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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Films, Mass Media and the Objectification of Women – Root Cause of Rising Sexual Violence

Open any newspaper, TV channel or website, the women featured are wearing revealing and mostly bare minimum clothes. Social media is full of accounts that thrive on content that is demeaning to women in more than one way, yet such entities are openly accepted. Their acceptance implies normalisation & social approval and this gives rise to more such accounts, all in a bid to mint money.

But this kind of portrayal wasn’t acceptable a few decades back. Earlier, TV soaps were criticized when vamps were dressed in revealing clothes, but that was justified as the need for the character to look evil. Things have changed now; there is no uproar over how the leading ladies of various TV shows or films are portrayed. The reason being: it has become an acceptable norm that an actress will wear revealing clothes in the name of looking ‘fashionable’ / ‘trendy’ / ‘cool’.

Today, no mainstream Bollywood film is considered complete without an ‘item’ song, often picturized on the heroine herself with stomach-churning lyrics like ‘Main to tandoori murgi hoon yaar, Gatkaale saiyan alcohol se.” (“I am like tandoori chicken dear, ravish me with some alcohol.”)

The situation with newspapers, magazines and websites is equally worse. Images of bikini-clad women are used as click-bait to attract more users and audiences. Advertisements openly use provocative and revealing images of models and no one finds anything wrong in it. Their argument: it is part and parcel of being modern. Women sporting bikinis and revealing outfits is considered a sign of modernity, while dressing traditionally is considered backward or boring.

Whatever be the argument, the kind of impact it has on young minds of the country is devastating. Our youth getting exposed to something that their impressionable brains are not ready to process is the worst thing society is allowing to happen right now.

This new ‘modern’ outlook has women carelessly flaunting their bodies in order to be considered ‘wanted’ by men; being exposed to almost pornographic images of women all the time is leading to youth, including even children, obsessing about sex.

On the other hand, our culture has always advocated treating women with respect. Hindu Dharma places importance on four purusharthas, namely – dharma (virtuous and moral life), artha (material propserity), kama (pleasure and fulfilling desires), moksha (self realization & liberation from cycle of birth & death). Instead of giving especial importance to any of them, our culture teaches that the human mind should be able to pursue all these objectives with full faith and do so by striking a balance between all of them.

Instead of mass media bombarding them with titillating messages, our youth need to be taught how to control their minds and focus on what their life achievements should look like. And though Hindu culture teaches such virtues, it is heavily criticized for no apparent reason. But having women wear clothes which do not seem practical at all is a sign of modernization.

Besides all that is happening to mar the Hindu culture, this overt sexualization of our youth is the worst form of attack as it targets the next generation. They are truly the ones who will carry forward our values and culture. That is why the need to teach the four purusharthas to the young minds is even more important now than ever. Instead of falling prey to the immoral practices that the media has resorted to, we need to make sure that our next generation is immunized to everything that may harm their intellect.

And one of the most vulnerable groups being brainwashed by this portrayal is the young audience residing in rural and small town Bharat. While people in the national media would rather blame the patriarchal mindset for any kind of sexual crimes happening in that part of the country, the problem lies somewhere else. The constant exposure to content that agitates and excites the mind has led to a meteoric rise in sexual violence and crimes. 

At a time when mainstream society seems to have abdicated its responsibility towards our youth by promoting & normalising such deleterious forms of mass media, it is families, teachers and parents of the young people that need to work together to divert the minds of the youth towards more productive activities and virtuous deeds. There should be a keenness to keep their minds occupied with sports, academics, yoga, co-curricular activities like drama, arts etc., and community service – in short, those things which will help them evolve and grow as an individual. Apart from that, an understanding for Dharma should also be developed, which includes bhakti or dhyan (meditation) to gain control over your mind. An overall development should be aimed for, which will keep the young minds occupied in the best possible way.

What can parents do to make sure that their kids are safeguarded?

  • Instead of Bollywood/International songs, which are full of explicit content, parents should divert the attention of their kids towards Bharatiya forms of music and dance.
  • Talk to your kids and make them realize that celebrities are paid for what they are doing, and should not be hero-worshiped. Parents should encourage kids to respect real life heroes that work towards making life better for others.
  • Families should instill the values of following Dharma and having daily rituals that everyone must follow.
  • Young minds must be kept occupied with practices that help train their brains to evolve. Yoga, meditation, physical activities, social responsibility activities should be instilled in their daily routines.

No doubt that eventually the peer pressure on the brains of the young minds to prove that they are ‘modern’ & ‘fun-loving’ will increase further. As media spends more money to increase its audience base for adult and porn-like content, it is only the strong values of the young minds that will safeguard them from behaviour that harms them and others.

(Featured Image Source)

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