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  • Tanya Katre

The misogynistic portrayal of women in popular media

- Tanya Katre

Be it a weekend pastime, a late evening binge or a lazy Sunday activity, bollywood plays an important role in the lives of most indians. Films, movies, and songs have the unique ability to impact the way we perceive things. Moreover, the growing influence of the entertainment industry over our daily lives all the more necessitates the need for proper portrayal of diverse groups of people including women.

Movies/flims, included but not limited to South Indian and Bollywood ones, have been known to not give women any serious roles. They’re seen running in fields full of flowers, dancing to songs, or being held hostage while the hero tries to protect them. While the male leads in the movies face conflicts such as being attacked by the villain, or getting shot in the battlefield, the female leads deal with lunchboxes, babies and men. Very few movies give actual value to their goals and aspirations. In fact, most of them classify women as the stereotypical ‘Savitri or Sonia’. The portrayal of women in the film industry not only reflects fundamental beliefs regarding a women's role in society, but it also shapes the way women are seen in real life.

Lately, movies such as ‘Pangaa’, ‘Secret Superstar’, ‘Mary Kom’ etc have started giving women a better and more dominant role. Besides, the movies of today are definitely a lot more accepting and forward than the movies of the 90s-- a clear indication of progress. However, there are many more ways for movies to be better at representing women.

A few decades ago, the roles women were given, quite clearly represented the typical indian ‘pativrata- patni’ or ‘ghar ki laxmi’. The idea of women being educated didn’t have enough relevance then. According to most of the entertainment industry in those times, women studied ‘just for the sake of it’, married ‘because they wouldn't be able to fend for themselves’ and had children (because otherwise their life wouldn't have purpose). Some rather recent movies too sometimes fall short of providing better opportunities to their female lead and end up sticking with the same flawed stereotypes. Most movies are often known to portray independent women as cold, shrewd and arrogant giving rise to assumptions that women who are independent are worse off than those who are docile and obedient.

One very questionable aspect about films is its typical wooing sequence where for some reason the male lead keeps bothering the female lead despite her constant refusal to engage romantically with him.This refusal of his advances is seen as ‘cute’ and his unrelenting moves on her are seen as ‘manly’. From roses, to singing on the top of moving buses and even downright stalking, the guy does everything in his power to impress her and as a plot twist the heroines end up marrying this very same person. So essentially what we’re being told is that if a woman ever says no, then you stalk her, you follow her, and within some time "woh pat jayegi". It is movie scenes like these that majorly impact the way people treat the word ‘no’ and undermine the importance of consent.

Apart from on screen dramas, songs play a significant role in degrading the already worsened position of women in society as well. In fact, most of the songs we hear today have surprisingly vulgar translations.

Take for example,

Coca Cola tu, from the movie Luka Chuppi:

The song refers to a woman as a bottle of coke. The song lyrics, I quote are ‘You’re a bottle of chilled soft-drink. I'm your opener. I will guzzle you.’ to which the woman replies ‘don’t take me for a bottle of coke, I'm a bottle of whiskey’. What most people fail to understand is that it is this very subtle objectification of women that leads to a flawed mentality within the minds of most listeners.

Naah by Hardy Sandhu

The song talks about a girl who keeps asking for shoes, bungalows and dresses to which the man replies no time and time again. This is a supposed reference to what the internet calls ‘gold diggers’, it basically emphasizes that women are only concerned with money and material goods, which for most cases is not true.

In fact most of the music videos cast only slim, fair and ‘beautiful’ women. The emphasis on the importance of beauty especially for women is one of the main ways through which the industry dampens the way women are seen.

Fiction, music and movies began influencing us in real life a long long time ago. While, certainly the entertainment industry has considerably developed and is working toward an unprejudiced portrayal of women, it still has a long way to go. Now more than ever, it is essential to provide more diversity to the female leads of various movies before they end up going back to the olden standards. It's about time we make use of the influence of these huge platforms to end age-old stereotypes about women, once and for all. 

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