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Do you ever see your mother on TV?

  • Published at 09:43 am May 14th, 2017
Do you ever see your mother on TV?
Few will argue that the media acts as both the message and a messenger for the masses, and is increasingly becoming a powerful one at that. People tend to learn more about things from the media than any other source of information. The media, therefore, acts as a powerful agent that internalises values and norms and inconspicuously shapes our society and future generations.

What really sells here?

According to a report commissioned by Common Sense Media, a non- profit organisation working to help children, parents and educators navigate the world of media and technology, an average US teen spends somewhere around nine hours using media as a source of enjoyment. That is approximately more than the time they spend sleeping, and surely more than what they spend with their parents and teachers. One might speculate that statistics with regard to an American adolescent, who is likely to be better off than most teenagers in Bangladesh, are irrelevant for a discussion on Bangladeshi media. There is no prior research in our context that can give us a clearer idea of how much media exposure a Bangladeshi adolescent is subjected to. While it is true that teenagers from different backgrounds will have dissimilar exposure to the media, it is not tough to notice how it still has a major influence. Advertising has been notoriously known to use sexuality and emotions to sell their ideas. You don’t need an Ivy League degree to figure out how that works. Using women as objects has been the norm for as long as the industry has existed, but it is really the emotions that creatives resort to when all else fails. According to the media, buying a particular brand of motorbike or deo will win you a hot date for the night. If things were this easy, I would have been a Bengali Hugh Hefner living in a Gulshan-Baridhara mansion filled with beautiful ladies by now. We’ve all seen the voluptuous ladies “twerking” their way to fame on YouTube and I don’t want to even get into the level of sexism and commodification of the female body in the advertising industry.
Given the number of working mothers in the country, it is not expecting too much to see different kinds of mothers being portrayed in our media

 Is there anything mothers can’t do?

But there is one other representation that is as annoying. You’d be lying if you said you haven’t come across adverts (starting from fridges to real estate and everything in between) where we find the ever-so-tired mom, toiling hard to make ends meet and say, a washing machine instantly vanishes all her woes in life. Is handing her a carbonated drink with a label that reads “ma” sufficient to deal with all the unpaid work in her life? Again, why is it always the mother who is seen pouring a healthy drink for her children and never the father? Does he not care about the benefit of his children? Just so you don’t pass me off as just another ranting cynical observer, stereotypes are constantly being broken by master marketeers in the country which is honestly, quite refreshing. But all I am trying to emphasise on is that, the number of such initiatives is far too less than it should be, and the media still uses traditional gender roles far too often. Given the number of working mothers in the country, it is not expecting too much to see different kinds of mothers being portrayed in our media, not just the overworked one, seen picking up after her adult children who are perfectly capable of looking after themselves. Living in a country run by a female prime minister with an increasing amount of women being stationed in important positions of the government, it is high time that we start rethinking about what we are using to market products and the representation of women and mothers that is proffered while at it. Media has so much influence in how we behave, and the more power women (and power moms) we see on it, the better.
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