Is this what women want to read?

IN Media Practice | 06/06/2008
Does a woman’s magazine only have to be about jewellery, lingerie, cosmetics, cooking and sex?
PREETI SINGH wonders where women are supposed to look for content they can relate to.

After many years, I recently brought home a copy of Femina from the neighbourhood lending library. Tired of flipping channels and not having any major assignment on hand, I wanted to read some quality articles on issues relating to women in India and perhaps, also an interesting short story. I was not in the mood for any heavy political or economic stuff but at least something sensible; something, which would have touched an average Indian woman’s life, and also inspired her. After all, we do have so many women achievers.


But, something seems to have gone terribly wrong in the last 60 years. Or maybe be I am stuck in some other time zone. I try to think when did this decline really begin, and can we put a date to it. Somehow, my mind keeps going back to the early nineties when the so called process of economic liberalization began. Historically, cultural invasion is preceded by economic invasion. No problem in that, if only one is discerning enough to draw the good from those we are borrowing; essentially the West, for example their civic sense, their traffic sense etc, etc. But, what we have devoured whole hog is only their consumerism and hedonism.


Page after page was full of only advertisements on diamonds (supposed to be a woman’s best friend, bah), lifestyle products, makeup, designer clothes and designer watches, breast enhancement methods, weight loss programmes, laser removal of body hair, botox treatments, et al, and it went on ad nauseum. I tried desperately to search for some reading material, but, except for some snippets here and there about some celebrity (read only---film stars or models) there was not a page which one could call an issue-based article or a well-researched piece.


Who are they writing for? Only the bored, rich urban Indian housewife (because no professional woman, however highly paid she may be) would find anything in it. After all, who else would have the time to pore over pictures and pictures of ridiculously attired women? And what about the lower middle-class housewife, or the student in a small town, or even the working woman in a poorly paid job. Do they not exist on their radar? Or maybe they do. Maybe they are writing for them really, by creating needs where they do not exist; and making them despair for things which are neither immediately essential to their lives nor accessible. After all, India has the much touted 350 million middle class. Even by the lowest sex ratio a sizeable number of women.


Does a woman’s magazine only have to be about jewellery, lingerie, cosmetics, cooking and nowadays sex! Reams of paper bloodied only with advertisements. Where is the content? What about information and advice on social, medical, educational and legal issues specific to women? Sadly, women who are using this powerful medium only to ape the Vogues of this world have only themselves to blame if the men find women frivolous and treat them only as objects of desire. Because that is how they project women.


Are there no worthwhile topics to write about? Forget worthwhile, they don’t even bother to write about anything. Advertisements are sufficient to fill the pages. Film magazines are even worse. All they do is follow the love affairs of stars. In fact the obsession has reached such manic proportions; they waste reams of paper and hours of broadcast on love bites of filmy couples.


What have we come to? Is it that in pursuit of circulation, the editors have forgotten the basic purpose of journalism? I am trying to find out why infanticide, foeticide, rape, dowry, health, education, career options are not discussed in their pages.


So many women/girls are seeking information, answers, and solutions to their innumerable problems. Why such topics find no mention. Is a woman’s role in society only to be dolled up and be an eye candy?


The daily newspapers are no better. They too are almost always plastered with either ads or something sensational, while the electronic media is only voyeuristic. Do the front pages always have to scream to be heard? Will only murders, robberies, accidents, rapes ensure readership. Does our morning have to begin with pictures of mangled bodies?


Is there nothing positive, cheerful, inspiring happening in this country of one billion and a world of six billion. Surely there must. But, no. The news media seems to be in a strange grip of sadism with lip smacking and hand rubbing indecency trying to out do each other in dishing out horror stories. Some of the vernacular channels are even worse.


Just a few days ago the Times of India carried a feature, of course borrowed from the Hannibal-obsessed West about how they have invented a very eco-friendly method of disposing of the dead. You can actually dissolve the bodies of your loved ones and flush them down the toilet. The feature went into details of giving the chemical composition, the proportions and the temperature to be used.


A wonderful piece of information for murderers and criminals! Why do we need such an article? It should be enough for those in the business of disposing dead like crematoriums and undertakers to know. They can always advise families when they go to them about options available. Why does the world at large need to be told? Surely the idea is not to encourage a cottage industry in this. Something which should remain in the corridors of science centres is made available in minute details to public at large.


How much benefit and how much harm a particular piece will cause is not the purview of the editorial domain. The more perverted the news or the more skin shown the better! Why bother about anything else.
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