Sanjeev Kotnala: 8 ways Indian Media & Entertainment undermines women

12 Mar,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


It was Women’s Day on Sunday and there were celebrations across our world for women. Every one of the events organised to commemorate the day screamed: “You are a lesser being, but this is the one day we will allow you to be you.” But only as per our ideas and standards.


I write this when, in Mahrashtra, ‘beef’ is a worse four-letter word than rape. When the government stops you from viewing documentary films like India’s Daughter. Nowadays, we see many topical and tactical campaigns around women’s empowerment, safety and protection. But most of these are driven by commercial or brand advantage, than real intent.


At every step, we tell women about their place in society. We remind them why instead of having a week, a month or even a year of equality, why they can only have just one day, on March 8.


The media, advertising and entertainment industries play a big role in creating and perpetuating this sorry state of affairs. It is good that they are trying to make amends for this, but for now it appears that it’s all still lip-service. Here are eight ways in which these sectors have contributed to this situation


1. Creating women stereotypes: In process, cleverly establishing stereotypes within various relationships

2. Exploiting women’s bodies as the biggest-known sales and advertising prop in the business.

3. Showing women as scheming and crooked on Indian television, in the roles of the mother-in-law, sisters-in law, the wife etc

4. Creating the perpetual ‘paranormal’ bait. In case you haven’t noticed, it is always a woman who appears possessed. Oh, and this has nothing to do with the increased opportunities for skin show

5. Promoting and glamourising unwarranted ‘item girl’ songs in films. Besides, the ‘item number’ is no longer the preserve of the vamp, but is now part of the territory of the mannequin-like heroines.

6. Creating that ‘penny-wise pound-foolish’ Discount Queen image of homemakers who get drawn to ‘50% off’ sales tags.

7. Creating media hype and sensationalising women-centric stories only to discard them when they hit the decreasing marginal commercial curve. The media industry has often been guilty of not seeing these through to their logical end.

8. Awards felicitating women achievers are often created as a separate category. This is a reflection of the reality that as men, we remind women that we are superior and you have no chance of competing with us. Have you ever heard of a women-only jury selecting male achievers?


If all of us decide that instead of talking global we will act local on this issue, taking it right into our micro-social environment. We will celebrate, respect, support and promote women throughout the year in their own right, and not as defined by some relationship to us. If we can do this, we will have won the right to celebrate women’s day as it should be done.


Sanjeev Kotnala is a leading management, marketing and brand consultant is Head Catalyst at Intradia. He can be reached via Twitter at @s_kotnala. A version of this view first appeared in ‘dna of brands’ dated March 9.


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