth a woman is subject
to her husband and it also clearly says a women must not be independent 3.
Also manusmriti gives character certificate to a woman based on her
siblings, shloka 11 of manusmriti says if a woman has no brother then an
intelligent man should not marry her4. Shloka 148 and 147 says that we
should never give freedom to our women in her childhood her father, in her
youth her husband and in her old age her children must have a watch on her
In manusmriti a husband is given status of lord and wife is his devotee and
if a wife is not listening to her husband's orders then there are various
punishments defined for them, for example if a wife violates her duty that
she owes to her lord (husband) then king should feed that woman to hungry
dogs this the punishment defined in manusmriti for a rude rule breaking
wife6 . Manusmriti is the worst book to follow because it only teaches to
dominate a woman and tying her in four walls of a house.
- Misrepresentation of women In PURANAS
Indian people are proud of their purans and many Indians follow it very
strictly. Many puranas teaches people to dominate women and also teaches
that a husband is a God for his wife and she must needs to serve him till
her last breath and die after death of her husband. A verse in Bramha Puran
says highest duty of a women is to immolate herself after death of her
husband7 . There are many books which are step by step guides for dominating
a women and many Indian people follow them blindly no one has courage to ask
and if someone raises questions and arguments based on facts regarding those
books then there are punishments defined for such people in those books.
- Cultural Impact of Misrepresentation of women done in Indian
All these Indian historical books has misrepresented women, these books have
two sides one side describes women as a goddess and other side dominates
that goddess. These books have shaped our Indian culture, these books have
engraved patriarchy on our minds and these books have defined gender roles
thousands of years ago and these gender roles are still followed in India.
These books supports child marriages, dowry, sati and many more things which
violates basic fundamental rights of any human being.
These books never consider a woman as a human being, these books always
compares women with things, animals and money. According to many Indians
Chanakyaneeti is one of the greatest book which has been written in Indian
history, wow a child or a young person might think that it is a must read
book and I will get the knowledge to survive in this cruel world, but all
chanakyaneeti does is tells you that woman is the greatest distraction a man
can have in his life, if a man falls in love with a woman then his thinking
capacity is destroyed and he becomes slave of that woman, it also tells that
a wise man should never trust any woman because all a woman need is sex and
all woman uses men for their personal gains only. All this book does is
defines gender roles and promotes patriarchy.
Now think if a child or a young boy read this book his mind will be filled
with all the negative thoughts regarding women and he will become a
patriarch and never be able to trust or fall in love or be happy with any
woman. We Indians should be ashamed of ourselves for calling this book as
one of the greatest books written in Indian history. These books have
created a huge gap between women and their freedom.
This gap can be filled only with the help of proper questioning but no one
has courage to question the things written in these books and if a woman
tries to question these things then her character is questioned by fellow
women as well as men belonging to this so called Indian Culture. Also key
issue here is if you question these books then people who deeply believe
teachings from these books will say that you have read a wrong version of
the book that you are questioning. Teachings from these books are deeply
rooted in Indian people and it is very difficult to change their ideologies
and thinking towards women.
- Misrepresentation of women in Modern India
Modern India is equipped with state of the art technologies related with
electronic as well as print media, which can be used for spreading awareness
about social issues and achieve actual development of millions of
communities based in India especially it can be used for development of
women, changing the ideologies of Indians towards women and bridge the gap
between women and men but it is going in a wrong path and it is destroying
the development opportunities for women and it is indirectly promoting
India has reached on mars but its women are at same position from thousand
years, Indian people are worried about what is on mars and every news
channel, every newspaper, every magazine is worried about what is on mars
and no one is worried about displaying the actual situation of women in our
nation this thing happened when India reached on mars and it is happening
from many years.
Millions of examples can be listed about how Indian media hides the dark
side of Indian culture, for example during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown acts
of domestic violence against women has been increased tremendously but no
news channel has covered this important issue, because domestic violence is
a very common thing in India and it is part of day to day life and no one
needs to worry about it and address it, also millions of Indians also
accepts it because it has been engraved in our minds by this media only.
Indian media is diverting people from actual issues and forcing unnecessary
ideologies on people and patriarchy is one of them.
Media has defined a long list for characteristics of genders. According to
it a man has to be strong, aggressive, active, masculine, and mainly
dominant on the other hand a woman has to be emotional, intuitive, weak,
feminine, and passive. No one has control over these kind of
misrepresentation of women as well as men. Millions of Indians waste their
time while finding a woman or man equipped with characteristics which are
engraved on our souls by the media.
Portrayal of Idol women by Indian TV shows and Films Indian TV
Shows and movies have defined and are still defining the characteristics of an
idol women and these shows are deeply influencing the way a person judges a
woman. According to these shows and movies an idol sanskari bhartiya nari should
be well dressed, should be obedient to her husband as well as her in-laws,
should be polite and must listen to her husband, and the list goes on.
Many people says that these shows are for entertainment purpose only we don't
take it seriously but they don't know that how these shows affects their
subconscious mind and affects their decision making powers.
For example in 99% of Indian TV shows women are always shown in kitchen doing
household work and how happy they are by doing household work and we also think
that the ladies in our house should also do household work because it makes them
happy and the household work has to be done by a women because it is her
contribution towards her family.
Many people might disagree with above example but according to a recent survey
done in lockdown period in gender roles more than 50% of male participants said
that they do not do household work and they think that it is the responsibility
of a woman 8. According to Indian TV serials a typical idol Indian bahu or nari
wares an expensive saree at home, also wares a heavy makeup and does not
interferes within family discussions she enjoys cooking and celebrating
festivals and sometimes does planning and plotting against other family members.
The list of shows which pottery women as a weak link is a very long list, we
will focus on few Indian TV serials.
On Star Pravah there is a serial named "Rang Maza Vegla" it means "My different
Color"9 . The main story line of this show is to show how Indian society treats
women who have a dark skin color. The irony of this show is that for the role of
dark skin woman they hired a woman with fair skin and they put makeup of dark
skin on her face. How this kind of shows will change gender stereotypes in our
society by hiring a girl with a fair skin for playing a role of a dark skin
woman? Also the serial named "Kyouki Sans Bhi Kabhi Bahu thi" has also destroyed
This serial was the most watched serial in during its air time in
year 2000 to 200810 . Basically the story line showed how women should struggle
to keep the joint family together and how some women can be really bad that are
trying to break this supper happy joint family.
Also this serial has defined some ultrahigh standards for adarsh bahu. We
Indians should be ashamed of ourselves for comparing our women and telling our
women to be like characters in that serial which is totally impractical.
- Portrayal of Idol women by Indian Advertisements
- How Advertisement Films have created a mythological world of picture
Now a days marketing is the most vital part of any business and advertisement
plays a key role in promoting any product. We are always surrounded by different
types of advertisements such as online ads, online video ads and advertisements
which are shot for showing on television.
Also advertisements embeds a visual
representation of product as well as the person who is promoting it and what
that person is doing with that product and it leaves an influence on our
thinking capacity and ideology. If you notice more than 50% of ads objectifies
women intentionally and sometimes very rarely unintentionally.
For example in
fairness cream advertisements models are too much perfect they don't have any
kind of imperfections such as wrinkles, pimples, dull and dark skin and etc.
These type of ads impact our subconscious mind and we start to believe these
things and starts accepting it as reality and also starts excepting these kind
of women in our lives.
Also it affects the thinking of women because women also
starts thinking that if they use these products then they can also be like
models shown in the advertisements. Also these types of advertisements makes an
impression which says if you have a dark skin you will be less confident and if
you use their product you will get fair skin and confidence in 7 days only13 .
But if we look at the real situation then we can understand there are hundreds
of software involved in an ad film making and these software are used to hide
all the imperfections of the models.
- How Advertisement Films and Newspaper advertisements have defined
gender roles in India
How gender roles are portrayed in advertisements is a very important part of any
advertisement because it not only defines role of a gender but it also assigns
it to in real world and people also follow it.
According to a study in year 2018
on Diwali advertisements it was found that only 17 out of 80 ads were boycotting
gender stereotypes and in those 17 advertisements women were not assigned
typical Indian gender based roles, and in remaining all advertisements women
were shown doing cooking or serving food, doing household work and accepting
gifts from the male members of society14 .
In home appliances advertisements men
were only posing with products and it was shown that women who were actually
using it so indirectly it gives a message that women are the one who has to use
home appliances and not men. Also when it came to jewelry advertisements it was
shown that women were accepting jewelry items from men.
Also if we look at
gender roles then they are engraved in our mind by these advertisements let's
have a look at another advertisement, in Johnson's Baby product advertisements
have you ever noticed a man? You will only find women promoting these products
in every advertisement, so indirectly it defines that a woman is the one who has
to take care of the child15 .
Also if we look at one of the oldest ad which has same theme and defines that
cleaning bathroom, toilet and kitchen is women's job is it ad of Harpic. They
have same theme from years they hire a popular male celebrity which enters in
house of any random woman and checks her toilet and bathroom and tell her that
it is not clean and to clean it properly you must use Harpic, currently Akshay
Kumar is promoting this advertisement who always tells
women to be independent and now he is promoting such ad which defines stereotype
gender role 16.
Look at any cleaning product ad in India you will find that a
women is being instructed how to clean it, let's look at an example of dish
washers ads in India, take any random ad in India you will find that a woman is
cleaning her dishes and a random man or women suggests her to use some product
we need to change these kind of gender based scripts, actually scripts promoting
gender stereotypes must be banned in India.
Also if we look at any detergent
advertisement we will find that a man comes home after a long day at work and
his wife happily sees the stains on his cloths and decides to wash it with some
product and after washing those cloths end shot is always man and his wife
happily promoting that product, it gives an indirect message that all these
tasks belong to women and men has to work hard to earn money and women should do
all the house hold work.
- OTT (Over the top media services), a neglected part Currently online
media publishing sites are in trend.
Websites such as amazon prime, Netflix, Zee 5, Sony LIV and many more are
publishing online movies and web series directly on their streaming services.
According to me many of the web series and movies published on these sites are
questionable and represents women as a sexual object only. For example the web
series named Rasbhari produced and released by Amazon Prime has many
questionable scenes, such as in an episode a girl child is shown dancing in
front of drunk men, also students are made part of a sexual comedy22 .
to notice here is that how these kind of scenes are getting published directly
only where any young child can watch it as well as these kind of series are
again promoting gender stereotypes? The answer is currently India has no law to
monitor online content, so these websites can publish anything. Government can
only take action only if any porn content is published by these sites. This is
not only web series which potratrays women as sexual objects there are dozons of
webs series like this for example Gandi Baat (All Seasons), Saccade Games (All
Seasons), Fuh Se fantasy etc.
- How media is shaping our minds towards women?
According to Indian films, TV serials and advertisements has defined
characteristics of an Idol woman should be submissive, self-sacrificing, chaste
and controlled and characteristics of a bad woman includes being self-centered,
sexually aggressive, following western culture instead of our Indian culture,
and not sacrificing herself or her dreams on any condition. Also according to a
research done in year 2012 it was found that the roles such as police officers,
executives, lawyers, doctors etc. were played by many male actors only there are
very few female actors who played such kind of roles 23.
If these kind of films
are being watched by youth and young children then it will definitely impact
their thinking that women are supposed to be like that only and they should not
do jobs such as police officers, executives, lawyers etc. Also our Indian
audience is ready to watch Hollywood movies in which female actress is the lead
character, but when it comes to Indian cinema Indian audience done like to watch
female lead movies. Movies based on social issues such as Chappak, Thappad,
Pink, Parched have miserably failed and because of failure producers had to face
huge financial losses.
Now if we are not willing to watch such movies then how
creators will focus on
breaking the stereotypes in the Indian culture? They will never make such movies
again because they know Indian audience don't want to see independent women in
movies and also in real life. Key thing to notice here is that we are not ready
to change our thinking stereotypes and media has played an important role in
increasing our stubbornness. And result of we not changing our thinking web
series such as gandi baat, rasbhari, saccade games etc. will run up to infinite
seasons because we like to watch these kind of things where women is portrayed
as sexual objects.
- What measures Indian government has taken to prohibit
misrepresentation of women
How a woman is getting represented on any kind of media is responsibility of
government. Indian government have many laws to govern how main stream media and
print media is operated and what kind of content is getting published in it. For
example for monitoring what is getting published in print media Indian
government has "The Press Council Act, 1978.
For monitoring what type of content is being showed in films Indian Government
has "The Central Board of Film Certification" who ensures that all the films
which are getting released are suitable for public viewing24 . In short members
of this board watches the film before giving an approval for releasing that film
Key thing to notice is that what is right and what is wrong is
being decided by few people who are board members of this board, now imagine if
more than 50% of board members support patriarchy then films promoting
patriarchy will get a certificate for releasing it and films which are spreading
awareness about how patriarchy is not good will never get released. Also Rule 3
A of this board says that a woman board member can be appointed if central
government thinks it is fit to appoint a woman in board members. Here we can see
that even government promotes patriarchy.
Also there is a voluntary organization named The Advertising Standards Council
of India which makes sure that advertisements are not violating any rules or
spreading wrong information about any product or deriding any race, cast, creed,
gender or nationality25 . This organization has a very weird and not so user
friendly website, also they have a long 100 page book which states what
standards needed to be followed while making any advertisement, also all the
data related with complaints is hidden all you can do is file a complaint and
after that the waiting game will begin.
The key thing to notice is that these
people are associated with Indian Government on a very large scale but we need
to think why government is not making any strict laws regarding advertisements?
Why a private organization is handling an important topic?
Now if we look at these acts we can see that these acts are just guidelines for
the boards which are established under this act, there is no dedicated act or
law which helps to prohibit content which promotes gender stereotypes or define
gender roles etc. It is the actual reason all film makers and print media
advertisement designers are getting away with gender based scripts and
advertisements which promotes gender stereotypes in the society.
Government has enacted a law titled "The Indecent Representation of Women
(Prohibition) Act, 1986". You might be thinking wow an act dedicated to protect
women from being
misrepresented must be a very huge act but no need to worry this act only
contains 10 section and length of this act extends to 4 pages only. There are
plenty of things which are wrong and also there are thousands of basic things
which are missing from this act.
- Analysis of The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
- Missing Definitions in the act Section 2 of this act is dedicated
towards definitions of terms related with this act.
This act only talks about printable material for example print ads, product
packaging, graphics designs, labels, etc. 26 . The important terms such as
promoting patriarchy, promoting gender biased stereotypes, promoting gender
roles etc. are missing from this act. Also the term misrepresentation is defined
like an umbrella term which is not clear in short it is defined as any act
representing a women's body indecently is defined as indecent representation,
also it includes any act which corrupt or injure the public morality or morals
will also be considered as indecent representation. So if we look at this act
women working in an office, deriving car, or paying bills is also can be
considered as indecent because it is indirectly against our culture and it
corrupts it because according to our culture women should never do such things,
women should only do household work, take care of their children etc.
- Missing basic concepts in the act The term gender equality is not
mentioned in this act because it is not much important in India.
The term gender equality is an important thing we need to achieve also it is one
of the goals of United Nations that we should achieve till 2030. But if we look
at India's situation we will see that women are not getting any opportunities
and laws like this are also contributing towards reducing the growth
opportunities for women by not implementing basic infrastructure for banning
gender biased scripts or advertisements. According to World Bank Data it can be
clearly seen that the women in India is getting dominated by men in every
- How this act indirectly supports patriarchy
As we seen above by not defining basic terms as well as by limiting itself
to published material this act only tries to mislead people into thinking
that it is prohibiting women from getting represented indecently. If you
look properly you might notice that this act does not even mention how it
protects women from getting misrepresented.
It only contains basic rules and punishments and powers of government
agencies. This act not contribute towards its main aim as well as towards
women empowerment or creating opportunities for women. All this act does it
support patriarchy by not including basic terms and not describing what is
patriarchy. It indirectly disapproves all the things mentioned in this
If Indian government is really interested in creating actual opportunities for
women and protecting them from getting indecently represented then Government
has to update this act and make it not only limited to print media, this act
should include any material related with women.
Also the basic terms such as gender biased scripts, stereotype scripts, gender
roles etc. can be included in the act so that it can be strictly applied on
people who are indecently representing the women.
Also censor board policies also need to be updated because currently it is
clearly dominated by men and only men can decide what to release or not and also
only men can decide can a women included in our board or not.
Also Indian government really needs to implement laws for monitoring online
content published on OTT platforms.
Also our government needs to make a unified law for films and advertisements
which should make it mandatory for creators to promote gender equality, then
only the women will get opportunities otherwise the graph of women progress in
India will increase very slowly.
In conclusion it can be said that currently we do have any kind of proper law or
act which can totally help to stop misrepresentation of women in Media. Also we
are still following and watching same content which promotes gender biased
stereotypes. Women in India was, is and will be getting dominated by men if we
follow current culture structure.
The only solution is to teach our children how to treat the opposite gender, key
point to notice is that if you decide to change the mind of grownup adults who
have watched such advertisements, films which promotes patriarchy then you might
waste your time because all these things are engraved on their minds and it is
very hard to change anyone's moral values.
During my childhood school days till my 10th standard we had moral value classes
but all these classes were used for teaching other subjects, now it is the time
to take these moral value classes seriously because we have already seen how
newspapers, ad films and cinema is defining gender roles in a wrong way and
indirectly supporting the thousand year old custom of patriarchy.
Also government invests uncountable amount of money for women and children
development but we have not seen the actual development of women as well as
children, now it is the time to ask questions, but the dark side is if you ask
questions your voice will be muted by all the people who support the custom of
patriarchy. Now it is the time to stop neglecting the actual issues related with
women and children.
I would like end this article with few lines of a song written by Mr. Raftaar,
also important thing to notice is, this song was never released it is available
to listen on YouTube with couple of thousand views because we don't care, we
don't listen, we don't watch things which are trying to show actual face of
- Atharva Veda 6.2.3
- Manu Smriti IX 3
- Manu Smriti VIII 371
- Manu smriti Chapter 3, Shloka 11, Translated by Pandit
- Manu smriti Chapter 5, Shloka 147 and 148, Translated by Pandit
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- Brahma Puran. 80.75
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