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     Volume 5 Issue 85 | March 10, 2006|

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Women in tiresome commercial breaks

Jackie Kabir

As both informed and uninformed viewers of a postmodern world, we let our lives to be driven by ever-influential TV programmes. In our pursuit for information and entertainment, it seems that we watch TV and the TV watches us. To us, "seeing on the TV screen seems believing".

Well, it may not be always true! Sometimes what we see [on the screen] is "unbelievable". The first aspect that strikes a layman mind is the use of women on TV. We watch female models reign in the commercial for different commodities, cosmetics, real state, house building loans and henceforth. This reminds a quote from Sigmund Freud, the psychoanalyst, who said: "there is only one sexuality, one libido and that is masculine". It seems everyone is competing to prove Freud right.

Everything shown on TV is for seducing the masculine sex. Commercials are now being made from male perspective; they project what the male audience wants to see: a beautiful face and an appealing figure. For any product, from household to construction material, a female model with such features becomes a must. What our commercial-makers fail to understand is that in the process of showing women for this kind of advertisements, they are also making women look like commodities. Just like a boy who grows up among the wolves will become wolf-like. People being displayed for objects will also become object-like.

The trend that predominates our television is that women become the product rather than the product itself. We don't seem to realise how demeaning this may be for a woman. Take the commercial on a brand of spice called "Radhuni" meaning "female cook" for example. The mother, being a woman, tells her son to get a real "Radhuni" this time when her son introduces this particular spice to his mum! What a farce! The son needs to marry for cooking only! That's what the commercial implies; isn't it?

Then again, it's only after using the "fairness cream" does a husband look closely at his wife or even a movie producer offers a role in their films without even interviewing them. As if skin colour is the sole qualifier of a person to become an actor.

The list could be enormous and they would relentlessly perplex us. People in Bangladesh should realise that women become a product on the television screen just like the commodities they pose for. There is no need to present a pretty face while showing that the quality of roof tin and there is definitely no need to show a female running around a field while advertising a water pump to a farmer.

Advertising is the right to choose. Everyone agrees. Without advertisement, there would be no revenues and hence no good quality programmes. That can also be agreed upon. What baffles everyone is that, should this advertising rule over the life of the viewers? People nowadays are very busy but to sit in front of a television set and be tortured by the long commercial breaks is the last thing one wants to experience. Sometimes the viewer forgets what he or she was watching before the break. Many go to a different channel when there is commercial break during, a programme.

Many these days call "commercial break" as "programme break", for, the break itself is long enough to be a programme. If one wants to watch something on TV one has to bear with the commercial pop ups. Along side the Bangladeshi TV channels, there are also quite a number of foreign channels one can surf from. So why waste precious time just to watch commercials? One might as well stand beside a road and watch commercials on the roadside television screens.

Every Eid festivals, we watch numerous dramas and musical programmes with utmost eagerness. All the TV channels try to produce quality programmes and there is steep competition among each other in order to capture viewers. The effort on their part is commendable no doubt. However, recently a number of eminent citizens complained in a vernacular daily about these commercials, saying that they were all irked to the point of exhaustion by the commercial breaks and by the length of the breaks.

The uproar of consumer-centered universe is very much audible in today's media but what is missing is the protest of female activists against the exploitation of models and thus aggravating the ever-existing discrimination of women.

If we turn out attention to the media world more horrifying picture can be seen: women are severely under-represented in the real work of the media.

According to a report by Dr I Arul Aram who is a Visiting Research Scholar at the London School of Economics, women constitute 52 per cent of the world's population yet make up only 21 per cent of people featured in the news. Women are most underrepresented in radio where they are only 17 per cent of news subjects compared with 22 per cent on television and 21 per cent in newspapers.

Dr Aram also says that news is still mainly reported and presented by men the only exception is television the report says and it's because young women are considered more presentable from male point of view (Freud is right again). Female news presenters present 57 per cent of the television news. Women do only 27 per cent of the newspaper reporting.

Is the picture any different than that in Bangladesh?
It's really shocking that after a decade after the fourth world conference on women, while the UN Deputy-Secretary General Louise Fréchette is saying that international community is finally comprehending that empowering women and girls around the globe is the most effective tool for a country's development at the opening of 50th session of United Nations commission on status of women (26 Feb 2006) women in Bangladesh are being viewed as mere commodities on the television screen.

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