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Subtle images of disempowerment

Written By: amodini - Jan• 21•08

NDTV has been advertising the advent of it’s new channel NDTV Imagine, which starts Jan 21st. One of the advertisements is for the soap “Radha ki betyaan kuch kar dikhayengi”. From the web “Radha Ki Betiyaan is the story of a proud mother who instils the right values in her daughters and believes in their potential for excellence in whatever they choose to do”. Shailaja Kejriwal, the channel’s executive vice-president says of it “”Radha Ki Betiyaan Kuch Kar Dikhayenge is about a mom, Supriya Pilgoankar, whose daughters aim to do something more with their lives than simply find suitable bridegrooms.” Sounds lovely. Nice and empowering. However the ad. doesn’t reflect the “empowerment” part.

In the ad., we see Radha and her three daughters, Radha in a whitish sari, not much make-up and a bindi. They stand together, and behind them appears a city, presumably where they live. That’s Image 1 that registers. OK, so Radha – probably single/widowed, yes ? Bringing up three daughters. Daughters, as seen in the ad. – smart, nice women (they smile a lot). Then image 2 : We see all of them, coming up, one by one, and putting money into a piggy-bank.

Note, that these are women, grown-up women (except maybe the youngest kid), saving money, by putting it into a piggy-bank. How do you view a piggy-bank ? How much money can you be putting into a piggy-bank ? When you do need money from that piggy-bank, how much will you have in it ? Hundreds of rupees ? Less ?

I haven’t yet seen a man on television save money by putting paise into a piggy-bank. OK, not unless he’s like two. Why not ? Because this implies :

1. You don’t have much money (piggy-bank good enough for a few coins, yes ?)
2. You don’t have enough to use a real bank (like SBI, Citi etc.).
3. You are either homely, or a loser
4. You have constrained circumstances
5. You aren’t fighting your battles out with the big dogs.

Let’s take the gist of that : no money, not enough, homely, constrained circumstances, not fighting it out in the real world, and associate all that with women. It’s pretty negative, except for the “homely” part. Being “homely” has come to have negative connotations, because a homely women, is portrayed as relinquishing her right to independence, with her only usefulness being in the kitchen/home etc.

I think this, that women save what little they have by putting it into home-grown piggy-banks, in an age of technology, email and real, convenient-to-use banking, is a subtle image of disempowerment. It’s subtle, because the idea of what women can and cannot do, has been ingrained into us. And even though we talk of empowerment, still in our minds, we maintain that distinction. We would pooh-pooh a grown money saving his money into a piggy-bank, but to show a woman doing that is OK, because “women’s work is inconsequential”.

The idea that women can earn little, have little, is a strong image of disempowerment. The idea, that a woman prefers to put in her few coins into a home-grown piggy-bank, instead of walking upto a teller, or an ATM, fits right into that “homely”, not smart enough mindset. The idea that Radha, who’s empowering her daughters, is still stuck in a woman’s “homely” mould, saving up her pennies, because she can do no better, is a sop to patriarchal society, and takes away from the premise of the soap.

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  1. A Muser says:

    Do you think the silly piggy bank has some fantastical other meaning that we may all be unaware of until the soap actually airs? Unlikely, but let’s give them the benefit of doubt. On second thoughts, let’s not. :))

  2. Know wht? I believe all/most of the soaps are aimed at disempowerment or portray some thing like that. You find a women planning all the time to bring down the other… Widows being illtreated. I mean in a world where people are moving forward, these soaps bring before you all that you want to forget and live with out.

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