This article is part of the #GBVInMedia campaign for the 16 Days Of Activism global campaign to end gender-based violence. #GBVInMedia campaign analysis how different kind of mainstream media (mis)represents/reports gender-based violence and broadens the conversation from violence against women to violence against people from the queer community, caste-based violence and violence against people with disabilities.
Over the last 16 days, we have been discussing how popular media has played a huge role in normalizing the impression of gender-based violence. Such normalization could have a great impact on the society, since young minds perceive this as acceptable. Movies, television and advertisements have constantly sexualized women, created gender roles and keep pandering to the patriarchal society. As Dr Jean Kilbourne noted,
Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step in justifying violence against that person.
So, based on all our opinion pieces and tweet-chats, we have compiled a set of recommendations which popular media could follow to make their content more gender-sensitive.
1. Let other genders tell the story. Men need not always be central to a story. Let us have more stories that women or other genders tell. And, try to make their stories a norm, not an exception.
2. Stop representing polarizing gender roles. The world is trying to move beyond these sexist roles, it is time that movies and TV respond to it as well.
3. Represent more LGBTQIA and disabled characters. And do not make disabled characters victims all the time.
4. Watch the messages of violence. When you constantly push messages of masculinity, aggression and violence to young boys, they tend to internalize these characteristics. Research tells us that the more television children watch, the more likely boys are to demonstrate aggressive behaviour.
5. Stop body shaming. Have more fat women on screen not trying to lose weight. Also, not all people in this country are pale-skinned. So, include more dark-skinned people not trying to get fair-skinned.
6. Do not use rape for story telling. The callousness of using rape as a random story forwarding method is unnecessary and severely harmful. We are trying to talk of GBV as a serious issue and the casualness of such representation goes against all these efforts and contributes to a society ignoring GBV as a serious issue.
7. Know that a rape-revenge drama is misogynistic and in horrible taste. In fact you don’t even have to show long rape scenes even when you are referencing rape. And we can break all arguments you have against that statement.
8. Do not confuse harassment & stalking for love. In real life stalking is scary and at times physically dangerous. It has also lead to severe violence in many cases. Uncalled for touching and forceful kissing goes against consent and is punishable by the law. So, stop telling young girls that all this is good attention.
9. Stop sexualizing child characters. Children are usually chubby & healthy and until they hit puberty, the physical differences between boys & girls are not pronounced. So, why exactly do we have sexualized bodies of female children on screen?
10. Discuss gender. Especially in programming focused on children, discuss gender roles and sexism. Children spend a lot of time in front of popular media, and these positive messages could go a long way in influencing them.
11. Put an end to the saas-bahu drama. They are not creative, not engaging and definitely not remotely real. This is sensationalizing, addictive and poor quality content which only contributes to misogyny. These shows pitch women against each other to show how women are their own worst enemies, which is yet another patriarchal idea. We had better quality programming decades ago, so we don’t need new examples either.
12. Do not bleep out period, underwear and bra on TV. We have the first one every month and the other two are pieces of clothing. By bleeping these out, they join the rank of cusswords, which are considered unacceptable in regular society.
13. Get gender-sensitive hosts for television & award shows. Kapil Sharma could be marginally funny, but a lot of his humour is derived out of sexism. Salman Khan recently asked a woman on Big Boss if she was the ‘man’ in the relationship. They are sexist individuals and one of them has a reported record of beating an intimate partner. So, why are they still allowed to host primetime shows?
14. Show consensual love, kissing and sex. Make more programming where consensual adults indulge in sex. Making consent the key is a great lesson for impressionable minds.
15. Stop showing characters of servile women. Most of our television programming focuses on showing servile women who are in charge of all domestic chores. When they decide to not follow the role defined for them, they are punished by physical violence. This drives home yet another point about women’s role in a society and how violence against women is justified.
16. Stop hypersexualizing women in advertisements. I think by now everyone knows that Axe deodorant does nothing to your relationship status. So, could we stop using women to sell everything from a sofa set to a burger?
17. Stop representing people as things. As regular advertising got boring, in a quest to be different, some marketers started the trend of treating people as props for their products. As mentioned earlier, this is the first step in justifying any violence against human beings. And mostly the objectified individual is female.
Featured Image Credit: An Indian advertisement referencing a lesbian relationship | www.youtube.com