Female in Nepali Advertisement Industry
( This article was contributed by Alina Shakya and Usha Parajuli )
In this modern era people turn to different forms of media to know about the day-to-day happenings in their society. Media is taken as moral police to alert and question people about their behavior. But now, this moral police have suddenly increased the use of women as sex symbols to grab the attention of people in media. One of the major form of influential media in Nepal is advertisement which is often accused of portraying entire group of people in stereotypical ways, for example: showing women only as homemakers and elderly people as senile.
These advertising stereotypes have contributed to reinforce negative or undesirable views of these groups and contribute to discrimination against them. Studies have shown that the interpretation of role of a person in media or advertisements could fight for the elimination of gender and role based biasness or it can also encourage the same.
When we overview any form of media in Nepal, women are often portrayed as sex symbols or consumable good in many of them. Because of traditional concepts about homely women and their fragile and weak character, they are mostly preferred to be seen applying lotions and washing clothes rather than going office.
The development of advertisement industry has used women as the promotional item. They are shown as youthful and desirable commodity. Often they are shown as tall, fair, slim and ultra modern person. This kind of depiction ignores ethnic groups and different class of people. It also helps generate misconception about beautiful women.
Women always come in news as wives, mothers, and daughters of well-known men. They also appear frequently as members of audiences and as victims of some calamity or accident. In development-oriented news items and programs, women are featured as low-level workers. In women’s programs, the focus might be on the women who stay at home.
Where commercials are concerned, the lifestyle promoted is largely elitist in nature: the models in the commercials are overwhelmingly light-skinned.
Opposed to the role of women, men are shown as authoritative and aggressive in nature. Advertisements are in recorded form and while recording the voice of men is often sought to be bold and authoritative and that of women is intended to make informative or seductive. Posters and advertisements tend to showoff nude bodies of exposed women even for the products that are not for female consumption, such as Balwan Chhap Khaini or of male undergarments. Women feature in almost all categories of commercials, but they are dominant in the ads on foodstuffs, grooming and household items.
Women are still portrayed performing the same traditional roles in Nepali tele-films and advertisements. Many of them tend to characterize woman as a man’s object of desire. This kind of attitude and exercise spotlights the sexual desire and prowess of men while it portrays women as a sexually willing and available object like any consumer
item in the market.
In Nepali advertisements, women are portrayed as a showpiece. They promote young, beautiful and sexually attractive women; portray women in terms of their relationship to men; depict women in traditional female occupations, and portray them as
being overwhelmingly emotional, dependent, superstitious and irrational. Besides, they stress marriage and love as a goal and achievement for women.
The Nepali media, including films and tele-serials, have contributed to women’s empowerment. However, in advertisements, dramas and literary write-ups, on the other hand, women are still presented disparagingly. For instance, the women on the most popular entertainment program on NTV, “Hijo Aajaka Kura” were most of the time pushy, cunning, tricky, garrulous, insincere, silly and ignorant characters in domestic roles.
An analysis of 24 entertainment programs on NTV registered zero percentage of self-employed women roles, in contrast to the 41 percent of male roles in self-employed businesses. Most of these programs deal with social issues, and when the producer thinks a women’s place is in the home, it is no surprise that women achievers are absent.
Similarly, a survey of 65 NTV advertisements, meanwhile, found that only three of these featured women engaged in paid work, of whom two were plucking tealeaves and the last one was a female doctor. The women in the rest of the ads were washing clothes, cooking, cleaning the house, raising the children and so on, thereby reinforcing the notion that a woman’s place is at home. There arises the question, are the advertisements portraying the true image of the woman, or are they just presenting women like any consumer item. Since mass communications is a very effective medium, it is necessary to study whether mass media is guiding the disadvantaged communities or contributing to popularizing a mass culture based on consumerism.
1. Thapa, Manju. Women Presented in Media. Kathmandu: Asmita Women’s Publishing House, 2000.
4. Monle Lee and Carla Johnson, Principle of Advertisement.