Portrayal of Women in Pakistani Magazines: Do Magazines Stereotype Women as Model?

Article excerpt

This research article describes the portrayal of women given by the three Urdu weekly magazines of Pakistan, the 'Akhbar-e-Jahan' the 'Mashriq' and the 'Nawa-e-waqt' for three months period. The findings reveal that all the three weeklies devoted significant space to women pictorial portrayal mostly showed them with different products like modern dress, long hair and short hair style as object of appeal-model, actress, singer, and dancer-by all pages particularly by their titles and central fold pages, as compared to their picture spaces to the same showed them in achieved roles (teacher, doctor, social & health worker, politician, administrator and businesswoman) and traditional roles (mother, housewife, sister, and daughter). T-test statistics explore significant difference between pictorial space wise coverage by 'Akhbar-e-Jahan', 'Mashriq' and 'Nawa-e-waqt'. While the same test shows little but no significant difference between the picture spaces coverage to women by weekly 'Mashriq' and weekly 'Nawa-e-waqt' It is interesting to mention that all the three magazines specific focus remained on portraying young and beautiful girls as model or sex object.

Introduction

How do Pakistani magazines portray women in pictures? Or, what is the role-portrayal of women in Pakistani magazines? Perhaps the most powerful symbolic signifier is sex; by imaginative association, the play of words, and most of all the enticing use of images of beautiful bodies. Advertisers locate sexual attraction in a limitless range of products, from cars to ice cream. Sexual imagination can be said to provide stimulus, excitement, and surprise or simply pleasure in its own right. In advertising, sexual imagery needs not to be linked to a product or service, its association needs not to be meaningful or relevant and its connection with what it seeks to market may be weak or non-existent (Watson, 2003). The creator of sexual images realizes that while the product of the service cannot be substantially re-signified, sex seems to have infinite capacity for innovation.

Print media are considered the most real form of media. Therefore it is important to know, how real representation of women is in print media, particularly in the magazines of the country. It is also observed that all the magazines focus on the young, beautiful, and sexually attractive women portraying them as model. This situation leads us to assume that our print and electronic media are very much influenced by the western media. Romance and sex are in the air everywhere. The Pakistani magazines with articles on various social and political issues stimulating with beautiful photographs of young girls now are available everywhere and are at the range of youngsters and teenagers' access.

Many studies (Cassata and Asane, 1979; and Watson, 2003) have illustrated that children learn their behaviors through modeling and imitation. However it has been argued that "learning" does not require the learner to act out the learned behavior immediately: it can be stored for later, more appropriate retrieval. Children do not easily forget a behavior pattern they have learned from the media. However, sexual imagery is not escaped from the ideological influence. What is sexually attractive is governed by perceptions, expectations, and subject to the hazards of stereotyping. Many magazines still depend on high-quality photography and illustration. Reader studies show that photos in both articles and advertisements hold much attraction for magazine readers (Straubhaar 8c LaRose, 2004). It has been followed that, in the world of celebrity, slimness is a prerequisite virtue. Thus slim celebrities are employed in recognition of their widely accepted beauty and sexuality. Women projection in magazines as glamorous color with main object of sexual attraction is only serving to reinforce men's oppression of women.

By the cursory study of the weekly magazines one is led to ask how much the ideology has changed the modern representation of women. …