Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Of women’s misrepresentation in the media (11)


Previously on this column, the issue  of misrepresentation of women in   the media was discussed though not extensively. This piece therefore lends a continuation to the afore-discussed subject matter. Having established the fact that women are no more heard of but seen in the negative light, one is not in doubt on why today’s women have taken to cheap and demeaning means of announcing their arrival to the world.  

As stated previously, it is no news that women have become sales promoters of various wares, goods and services nationally and internationally courtesy of their feminine charm. That is their smile, smooth skin, white teeth, fair complexion, curved edges and shape, long or short artificial hair, beautiful face, an assumed hot legs, and etc. On every street, major/minor roads and highways, we see Billboards of women advertising wares varying from home utensils to furniture, landed properties, cars, hospitality outfits, toiletries, food stuffs, hair treatments and body creams as well as a number of assorted items which may not apply to them. All thanks to their expressionable looks which we have been made to believe ‘moves market’ more than a man or child on the Billboard.  
Before now, women only advertised goods that were relevant to them such as baby needs, kitchen needs, hair needs and toiletries but that no longer counts. Women now advertise things they rarely can afford to buy or own. Even things used mostly by men such as boxers, dry gin, luxurious cars, furniture, Aeroplanes, Hotels, branded perfumes, wrist watches, shoes, briefcases and etc, are advertised by women courtesy of their feminity. The question is, can men not advertise? Can men not smile better, look better and create an appealing sight as well? If men also make use of these items, should they not be in the media as well?

Though pertinent, the issue does not end at the employ of women in the advertisements of these products, it extends to the way and mode they are showcased in the ads. Many atimes, the models are sexily dressed with no recourse to decency and modesty, and they carry an enticing look that is sure to stir up an interest in the mind of any careless man. Thus, the attention of the audience is made to shift from the product to the model. Research has shown that many viewers of advertising models consequently develop a strong liking for the model than the product itself. This is not far from the fact that the styles, postures and positions taken by these models have gone beyond product marketing to body marketing. It would therefore not be wrong to assert that many models on the mediums of mass communication see their role as a means of announcing their availability to their highest bidder. This, if one may ask is an aberration and abuse of the dignity of womanhood. 

As mentioned before, women are being employed for these debasing functions because they have made themselves available and open for commerce. While there are advertising agencies looking out for women who would expose more integral parts of their bodies, there are also young women falling over themselves to get their clothes off for public view over an agreed amount. This tells how much the values instilled on us by our fore-mothers have been done away with. No longer is regard given to modesty, decency and proper body coverage. It no longer matters. Being a modest girl no longer pays. 

The movie industry has further worsened the situation of things by portraying women as witches, prostitutes, gossips, stubborn, husband snatchers, desperate housewives, wicked mother-in-laws and step-mothers as well as jealous co-wives. Only a few Nigerian movies have portrayed women relatively positively. The general impression is that women are negatively portrayed in order to appeal to the male-dominated audience. Nigerian filmmakers do not seem to be aware of the shifting paradigm in the women’s discourse. Consequently, some films are gender insensitive and many still abide by the traditional conservative attitude toward women. Women are portrayed in most movies as prostitutes, at best, courtesans, wily lovers and witches. They are prone to all imaginable criminality.

This image of women as portrayed in Nigerian home videos cut across the country from North to South, though with a differing intensity. The difference being that the rituals and murders which occur in Southern films do not appear in Northern movies. Still, women in the Northern films are not reflected any better. They are seen as greedy, fickle-minded, weak, unable to make their own marital decisions and are available for purchase by the highest bidder. 

Negative images of women are apparent in films such as Living in Bondage, Abuja Connection, Dangerous Sisters and etc. they are not traditional housewives sentenced to hearth homes but modern women who mount road blocks and act as vamps. When women are given a voice, it is misused; when they stand their ground, it is a ruinous cause.

The mass media generally has served to propagate and reinforce the message that a woman’s value lies in her appearance and sexuality. Powerful women are then frequently depicted as harsh and unsympathetic or as manipulative and self-seeking. 

Women should as a matter of urgency look into this cankerworm that is eating deep into the fabrics of its dignity. Little is being heard of today’s women when compared with the exploits of yesterday’s women. We haven’t done much to advance the course of state and nation growth rather; we decline in morals and values. The world really needs us and we need to fix our problems rather than focusing on our bodies and appearances. We should exhibit homely characteristics such as caring better for the sick, caring for their families and communities, and look after the most vulnerable in the society instead of craving to be moraless models on screen or Billboards. The strength of a woman does not lie in her ability to seduce her male counterparts by showcasing her flawless skin, tempting smile and hot legs; it is in her ability to radiate true beauty in her words, deeds and modest appearance.  The woman’s strength in totality contributes in the making of an ideal family, ideal society and an ideal state. 

Without any recourse to fashion and advertising models, this piece totally criticises and condemns the abuse of women’s dignity in the media in the name of sales promotion. Women should not be portrayed in bad light but dressed in robes of honour, respect and dignity.

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