Using Media to Rethink Gender: A Delhi University Initiative
His Holiness The Dalai Lama is of the opinion that, “When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.” Media is an audio-visual content that evokes both – mind and the heart, in a manner that is not only entertaining and engaging but also an efficient tool to drive home a point and make it stay there. It is in this spirit that the Delhi University (DU) students have initiated a six-day long film festival (tentatively kicked off on 3rd October 2016) that seeks to portray redefinition of gender in media (Films in particular) that lends itself to have a similar effect on society.
An American television producer and writer Steven Bochco has been quoted that, “Film provides an opportunity to marry the power of ideas with the power of images.” Facebook resonates the opinion that videos ensure people listen with their eyes. Over 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched with their sound off and the skill is to communicate a theoretical idea through powerful images. This is not to undermine the power of dialogue as Socrates has had more impact with his words than the recollection of the time in History within which he existed. In the year 2015, UNWOMEN hosted in New York an event for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 59). A speaker, Elina Salinas, Founder of The Women’s Project stated, “The media is the single most powerful tool at our disposal; it has the power to educate, result in social change, and shape political policies and elections in our lives. As a powerful tool, it could also be used for changing social norms that lead toward the deconstruction of gender stereotyping and hence facilitating progress toward gender equality in societies. As a powerful tool, mass media could also change people´s perception of violence against women and can position it as a harmful exercise which is very costly to society as it prevents women from full and equal participation in social, economic and political life.”
In order to bring the youth together, open up their mind towards gender and sexuality issues through harnessing the power of media, the DU students reported to have chosen films like ‘Aligarh’, ‘Fandry’, ‘The Girl in Yellow Boots’ and ‘Carol’ among few others. ‘Aligarh’ directed by Hansal Mehta is a film inspired by the life of Mr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a Marathi teacher at Aligarh Muslim University who was fired from his job due to his sexual orientation. ‘Fandry’ directed by Nagraj Manjule is a film based on the impact of caste discrimination on pubescent love of a 13 year old boy for an upper-caste girl in his class. ‘The Girl in Yellow Boots’ directed by Anurag Kashyap is a film that depicts how women are objectified in a society that wants to lynch them at many levels. ‘Carol’ directed by Todd Haynes is a film that portrays homosexuality struggling to ‘be’ in a complex maze of heterosexual relationships, professional aspirations and in the process of life, people encountered through serendipity and the lack of it.
I (the author of this blog) am reminded of an experience I had when I was a teenager. My female friends would always discourage me from laughing at jokes cracked by boys which often contained derogatory metaphors (intended to be funny) directed at female and male genitals. I wonder what factors dictated the social conditioning I had back then and what role did ‘popular culture’ have in it. A paper by Sarah Lund and Lindsey Blaedon, “Sex and the Media: The Impact of Television Habits on Sexual Perception” written in the year 2003 provides interesting insights into the power of media shaping gender perceptions. Lund and Blaedon are of the opinion that media (television characters) are models for young adults (in this context, 18-24 years). Media tells youngsters “how to be sexual, why to have sex, whom to have it with, and what the appropriate sequence of activities is.” The paper also elaborated that media depiction of sex is more frequently shown between unmarried couples which lead to misconceptions around sexual permissiveness. If media has defined gender dynamics through audio-visual reference; then it deems fit that it is also the very tool to help society unlearn and relearn the same and understand the humane angle which determines those dynamics in the first place.
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