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Research says, K serials good for women

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sourav1

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sourav1

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Posted: 21 August 2007 at 1:07pm | IP Logged
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 house."


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

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SholaJoBhadkey

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SholaJoBhadkey

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Posted: 21 August 2007 at 2:54pm | IP Logged
I have been trying to reply to your pre-edited post for the last 15 minutes, but the site was giving error messages, so now a response to the edited version.

"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."

What benefits are we talking about here? That some men get off their backsides in rural India and wash dishes? Is that the kind of emancipation we envision for the women of India. You commented on the regressiveness of these serials - don't you think once the novelty wears off, they will see that there isn't much difference between what they are expected to do and what their so-called educated and moneyed sisters living in big cities are doing (in these serials). Why get an education and a job if you won't be considered a "good" woman unless you fit into a medieval sterotype of the Indian woman? What will happen to the drive to educate women in rural India? You are absolutely right in assuming that there is mass propagation of the worst stereotypes and in my opinion, any kind of benefit that women might get from watching these soaps will be incidental and short-lived.

sareg

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Posted: 21 August 2007 at 2:55pm | IP Logged
I wonder how much Ektaa paid for the research Wink

SholaJoBhadkey

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SholaJoBhadkey

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Posted: 21 August 2007 at 2:59pm | IP Logged

Originally posted by sareg

I wonder how much Ektaa paid for the research Wink

That was going to be my first point of debate before it was edited. It seemed awfully suspicious LOL

sourav1

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sourav1

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Posted: 21 August 2007 at 3:03pm | IP Logged
Actually some real benefits are also mentioned:


We find significant increases in reported autonomy, decreases in the reported acceptability of beating
and decreases in reported son preference. We also find increases in female school enrollment and decreases in fertility (primarily via increased birth spacing).


I don't think these can be that easily written off.

sourav1

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sourav1

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Posted: 21 August 2007 at 3:04pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by sareg

I wonder how much Ektaa paid for the research Wink


Could be. But until we have evidence, that's just wishful thinking Smile

sourav1

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sourav1

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Posted: 21 August 2007 at 3:24pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by tisha_g

Originally posted by sourav1



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)?

How does it infuse confidence when a woman is treated like a doormat and she behaves like one?

Notwithstanding this apparant incidental benefit, don't these hindi soaps actually strengthen these stereotypes when propagated through such a wide reaching medium?

What exact stereotypes are we talking here?Woman married to five different men is not a sterrotype but a mythological exception.

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?

Duh!



Smile I don't know if any serial has a woman married simultaneously to five different men. Anyway I don't think that is an impossibility in Ektaland LOL I know some women are on a sequential marriage relay, but even here they are either the virtuous "bahu" in each of the families they "sequentially" adopt and leave thereafter or they are the typical vamps who have nothing better to do other than to scheme how they can wreak havoc in a couple's conjugal life.

But the matter of the fact is that irrespective of whether what the women in such serials represent, mostly as pointed out - medevial stereotypes, if they take a strong stand, even while supporting such medevial stereotypes on most ocassions, it is seen by rural woman as empowerment. It does not matter to them on which side of the divide you are or whether it is medevial or modern; what actually matters is that a strong position has been taken vis-a-vis the society which is anyway male dominated. This then encouarges them to take steps that lead to their empowerment. These they might have learnt from other sources, and which might be totally divorced from the soap storylines.

sourav1

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sourav1

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Posts: 277

Posted: 21 August 2007 at 3:31pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by tisha_g

Sourav
Answering back to your point, I would agree with SJB here.
Empowerment is not about being a doormat bahu in a sanskari family, its about having the freedom to be an individual and a Kekta heroine is hardly that.
Tisha


Granted, but empirical data collected by the duo indicates that there is some tangible benefit to the rural womenfolk. Kind of a catch 22 situation.

Please note that this research is being glorified by one respectable English News channel in India. That's how I came to know about it.


Edited by sourav1 - 21 August 2007 at 3:35pm

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