Pakistan media has a very old history in TV series but still in all the scripts the patriarchal side of the society is being depicted.
Much observation has been made on the themes of Pakistani dramas that portray a woman as a “pitiable being” who battles every day to survive while surrendering herself to the whims of society. Rights activists have noticed that a woman is exploited in Pakistani dramas in the roles given to her as wife, daughter, mother or daughter-in-law. The over-exploitation of her roles creates a weak image of women in the minds of men. In a patria potestas society, such themes strengthen the conventional place of women in households and impede her growth and advancement. Aligning with the popular belief, some media experts state that Pakistani dramas are inspired by a society where a woman enjoys a subservient position, forsaking her desires and wishes for her family. They maintain that the domestic chores associated with her gender from historical times are still widely practised in society as well as shown in the dramas. The experts have claimed that patriarchy receives the nourishment of its roots when in a drama, a man sits at an advantaged position and exercises his authority on a woman who gives up her rights first for her family and then for her in-laws. Owing to this cultural victimization of women, she never fully feels empowered to live a life out of her choice.
The audience has somehow been made convinced through serials that the Pakistani society will always remain patriarchal.
Analysts observe that domestic violence, marital rape, honour killings, acid attacks, women trafficking, gender discrimination all are significant parts of Pakistani dramas. Every other drama in the country contains the subjugation of women that makes her helpless and miserable at the hands of men. Most dramas comprise of men making sexual advances towards women that give rise to sexual harassment in the country. What is prominently highlighted on media, gets normalized among the general public. Similarly, experts say that repeated incidents of domestic violence and brutal attacks from a husband’s family on TV shows have normalized these events as a part and parcel of a normal marriage. Husbands beat their wives in real life when they see this is how society has forged their gender. TV serials have made ordinary men and women believe that such roles are tailored made for them to suit their personality as men beating women and women enduring it happily is natural and normal.
Pakistani feminists and rights activists are seemingly concerned about the portrayal of women in Pakistani drama and various soap serials. Feminist Tasneem Ahmar, who runs a research institute that is based on women-media relationships, complains that 99.99% of TV drama in Pakistan is misogynist, patriarchal driven in its depiction and treatment of women issues.
“No doubt that Pakistani Drama TV serials are hugely popular among all strata of Pakistani society, but unfortunately they waste their potential of doing better in projecting progressive values rather than regressive values vis a vis women’s depiction & support to equal rights”, she adds.
According to some media critics the Pakistani dramas portray a strong and independent woman as “negative” and “cunning” who denies taking every responsibility and does not obey her husband. Contrarily, they say, her image being an “educated, strong and independent” might be depicted in a manner that how she works hard and adds to her husband’s success and prosperity of her family. Relating to the patriarchal norms, a woman is shown in the dramas as someone who is deprived of education just because she is born to run her husband’s home. Critics state that biased words used in the dramas refer to the age-old, archaic mindset of certain households where a woman is treated as a burden and needs to get married off early. They further add that such a subservient position of women promotes gender discrimination and upholds patriarchal values.
Right activist and author Khawar Mumtaz said that the TV shows and entertainment programs should be written and filmed taking into account the realities of society and should be based on remedies to the social issues of the country. “Our plays should prompt people to think positively at least. But here the whole thinking process turned on its head,” she said.
Screenwriter and director of several plays and serials Bee Gul, berating the theme of a blockbuster Pakistani drama ‘Dunk’, labelled it as insensitive to what victims have to go through in reality. “Television is an important part of society but sadly, most producers and writers seem to be convinced that what was shown in Dunk does happen. All they care about is making money through such programmes,” she said.
In a society like Pakistani where the public is little enlightened with the advancements of the world, the content on televisions is all they learn from. They seek all the societal awareness and personality development from whatever is displayed there. Therefore, media critics suggest that admittance of a woman’s strong role in society and glorification of her status are mandatory to allow a shift in the perspectives of people. They maintain that as women around the world are getting independent, and their roles seem to change, such depiction of women’s image in Pakistani drama and serials is essential to bring a change in the society.
It is high time we explore different themes featuring strong and financially independent women who share responsibilities with husbands and families and do not surrender to an abusive marriage and physical violence. There is a need to break taboos and produce dramas on topics that highlight the contribution of women in building up society and its prosperity and development. The themes should be such that they alter the negative image of a woman and inform people that she is meant to be respected under all conditions, in every role and at every place she chooses to reside in.