Research concludes soaps in Indian cable are empowering rural women. Paper available at:http://www.nber.org/papers/w13305.pdf
The program offrings on cable television are quite diffrent than
government programming. The most popular shows tend to be game shows
and soap operas. As an example, among the most popular shows in both
2000 and 2007 (based on Indian Nielsen ratings) is "Kyunki Saas Bhi
Kabhi Bahu Thi," (Because a Mother-in-Law was Once a Daughter-in-Law,
Also) a show based around the life of a wealthy industrial family in
the large city of Mumbai. As can be seen from the title, the main
themes and plots of the show often revolve around issues of family and
gender. Among satellite channels, STAR TV and Zee TV tend to dominate,
although Sony, STAR PLUS and Sun TV are also represented among the top
20 shows. Viewership of the government channel, although relatively
high among those who do not have cable, is extremely low among those
who do (and limited largely to sporting events).
The introduction of television in general appears to have had large
effects on Indian society. In contrast to the West, television seems to
be, in some cases, the primary medium by which people in rural villages
in India get information about the outside world (Scrase, 2002;
Mankekar, 1993; Mankekar, 1998; Johnson, 2001; Fernandes, 2000). For
example, Johnson (2001) reports on a man in his 50's in a village in
India who says that television is "the biggest thing to happen in our
village, ever". He goes on to say that he learned about the value of
electric fans (to deal with the heat) from television, and subsequently
purchased one. The same author quotes another man arguing that
television is where they learned that their leaders were corrupt, and
about using the court system to address grievances.
On issues of gender
specially, television seems to have had a signifiant impact, since this
is an area where the lives of rural viewers differ greatly from those
depicted on most popular shows. By virtue of the fact that the most
popular Indian serials take place in urban settings, women depicted on
these shows are typically much more emancipated than rural women. For
example, many women on popular serials work outside the home, run
businesses and control money. In addition, they are typically more
educated and have fewer children than their rural counterparts.
Further, in many cases there is access to Western television, with its
accompanying depiction of life in which women are much more
emancipated. Based on anthropological reports, this seems to have
affected attitudes within India. Scrase (2002) reports that several of
his respondents thought television might lead women to question their
social position and might help the cause of female advancement. Another woman reports that, because of television, men and
women are able to "open up a lot more" (Scrase, 2002). Johnson (2001)
quotes a number of respondents describing changes in gender roles as a
result of television. One man notes, "Since TV has come to our village,
women are doing less work than before. They only want to watch TV. So
we [men] have to do more work. Many times I help my wife clean the
OK i'll put some questions here.
I personally find the hindi soaps socially regressive, especially where women are concerned. For example, I keep track of a soap - Karam Apna Apna on Star Plus (because I'm a fan of the female lead - Pallavi Subhash) where the man goes around with another woman but the wife is glorified for forgiving the husband's infedelity; man married with two wives; wife has to be a good cook otherwise she is not a good human being; wife has to wake up at 5 am and do pooja etc. However here we see some serious research findings that rural women are actually being benefitted by such soaps. If I were to have my way as a broadcasting dictator, earlier I would have had no qualms in keeping them off air, however, now, I am not too sure seeing the research.
How do we reconcile the fact that we need to show things which are clearly patriarchal stereotypes with the fact that these shows do infuse confidence in women in these very patriarchal societies (read rural) when the soap lead ladies take a strong stand (irrespective of whether the stand itself is regressive or progressive)?
Notwithstanding this apparant incidental benefit, don't these hindi soaps actually strengthen these stereotypes when propagated through such a wide reaching medium?
Frankly, aren't these soaps being produced with a greater aim of keeping the cash register ringing (remember the TRP mania) rather than as an instrument of empowering women?
Edited by sourav1 - 21 August 2007 at 2:36pm