I have been meaning to write this since Sunday when I first came across this article in The Hindu via @calamur. Something kept coming up and I kept postponing the post, until I saw this blogpost, which addresses pretty much the same issue. Our children seem to be bombarded every single day with television soaps, cartoons, and even ads that reinforce age-old stereotypes.
Take the first article for instance. Latika Gupta cites three television soaps that reinforce the idea of the docile and obedient bride. I have personally never seen any of the three soaps mentioned, but let me tell you; any soap that reinforces and promotes unconditional and blind obedience is bad. When Latika Gupta talks about the little girl refusing to meet her eye and behaving like a conventional “nayee bahu”, it’s deeply saddening. This might be a one-off incident, certainly. But, it is still distressing to see little girls wrapped up in “ghunghats” and veils, pretending to be coy and docile.
I remember protesting at D calling me innocent. But, you know what’s worse than innocent? Being obedient. Why is obedience such a virtue? IHM mentioned in a comment to an earlier post that she hated the word obedience. I totally get her point. Why are we, living in the 21st Century, teaching our girls to be submissive and docile? Why are we insisting on blind obedience even in this day and age? Would it not be more advisable to teach a girl to think for herself and take the best possible decision, given the circumstances? Would it not be better if we could teach our daughters to be courageous rather than docile? Who knows what challenges lie ahead? Aren’t boldness and courage desirable attributes in a human being, irrespective of gender?
Soaps like “Baalika Vadhu” and “Sajan Ghar Jana Hai” make me want to puke. What values are we teaching our children by not only allowing them to watch soaps that reinforce and perpetrate archaic and completely unacceptable ideals of “Patni Dharma”, but also actively encouraging them to emulate those examples? I simply cannot ignore the gender perspective in this issue. While, as Latika Gupta puts it, little boys grow up wanting to become doctors, engineers, pilots and lawyers, little girls grow up wanting to be nothing more than perfectly traditional, docile, obedient wives? What is wrong with us? Why are approving of this?
Cartoons, aimed specifically at children and playing on channels such as Pogo seem no better than these soaps in television. As Aishwarya says on her blogpost (linked above), the show (Chhota Bheem) has only one major female character in Chutki, who is feminine, docile (useful isn’t it?) and does a lot of art work and housework. Indumati is the second character in the cartoon series that Aishwarya doesn’t mention. It is interesting, and infuriating to read the description of the said characters on the series’ official site. While Chutki is homely, docile, feminine, loves to cook and clean and feed Bheem, Indu is the quintessential damsel in distress. Bheem seems to keep saving her from some danger or the other. What’s worse? Chutki and Indu are rivals in their attempts to win over Bheem’s affections! For goodness’ sake, stop it! The two female characters’ lives revolve around our beloved hero. Whatever happened to their lives? Do they even live it? Or does everything depend on our hero’s approval?
Perhaps the most distressing aspect of such social conditioning via the media is the fact that most parents seem to approve. They seem to think these serials teach them traditional values, never mind if those values are actually stuck somewhere in the 17th Century. Will this ever change?