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How media demeans women

No one can deny the power of media when it comes to changing attitudes. Media also being aware of this power exert it in a number of ways. What is important however, is the need that media should start taking this realization as their responsibility to do away with the evils in the society.

Quite sadly, the real picture is completely averse to this. Media are busy more in making money in whichever way possible, even if it means normalizing crimes such as rape.

“Rape culture is a widely used term within women’s studies and feminism describing a culture in which rape and other sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualised violence”, (Wikipedia Encyclopaedia).

The more the media and the judicial system normalize violence the less we as a society will be able to curtail its tide. The type of reporting done or the insensitive treatment shown towards rape normalizes it in the eyes of the audiences and makes it seem that it is simply another daily occurrence in the lives of the victims (mostly women).

The psychological damage inflicted on rape survivors is of no consequence.
In Pakistan also, like any other country of the world, women in the cases of rape are the worst victims. A lot of newspapers report with a bias against these women and reinforce the existing non-supportive attitude of the society towards women.

The official reaction therefore without any surprise towards rape continues to be that of accusation towards victimised women. As for television coverage of rape and other forms of violence against women, it is noted with much resentment that many a times these victims of violent acts are put through double humiliation with extensive and most of the times unnecessary coverage.

This is most evident in cases where high government officials are shown visiting the place of crime and sympathising with the victims and the families.
The media in Pakistan has no problems while exposing physical and sexual features of women but is reluctant to bring forward issues of HIV/ AIDS, sexual harassment, sex and flesh trade, trafficking on the pretext of obscenity.

This is regardless the fact that each one of these issues is directly linked with poverty, women’s inferior position in the society and denial of basic human rights.

Internationally, a popular representation of rape is not to represent it as rape at all but rather as a consensual experience, a representation shown extensively in movies that surprisingly goes unnoticed. Movies such as Gone with the Wind, Transporter, King Kong, Aetraaz, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and many more are the stark exam­ples in this regard. Similarly, the advertisements are no exception.

Even a random look at the ads on the media circuit makes it clear that relationships are shown in a much more vulgar manner. Such ads not only humiliate women but also men by showing them desperate people in search of an idol who can satisfy their needs com­pletely.

The famous Maruti Suzuki advertisement showed a young beautiful blonde being stalked by a tiger through the city at night. The girl passes through the various areas of the city. Whenever she is on the road, it is the new look car that follows her.

The moment she is on stairs or over bridge, the car is transformed into a tiger. The TVC ends with the girl finally giving up the chase with a deep male voiceover: ‘Surrender, to the new’. The new Olpers ad campaign of the “lowfat hi cal” milk Olwell, is one of its kind ever to be seen in Pakistan.

Television being the most powerful of all the media has also contributed to the worsening of the situation. Print media excel at portraying the victims of sexual assault and rape, as the actual culprits. Popular phrases such as ‘victim was of loose character’, or ‘she invited the rapist with her actions’, are descriptions which have unfortunately become an inseparable part of the Urdu newspapers in Pakistan.

Most of us agree that media normalizes rape but the question is whether in doing so media are the part of the solution or the problem themselves. It is a question which the media need to ponder on as to how the media should fulfil their responsibilities in curtailing such and other prevalent attitudes.

The news media provide a necessary and invaluable public service, but their work can often result in the painful revictimization of victims making it rape by the media.

Thus it is essential that media personnel keep in mind the ethics of reporting rape and refrain from over exaggeration, humiliation of the victim and the abuse of their civic responsibility. The media must accept more responsibility for the role it has in shaping social attitudes.

by Salma Khan

Source: The Nation

Date:2/7/2007

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