A few days ago, I heard a story on NPR on how the spread of satellite and cable TV increased female autonomy in India. This story demonstrated that, with the help of technology, media can help people overcome same of the cultural and historical norms in a center society that now are considered as outdated by international human rights standard.
When we usually think of India, we often regard her as the largest democratic nation in the world, certainly population wise. So naturally, for years, I assume that Indian women enjoy their freedom as much as their countrymen, at least to some comparable extend like in any other countries that call themselves democratic. Boy, I was wrong! From this program on radio I learned that the status of Indian women in rural areas is far below the status Indian men. For example, not only many Indian women there have no say in their family but also they need to obey their husband or mother-in-law on a daily basis even to the point she need their permission to go outside of the home. Most shockingly to me is the fact that, 7 out of 10 women surveyed by the study believe that this is normal, including a few female police and solider. In other words, this inequality in sex is considered as normal by both male and female members of Indian society.
Not for long! Thanks to the modern technology, nowadays “one-half of Indian households have a TV and of those two-thirds have access to cable or satellite.” And because TV watching in developing country is a more communal experience, the actual number of audience is even higher. So after watch western soap opera programs carried on TV, which usually features strong female figures like Baywatch, local people begin to change their view on the role women should play in society. It was found by the same study that village with satellite or cable TV “goes along with higher girls’ school enrollment rates” and lower acceptance of wife beating. “Within two years of getting cable or satellite, between 45 and 70 percent of the difference between urban and rural areas on these measures disappears.” That means soap opera are gradually changing what a society deemed right and acceptable.
In relation to chapter 36, Monroe Price believes that, one of the functions of the state is to safeguard the norm and value of a society. So center level of stability can be maintained. For this exact same reason, national censorship raises from the fear that their monopolies on media now is severely undermined by the new technologies like satellite TV and internet. But the norm a nation so desperately trying to protect isn’t always the one worth of the effect, like the female discrimination in India. As a woman, I am happy to see how media is bringing the light to the dark side of sovereignty like the strong female characters helped women in India begin to challenged the power relations between them and men.
1. “Soap Operas Boost Rights, Global Economist Says”
2. “Cable Television Raises Women’s Status in India”