It’s Time To Change The Regressive Role Of Women In TV Soaps!

Posted: June 27, 2015

The role of women in TV soaps in India is primarily to thwart the goals of male characters or gang up against other women. It’s high time to change and get real!

I am not a regular consumer of TV soaps and serials. In the very little time that I get for watching TV, I prefer to follow the dance and music reality shows. The contestants, aspiring for a career in music or dance despite coming from rather underprivileged family background inspire you, infuse in you the belief that nothing is unachievable.

However, some of my family members (aunts, aunt-in-law etc), watch the daily soaps regularly and I take the occasional glance while sipping tea or munching snacks. During such times, I get a glimpse of the stories, the family dramas and the portrayal of women these shows put up.

We are living at time when women have reached the heights of success in every field. Even Bollywood has dared to create female characters whose fathers are not ashamed to speak of their daughter’s fiercely independent nature, both emotionally and physically. Then, why do the serials keep portraying women in such terribly regressive light? If the silver screen at all has to have an impact on viewers, why does the impact have to be so negative and undesirable!

These serials that can easily boast of thousands of consumers revolve around specific themes. So, you either see two or more women trying their best to hold back a prominent male figure or the good daughter-in-law taking up the blame for the misdeeds of each and every member in the family. I will give a very short example to put forth my point that is: these soaps are taking women backwards.

Just the other day, I was watching a serial called “Gouridan”, which is the story of a girl who has been married of at the age of 8 into a very affluent, traditional household, located in the interiors of West Bengal. The head of the family is a controlling widow dressed all in white and wearing quite some amount of make-up, having a say in everyone’s life. Now, the 30-minute episode begins with a young lady being ill-treated for being infertile, the widow asking her not to go to a temple because she would probably never be able to become a mother. Did anyone just say that a women’s feminity is not affected by her ability/inability to conceive?

Did anyone just say that a women’s feminity is not affected by her ability/inability to conceive?

Well, we move on the next scene where this same lady is in tears, hurt by the harsh words of her grand mother-in-law. She is sitting in front of a gas oven, cooking a meal for may be some 50 people, as evident from the size of the cookware. At this point, the sister-in-law comes in to taunt her further on the same point, to which the victimized lady explains that she is not infertile and has earlier carried a baby, who unfortunately died after being born. And, the director wants us to believe that this explanation was equal to raising a voice against all that was being said to the lady! The irony is that viewers will perhaps be all happy and satisfied that the women retorted and never understand how unjustified is the issue that was raised and buried in no time.

As the show moves on, we find this very same lady tortured by her drunken husband, who believes her to be having an illicit affair.  The series of oppression does not remain restricted to this lady alone. The protagonist (the one married off at the age of 8), is shown forced by circumstances not to accompany her husband (thankfully a good one now) to the city, where he studies medicine. So, here again, we find one woman restricting the freedom of another woman to the extent of not letting her live with her husband!

We find one woman restricting the freedom of another woman to the extent of not letting her live with her husband.

I respect people in the Film and Television industry and sincerely believe that they have the potential to entertain us. Why then do they indulge in creating soaps that pull women backwards instead of rejuvenating in them the power and spirit of womanhood? I would like to see stories that portray the struggles of women, put them on an equal platform with the males or even depict male characters worthy of love, respect and admiration. I am sure the audience will still love it the same or even more rather than repeatedly watching women holding up the traditional, patriarchal values in spite of being locked up inside the household.

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  1. You are very right Sumana. The funniest aspect is, these hindi serials are translated into other south Indian regional languages and the message is also being spread there. Those regional languages have their set of original serials and also these dubbed ones, and in the afternoon of a weekday, if you by mistake want to entertain yourself, then you can be sure that such scenes can be viewed in all channels, except the news channels….do Indians lack creativity or something?! It really bugs me that all the slogging out these people do in the schools and colleges are just for getting degrees and not for our country’s development !!

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