Christy Simon: Mediated Rights: Media, Women and Human Rights in India


Prabash.J. “Mediated Rights: Media, Women and Human Rights in India” JSTOR LXVI.1 (2015). Online

Media is a tool to acquire freedom for the society and should maintain a prophetic adhearence to the democratic norms and values. However, in actual practice,  the relationship between the media and the society is not unilateral. This is more so in the case of protecting the human rights of marginalized sections of society like women.

  • Output of media is largely shaped by the combination of ideological, economic and cultural influences. It transmits only those set of values that corresponds to the interest of a power system
  • Class predilection and patriarchal inclination  destorys its potential to influence the social reality. The powerful controls the media forcing them to produce stories in favour of their developement.
  • It is true that there had been occasional bouts of media activism on key gender issues, but they were episodical and had little consistency of concern. The marginalised humanity especially women finds a place in the media only when human tragedies, ethnic conflicts, disasters.
  • Women hardly exists as a public phenomenon and their existence is unnoticed – a phenomenon which is described a s symbolic anhilation by Gaye Tuchman.
  • Even if there issues are presented , questions and investigations regarding the structures that have produced the opressive conditons are left unquestioned. For instance , reportage of  honour killing that we come across in the newspapers.  At the sametime broadcasting medias pay less attention to these matters. And it is impossible to find a follow up story of these  issues in the newspaper .
  • Also another instance is the jisha murder case that has happened recently in Kerala. There was a deliberate action from the part of  various governmental and non-governmental agencies  to convert the murder into a suicide. And it took almost one week for the medias to take note of the event and the news. The news that initially came out with few surface level facts in the corner of the news paper  later changed into a senstaional account mainly because she was  a Dalit. These suggest how marginalized and woemn section of the society are pitted gainst the agencies ,caste and culture which represent patriarchy in an institutionalized form.
  • The images of women constructed in the medias always stands in relation to men , often as playthings.Interest on woemn issues are lexical and sometimes they are often pertained to the upperclass. The patriarchal nature of socialisation force women to see women in subordinte gender roles.


In the essay the author mentions  about “the entire marginal humanity” but does not try to elaborate on it. Some of the examples that show media as the mirror of the dominant sections of society are issues of human right viloation of  tribal communities,  Rohith Vemula issue which was spotted by the media only after the release of his suicide letter, various scam issues, farmer suicide problems  etc.

Also we need to consider how women are represented and seen in social medias which constitutes a mjor role in todays media.

Role of the women’s movement, visibility of women in the journalistic profession and the news value of the issues involved are also matters that has to be considered in this scenario.

The essay says that it is the powerlessness of the women  that has made her to remain outside this social strata and this is seen as the greatest challenge to women and feminist movement. These statement seems to reinforce the stereotypes and limit women to the role of care giver and nurture.

Laura Mulveys says  “Traditionally , the women displayed has functioned on two levels- as erotic object for the characters within the screen story and as erotic object for the spectators within the auditorium.” The relation between media and women has  to be  analyzed from this perspective along with the power relations that guides media and its functioning.



Christy: Agency, Structure And Subject Positions

Chancer. Lynn and Watkins Beverely Xaveria, Gender, Race and Class: An Overview, Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2006

Gender issues are widespread over the enitre arenas of dvelopement. Especially women  still do occupy subordinated position even in a progressive political environment  and therefore it has become important to think whether certain  changes brought for revisiting and rethinking the agency and social strucural realities  are worth  applauding and are capable of negogiating the  prevailing gendered assymetries.

  • Scholars have pointed out that internalisation of oppression is stronger and deeply embedded in their consciousness because of cultural construction of feminity and subjectivity.
  • Limited capacity of agency also prevents women from questioning gendered codings that are entrenched in traditional gender dichotomies were home and domestic life are considered to be the domains for the preservation of Indian values. Agency is not only the foundational theme of women struggle for equality because agency exist in a form of relativity. For instance patriarchal srtuctures vary in their articulation and it is less vulnerable to tranformation according to the changing times.
  • Little access to social and symbolic resources, less participation in power relations also prevents women from overcoming ideological and structutal barriers which include patriarchy, religion etc. Women are complicit in their own oppression and as they align even if partially with the existing dominant structures.
  • Most questions on women agency are rooted in the homogenous and monlithic perspective of western scholarship.  Subaltern voices of resisitance seems to be the voices of postcolonial compulsion. They speak within the social constraints and the sunjugating discourses.Women are made resistant by defenition thereby categorizing their expereinces and ideologies under the term of ‘other’.
  • However for the creation of an autonomous agency we also need to liberate men various constructs and social impositions. They are always considered as ptimary bread earners, custodians of societal valueas and machismo.
  • Unconventional spaces and codes are to be loosened to bridge the gender gaps and disparities in the community.



We need to see other implications other than patriarchy and tradition that had adverse impact on the social roles of  women. The coalition between globalization ,religious  fundamentalism  and nationalism has a very specific and troubling implications for women especially . As Mohanty in her essay  Under  Western Eyes Revisited says ,poor women and girls are hit by the degradation of environmental conditions, wars, famines, privitization of services, increasing surveillance, incarceration in prison and so on. Corporate capitalism which is a result of globalization has also colonized men’s lives around the world. These factors also plays a significant role in restructuring the agency and subject positions in the society.

The essay does not clearly suggest how liberation of men  from gender prescribed roles   is possible. Also the essay does not mention  about how subverted identities(transgender, queer etc) can also be accomodated into the srtuggle for revsioning agency, structure and subject positions in the society. The essay also do not questions other aspects like compulsory heterosexuality.  The essay do not formulate any solutions to deal with the complexities and naunces to achieve a feminist solidarity.

Christy: An Ideal Indian Women

Recent Studies On Indian Women : Empirical Work Of  Social Scientist; Kant Kamal Misra, Huber  Janet Lowry; Rawat Publication; ISBN 8131600491; Print.

It was mainly  the unification of identity produced by the colonial rule that actualized the concept of  an ideal Indian woman into a pan- India phenomenon. Just like the term Indian that becomes meaningful and understood in the context of the construction of Indian nation, the popular image of Indian woman is also a product of an elite majority. However micro level changes had taken place in the concepts owing to the impact of modernization.

Womanhood was not at all a matter in the pre-modern era. Literary traditions were highly influenced by the power structures mainly by colonial rule, western patriarchy, Indian caste rankings, male intellectualism and elite hegemony. Even after new systems of knowledge  like print were established and when a number of women became literate , the reformist movements were only concerned with the issues of upper sections of society.

The construction of the Indian women was endangered in the class and caste structure of India. The ideal woman was the wife of the elite Indian man and left out were those women who were laborers and tribes. The concept  of the ideal Indian women laid their foundation in Dharmashstras the laws of the Manu. The postcolonial knowledge enhanced the stereotypes based on morality and assumed women in two distinct poles: devi(godess) and dasi( servant).

The attributions given to the women were the attempts of educated Indian men to resurrect their own women as perfect foil for their nationalist ideals. The Indian nationalist men claimed superiority on the basis of the moral and spiritual superiority to the West and it was the women who represented the spiritual ideal of the home(43). Also at the ground level it also aimed at the seclusion of the elite woman(devi) from the underprivileged counterpart(dasi).

Women in India are certainly seen as objects of respect and of worship, but not all the women. The woman who is truly confined to  the ideals of patriarchy is the woman who is respected. On the other hand, women who belongs to the lower classes were considered as sexual objects. But what happens now is that women irrespective of their caste, attitude and attire becomes target of harassment  and face criticisms about inappropriate dressing and on freedom that they enjoy outside the “four walls”.

The changing society is in a dilemma to reconstruct the stereotypes of Indian women but in the global era symbols of distinction are deepening.

Media concentrates only on the mainstream culture. They present exoticism version of rural India taht is far from reality of poverty. The reality is replaced by alternative images of stereotypes. No popular serials which is the popular source of entertainment ever dwells on woman on the fringes of the society. They don’t represent the dimensions of marginal womanhood.

There is also a tussle between the traditional and the modern in this contemporary age of globalization and the changes coming about is slow and restricted.

Every Indian men aspire for a woman who would be a perfect blend of modernity and tradition.

Every woman is created to become a partner to the modern man. Most Indian men aspire for women who would be a perfect blend of modernity and tradition to satisfy all their requirements. What world expects is an independent free thinking women who is at the same time a self sacrificing mother and a wife.