PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN THE ADVERTISEMENTS IN INDIA TODAY INDIA S LEADING CURRENT
AFFAIRS MAGAZINE: 1984 1994
Nilanjana Roy Bardhan
E.W. Scripps School of Journalism
Athens, Ohio 45701-2979
Submitted to the joint session of the Advertising & Commission on the Status of
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
Annual Convention, Washington, D.C., August 9-12, 1995
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This paper analyzes the levels of sexism in the portrayal of women in the
advertising in India Today, India s leading current affairs magazine, for the
years 1984 and 1994.
Findings show that over the last decade, women were increasingly portrayed in
independent roles and as equals of men in the work world. However, a slight
increase was also noted in the portrayal of women as putting their domestic
obligations before the demands of their careers.
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WOMEN IN THE ADVERTISEMENTS IN INDIA TODAY INDIA S LEADING CURRENT AFFAIRS
MAGAZINE: 1984 - 1994
According to a United Nations research report (1975) on advertising and the
portrayal of women, advertisers have been held responsible for projecting women
in a derogatory light, and as an inferior class of human beings (National
Advertising Review Board, 1975). Several studies which examine the images of
women conveyed through advertising have been undertaken in the United States.
However, according to Cooper-Chen, Cho, and Leung (1994), there is a dearth of
media gender studies in Asian countries, many of which are currently
experiencing a boom in the advertising industry.
In her study on advertising and the changing work roles of women, Robinson Rutz
(1981) noted that the advertisers main concern was that their role was to sell
their clients products and services not to report on social change (p. 10 ).
However, Desai and Patel (1990) state that the images portrayed by
advertisements have a definite impact on the thought patterns of society and
various groups within society.
Ball (1985) reports about the advertising industry in India, a country vast in
its geographical and human resources proportions, and how it finally opened its
doors to Western markets in the late 1980s. However, Tefft (1987) states that
along with the recent boom in advertising, there has been a growing concern
among several Indian womens groups that too many advertisers are portraying
women as sex objects or as stereotypical happy housewives . Shrivastava s
(1992) research on the Indian media has shown that the dominant negative
stereotypes in connection to the portrayal of women are:
1. A woman s place is in the home.
2. The most important and valuable asset of a woman is physical beauty.
3. A woman s energies and intellect must be directed toward finding the right
man and in keeping him interested.
4. Women are dependent, coy, submissive; they are masochistic in their response
to indignities, humiliations and even to physical violence inflicted upon them.
5. The good woman is the traditional housewife long-suffering, pious and
submissive; the modern woman who asserts herself and her independence is
undesirable and can never bring happiness to anybody nor find happiness
6. Women are women s worst enemies.
7. The working woman is the undesirable exception who must be brought into the
marriage fold and made to conform to traditional social norms.
Educated working women in India no longer fit the stereotypes outlined above.
Sharma s (1990) research on the status of women in Indian society shows that
within the male-dominated patriarchal ideology of society, a sizeable number of
Indian women are involved in the work force, and hold positions of prestige and
power. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the emergence of women in
the Indian work force, and the independence enjoyed by a small section of
educated working women is a recent phenomenon in the cultural and gender-related
history of the country. According to historians Jacobson and Wadley (1992), for
centuries, and up to as late as 1947 when India gained independence from British
rule, the Indian woman always played a secondary role in relation to men.
Maitra-Sinha (1993) cites Manu, the first codifier of Hindu law, who wrote,
From the cradle to the grave, a woman is dependent on a male in childhood on
her father, in youth on her husband, and in old age on her son (p. v).
But despite increased opportunities for women today, there still exist certain
deep-rooted social and cultural factors within society and the work world which
hinder their overall progress. Shrivastava (1990) states that the stereotypical
media portrayals, in turn, contribute to making the struggle for emancipation
from debilitating social norms a very difficult process.
Purpose of Study
Limited research has been conducted on the portrayal of women in Indian
advertising. The purpose of this study is to examine the image of women
portrayed in magazine advertising in India over the last decade the decade in
which, according to Kumar (1989), educated Indian women began to join the
professional work force in increasing numbers.
The magazine studied was India Today, India s leading current affairs and news
magazine. The years examined were 1984 and 1994. The magazine which began
publication in 1976, is a bi-weekly and is published in English (circ. 368,700)
and Hindi (circ. 232,700). These figures, taken from Benn s Media Directory
(1992), make India Today the country s highest circulating magazine .
Patterned after Time and Newsweek, the magazine focuses on Indian political and
economic current affairs. The readers are educated, well-informed and hail from
urban areas. National advertisers place their advertisements in India Today,
and their messages reach professional, educated and politically aware men and
women throughout the country.
The second part of the study is a literature review which explores the status
of women in Indian society and the work place. This part of also examines the
manner in which Indian women are portrayed in advertising and other media. In
order to provide a framework for comparison with neighboring countries with
related cultural and historical backgrounds, the media portrayals of women in
some other Asian countries was also included in this section.
The third and fourth parts of the study describe methodology and analyze
content. The author used Pingree, Hawkins, Butler, and Paisley s (1976) scale
for measuring sexism in advertising (described in Method section) to analyze the
various levels of sexism projected through the advertising in India Today. The
fourth part of the study also compares the results regarding levels of sexism
obtained from the content analysis to the actual status of educated urban
working women in India, since these are the women who constitute the female
readership of India Today. The concluding part of the study discusses the
implications of the results, and the scope for future research in this area.
Is the portrayal of women in India Today in keeping with the psychographics,
social and economic reality of the magazine s female readership? Have there
been any significant changes in the levels of sexism portrayed in the magazine s
advertisements since 1984? These are the main research questions for this
Pre-Independence Status of Women in Indian Society
Down the ages, the status of women in Indian society has undergone several
changes. According to Maitra-Sinha (1993), before the advent of foreign rulers
such as the Muslims, Moghuls and British, Indian women enjoyed a high status in
society. Evidence of this is exemplified in the fact that both the great epics
in Hindu mythology the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are heroine-centred
sagas (Maitra-Sinha, 1993). However, Chattopadhayay (1983) describes how, with
the formation of the class system around 500 B.C., the status of Indian women
declined dramatically. They were denied education, restrained within the house
and expected to be subservient to men.
Desai and Krishnaraj (1990) describe how, with the advent of British rule in
the seventeenth century, English became the medium of instruction. This
phenomenon introduced a newly emerging Indian middle-class to the western
concepts of liberty, equality, respect for the individual and secularism. The
Social Reform Movement of the nineteenth century, and the National Movement for
independence of the twentieth century brought into focus the issue of the
deplorable status of women in society (Desai and Krishnaraj, 1990).
According to Singh (1990), around the end of the nineteenth century, the Social
Reform Movement merged with the National Movement for independence. This
scenario provided Indian women with the opportunity to participate with men on
equal terms in the struggle to emancipate the country from British rule. With
the gain of independence in 1947, Maitra-Sinha (1993) states that the Indian
Constitution guaranteed women, who at that time constituted nearly half of the
country s total population, equal employment opportunities and voting rights.
The subsequent rapid growth of industrialization, urbanization and modernization
of the country helped women to step out of the domestic terrain and into the
work force (Maitra-Sinha, 1993).
Employment and Status of Indian Women After Independence
Asaf Ali (1991) describes how the initiatives of modern Indian social and
political leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi and Mahadev Govind Ranade, who
believed that political progress and social reform go hand-in-hand, especially
in a fledgling democracy, gave a boost to the status of women in the
post-independence years. Pandey (1989) adds that the Women s Liberation
Movement in the United States and European countries such as Britain, the
Netherlands and Germany, provided Indian women s rights activists with further
inspiration and direction in their work.
According to Saxena s (1989) study of Indian women in the workforce, educated
women have been steadily carving out a niche for themselves in the various
avenues of industry and business since the 1950s. For example, in services,
professions and industry, women s employment has grown at a rate faster than the
total employment growth rate in these sectors. This surge became perceptible in
the late 1970s and 1980s, and the indications are positive for the current
decade (Saxena, 1989).
Education is a strong indicator of the progress of any group within society.
According to Kumar (1989), efforts to raise the level of women s education in
India has been an ongoing process, and although their total enrollment figures
are less than those for men, the overall enrollment is steadily increasing in
academia and professional disciplines. In their research on literacy rates in
India, Mishra and Singh (1992) found that in 1991, the overall literacy rate for
the country was 52.11%, of which male literacy constituted 63.86% and female
literacy stood at 39.42%. It is important, however, to bear in mind, that
higher education for women in India is limited to the urban-middle and upper
classes (Kumar, 1989).
According to Maitra-Sinha (1993), western concepts of liberation and equal
opportunity may have opened the doors for many Indian women to a better future
in the work place. However, tradition and culture are instrumental factors
which obstruct the working woman s struggle to participate in the work world as
equals of men (Maitra-Sinha, 1993). Gadhially (1988) states that the fact that
Indian society has conditioned women for centuries to suppress their needs and
willingly devote themselves to a life of self-denial, self-effacement and
unquestioned domestic service, speaks for itself about the difficulty Indian
women have in making the transition from the domestic to the professional role.
Misra (1992) reports how on the one hand, professional women in India are
expected to fully participate in building the economic structure of the nation,
while on the other hand, they are still expected to fulfil the stereotypical
duty of single-handedly managing the home front.
This section defines the average educated urban working woman in India today in
a dual light. A small handful have managed to successfully assert themselves in
their careers. But the majority, according to Sharma (1990), are in a
transitional phase wherein they are in the process of leaving behind a
traditional domestic past and dedicating themselves fully to their career goals.
These two categories of urban working women constitute the female readership of
India Today, the magazine examined in this study for its portrayal of women in
Portrayal of Women in the Indian Media
The genre of commercial cinema in India is the cheapest means of entertainment
available to the vast, and mainly poor population of the country.
Unfortunately, according to Desai and Patel (1990), the commercial film
industry, which is a purely profit-based industry, cares little about the image
of women they portray to the public.
In the 1960s, Pandey (1991) states that the heroine of the films were depicted
as threatening mystery and as a source of unparalleled pleasure . Since the
1970s, Desai and Patel (1990) add, commercial films have followed a set pattern
of female image portrayals wherein women are projected as sacrificing themselves
for the family and reaffirming values of self-effacement and devotion to the
male head of the family. Women who opt for a less traditional life are
portrayed in a negative light. Furthermore, these films vividly portray
physical violence against women and hardly ever show women as being capable of
thinking for themselves in a logical or rational manner (Desai and Patel, 1990).
In their study of the mistreatment of women in commercial Hindi films, Das
Dasgupta and Hegde (1988) examined a sample of 30 movies spanning the decade
1973 to 1982. The mistreatments mostly occurred when women stepped out of their
traditional and socially approved roles. The researchers concluded that the
mistreatment of women in Hindi films is a mechanism which reinforces and
perpetuates the patriarchal order of Indian society.
According to Punwani (1988), television, which first arrived in India in 1969,
has been accused of portraying women in a manner which has little to do with the
wider and actual reality of women in Indian society. Regarding the portrayal of
women on Indian television, Shrivastava (1992) observes Middle class
ideologies of women s roles as wives and mothers provide the underlying basis
for all programmes. In a country where 36 percent of the agricultural work force
is female, women continue to be projected predominantly as non-producers and as
playing a limited role outside the home. Women are basically seen as performing
a decorative function and as being marginal to national growth and development.
. . (p. 62).
Another important aspect of television programming, according to Desai and
Patel (1990), is that a large chunk of the entertainment programs are drawn from
commercial film content. A crucial implication of this phenomenon is that as in
commercial films, women on television entertainment programs are projected as
non-thinking, sacrificing and suffering beings while educated and motivated
women are seen as the scourge of the patriarchal order of society (Desai and
In a study of 12 prime time television serials spanning a period of two and a
half years, Punwani (1988) found that even though women were present in these
serials in significant numbers, their portrayals did not reflect the
complexities which form part of a contemporary average Indian woman s life.
This and other findings confirming domestic stereotyping led the researcher to
conclude that women in Indian prime time television shows are mainly portrayed
as tradition-bound and passive. Those who attempt to break free of the
traditional mould seldom meet with happy endings (Punwani, 1988).
As in the case of television, Desai and Patel (1990) state that the majority of
the radio entertainment programs in India are drawn from commercial films. As
mentioned earlier, these films primarily depict women in submissive and
suffering roles. As far as typical women s programs on radio are concerned, on
an average, 60% of program time is devoted to entertainment. Twenty percent is
slotted for educational programs, and 20% is used for imparting information.
The stereotypes reinforced through these programs is that ideal women should
fulfil their duties as housewives and mothers, and that working outside the
house causes neglect of home and children. Women are portrayed as
gossip-mongers, and they are given advice on how to become a good wife, a good
mother and improve their physical appearance. They are also given elaborate
instructions on how to cook, sew, knit, etc (Desai and Patel, 1990).
The print media in India (when compared to the electronic media), according to
Desai and Patel s (1990) observations, have limited impact on the vast and
mainly illiterate population of the country. The majority of the population
have depended on the oral tradition of cultural transmission for over two
thousand years (Desai and Patel, 1990). However, it is important to examine the
impact of the portrayal of women in the print media on the small percentage of
educated individuals who comprise the audience of the print media since these
are the people who play a crucial role in planning the advancement of the
Limited research has been conducted in the area of the nature and content of
the Indian print media. Jha (1992) states that as far as employment figures for
the involvement of women in the print media are concerned, hardly two percent of
the total work force engaged in the newspaper industry is female. Since this
means there aren t many women involved in the editorial gatekeeping process,
news about women tends to get relegated to the inside pages (Jha, 1992). No
significant research data is available on the portrayal of women in Indian
magazines or newspapers.
In her research on gender portrayals in Indian advertising, Shelat (1994)
describes how after the gain of independence in 1947, advertising in India was
restricted mainly to the print media since television reached the country only
in the late 1960s. It was also around this time that commercial advertising
began on All India Radio, India s one and only national radio station at the
time (Shelat, 1994).
According to Pandey (1991), since advertising agencies in India are
predominantly run by men, the tendency to portray women in traditional roles, or
in superhuman roles where they manage the home and the job front at the same
time, has been inherent in the content of Indian advertising. According to
Shelat s study (1994), the print advertisements of the 1950s and early 1960s
portrayed men as breadwinners of the family, decision-makers and professionals
while women were portrayed as being inordinately concerned with their physical
appearance and cooking sumptuous meals to please their men and families. They
shopped, cleaned and pampered tired husbands, demanding in-laws and delightful
children (p. 8).
Desai and Krishnaraj (1990) observe that the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s saw an
increase in the number of employed educated urban women. Also, according to
Shelat (1994), television advertising was increasing in popularity. Advertisers
began to subscribe to the superhuman portrayal of women wherein they would
beautifully juggle their careers with domestic duties (Shelat, 1994).
Balasubrahmanyan s (1988) research shows that these women were depicted as super
efficient, and in no need of help from their partners in managing burdensome
housework. Women, according to Krishnan and Dighe (1990), were also
increasingly portrayed in service roles within the home while men were portrayed
mainly as being involved with outdoor activities.
According to Tefft s (1987) report, recent complaints against the nature of the
portrayal of women in Indian advertising have centered around the indecent sex
object portrayals. Desai and Patel (1990) state that studies have shown that
whatever the product being advertised may be cosmetics, fabrics, luggage or
stationery women are mostly projected in glamorous and enticing roles. Tefft
(1987) adds that while advertising executives insist that the modern portrayal
of women is in keeping with the changing role of the urban female consumer who
is becoming more independent and working outside the home in non-traditional
jobs, women activists are marching to government offices demanding laws banning
the indecent portrayal of women in Indian advertising.
Although recent research on the portrayal of women in the Indian media,
especially the print media, is limited, the available literature review suggests
that the overall trend seems to be in favor of portraying women in domestic
roles or as decorative sex objects. Portrayals wherein women are realistically
portrayed as useful contributors to the world of commerce, politics and
development are sadly lacking.
Portrayals of Women in Print Advertising in Other Asian Countries
The studies on the image of women portrayed in the advertisements in most Asian
countries are few and far apart. As in India, women in many of these countries
are restrained from realizing their full potential by similar traditional and
cultural norms. According to Leung s research (1992), the advertisements in
these countries also reflect this phenomenon.
According to Ho s (1983) study, women in the advertisements of three Hong Kong
newspapers were portrayed mainly in connection with feminine and
leisure-related products. Men were portrayed more in connection to
business-related products. Although the proportion of men and women shown
working was nearly equal, women were portrayed in traditional female job roles
such as beauticians, waitresses, etc (Ho, 1983).
Cho s (1990) study of dependency in American and Korean magazine advertisements
showed that women were mostly portrayed as being dependent on men while men were
seldom portrayed as dependent. If they were, it was usually in the
advertisements for women s products. Korean women were portrayed as being more
dependent than American women (Cho, 1990).
Choe, Wilcox, and Hardy (1986) compared American female models to Korean female
models in four magazines from each country. They found that the American models
tended to be older than the Korean models and that they were more likely to be
smiling (Choe, et al., 1986).
In their recent study, Cooper-Chen, et al. (1994) analyzed the advertisements
in six magazines from Hong Kong for 1990, three magazines from Korea for 1989,
three magazines from Japan for 1990 and, for comparison between American and
Asian portrayals, three U.S. magazines for 1990. According to the findings,
Hong Kong had the highest percentage of women in high-level executive roles.
The overall percentage of professional and executive roles for all three
countries was lower than that for men. There was a relatively high portrayal of
women in family roles in Hong Kong and Korea as compared to Japan (Cooper-Chen,
et al., 1994).
These studies suggest that women are predominantly depicted in non-working
decorative or traditional roles in the advertising in many Asian print media.
If they are shown in working roles, they are usually traditional jobs roles such
as stewardesses, secretaries, bank tellers, beauticians, etc. Domestic
portrayals are usually high in number.
This study used the method of content analysis. The portrayal of women in the
advertisements in India Today were analyzed by applying Pingree, et al. s
(1976) scale of sexism. In a pioneering study in 1976, Pingree, et al. examined
the portrayal of women in the advertisements in Ms., Playboy, Time and Newsweek
between July 1973 and June 1974. Their findings showed that women were
portrayed as sex objects in Playboy 54% of the time. Time and Newsweek
advertisements did so 18% of the time, and Ms. portrayed women as sex objects
only 16% of the time. Time and Newsweek portrayed women in domestic roles 55%
and 60% of the time, respectively. Ms. did so 40% of the time. However, Ms.
surpassed the other magazines in portraying women as equals of men and as full
participants in the business world.
Pingree, et al. (1976) used the following levels of sexism to code the
advertisements for their study:
Level 1 Woman as two-dimensional non-thinking decoration
Level 2 Woman s place is in the home or in womanly occupations
Level 3 Woman may be professional but first place is home
Level 4 Women and men must be equals
Level 5 Women and men as individuals
Level 1 was considered to be limited by stereotypes with the limitations
decreasing with each increasing level. The author added a sixth category titled
Other in order to incorporate advertisements which were eligible for study but
didn t fit into any of the five levels.
All the advertisements in India Today from the 24 issues in 1984 (January 15 -
December 31) and the same number in 1994 were analyzed. In order to be eligible
for study, an advertisement had to:
be at least half a page in size
have at least one woman present or implied in it
The advertisement was the unit of analysis, and the author analyzed the content
of the entire universe for the years in consideration (1984 and 1994).
In the case of the existence of more than one woman in the advertisement, the
woman demanding maximum attention because of her physical presence or
personality was selected for examination. If a particular advertisement
appeared in more than one issue, it was coded as a separate advertisement each
time. In 1984, 444 advertisements were eligible for examination while in 1994,
only 152 advertisements were eligible for study. The average volume of
advertisements per issue in 1984 was larger than that in 1994.
Although the scale for sexism was tested successfully by Pingree, et al.
(1976), the author used Stempel s (1981) item-by-item reliability test in order
to confirm the validity of the levels of sexism in the context of this
particular study. Two coders, along with the author, coded 10% of the sample.
The overall level of agreement reached for all five levels was 84.5%.
Results and Discussion
Following are the results obtained for the levels of sexism coded in the
portrayal of women in the 1984 India Today advertisements:
Levels of Sexism in the Portrayal of Women in India Today s Advertisements
Months Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Other
Jan.-June 109 60 6 32 25
(56.48%) (54.05%) (42.86%) (47.76%) (46.30%)
July-Dec. 84 51 8 35 29 5
(43.52%) (45.95%) (57.14%) (52.24%) (53.70%) (100%)
Total 193 111 14 67 54 5
(100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)
N = 444 Cramer s V = 0.13
Level 1 = 43.47%
Level 2 = 25% Levels 1 + 2 = 68.47%
Level 3 = 3.15%
Level 4 = 15.10%
Level 5 = 12.16% Levels 4 + 5 = 27.26%
Other = 1.3%
The data in Table 1 indicates that women were portrayed in non-thinking,
two-dimensional and decorative roles (Level 1) 43.47% of the time in the 1984
India Today advertisements. Domestic portrayals and images of women in
traditional occupations (Level 2) such as stewardesses and secretaries was next
at 25%. Domestic duties were more important than professional commitments
(Level 3) only 3.15% of the time.
Men and women were portrayed as equals (Level 4) 15.1% of the time while women
were portrayed as individuals (Level 5) 12.16% of the time. Therefore, Levels 1
and 2 combined at 68.47% were the dominant levels of sexism portrayed. Levels 4
and 5 scored a combined low of 27.6% less than half of the first two levels
These findings indicate that in 1984, the advertisements in India Today
predominantly portrayed women in domestic roles or as decorative objects. The
image of women participating with men as equals in the work world or as
individuals was not frequent.
Following (Table 2) are the results obtained for the levels of sexism coded in
the portrayal of women in the 1994 India Today advertisements. Significant
changes from 1984 were noted in the data gathered for this year. The data in
Table 2 indicates that women were portrayed as non-thinking, two-dimensional
decorative objects (Level 1) 36.84% of the time. They were depicted in domestic
or traditional occupations (Level 2) 7.9% of the time while the domestic front
took priority over the professional one (Level 3) 6.58% of the time. Men and
women were portrayed as equals (Level 4) in 26.31% of the advertisements and
women were depicted as individuals (Level 5) 22.37% of the time.
These findings indicate that in 1994, women in India Today s advertisements
were portrayed in domestic and decorative roles (Levels 1 and 2) 44.74% of the
time. They were depicted as equal participants with men in the work place and
as individuals (Levels 4 and 5) 48.68% of the time. Therefore, in 1994, the
percentage of emancipated portrayals of women was higher than the domestic and
Levels of Sexism in the Portrayal of Women in India Today s Advertisements
Months Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5
Jan.-June 22 5 6 22 16
(39.29%) (41.7%) (60%) (55%) (47.1%)
July-Dec. 34 7 4 18 18
(60.71%) (58.3%) (40%) (45%) (52.9%)
Total 56 12 10 40 34
(100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%)
N = 152 Cramer s V = 0.14
Note. Since no advertisements were coded as Other in 1994, it wasn t necessary
to include this column in Table 2.
Level 1 = 36.84%
Level 2 = 7.9% Levels 1 + 2 = 44.74%
Level 3 = 6.58%
Level 4 = 26.31%
Level 5 = 22.37% Levels 4 + 5 = 48.68%
Comparisons between the Levels of Sexism Portrayed in India Today s
Advertisements in 1984 and 1994
Significant changes in the levels of sexism were noted after a comparison of
the data gathered for 1984 and 1994. Level 5, which portrays women as
individuals increased considerably from 12.16% in 1984 to 22.37% in 1994. Level
4, which portrays men and women as equals also increased significantly from
15.1% in 1984 to 26.31% in 1994.
This change suggests that advertisements in India Today are currently more
supportive of the changing image of urban working women in Indian society than
they were a decade ago. This may be a result of conscious adherence to the
changing demographics and psychographics of India Today s female readership.
This trend has positive connotations for Indian women involved in the struggle
for emancipation from traditional norms which restrain them from realizing their
full potential in areas outside the domestic terrain.
Unfortunately, the results for Level 3, which suggests that family duties
predominate over professional commitments, are not encouraging. An increase
from 3.15% in 1984 to 6.58% in 1994 was recorded. Although the overall
percentage for Level 3 is very low in both the years, the increase suggests that
despite the fact that the role of Indian women in professional occupations is
being increasingly recognized by advertisers and society, they are still
expected to single-handedly fulfill their domestic obligations while managing
Level 2, which portrays women in domestic roles and occupations, dropped
significantly from 25% in 1984 to 7.9% in 1994. Once again, this change is in
keeping with the positive changes in Levels 4 and 5, and it reflects the social
reality that the majority of the educated urban women in India are not expected
to be full-time housewives anymore.
Level 1, which portrays women as non-thinking, two-dimensional beings, dropped
slightly from 43.47% in 1984 to 36.84% in 1994. However, this wasn t a dramatic
drop since Level 1 still predominated over all the other levels in 1994 as it
did in 1984. This suggests that although the portrayal of women as individuals
and equals of men has increased since 1984, they are still portrayed as
decorative sex objects most of the time.
The combined percentages for emancipated roles (Levels 4 and 5) showed a
dramatic increase from 27.26% in 1984 to 48.68% in 1994. The combined domestic
and decorative portrayals (Levels 1 and 2) showed a dramatic decrease from
68.47% in 1984 to 44.74% in 1994. This change indicates that overall, the
emancipated portrayals of women in India Today s advertisements predominated in
1994 unlike 1984, when the domestic and decorative roles predominated.
According to Saxena s (1989) research, the number of urban working women in
Indian society is steadily increasing, and the changes over the last decade have
been significant. The findings of this study support this change by showing
that the women in current advertisements in India Today, India s leading current
affairs magazine, are being increasingly portrayed in independent working roles.
However, in 1984 and even more so in 1994, professional women in the
advertisements were expected to fully manage the domestic front in spite of
being involved with demanding careers. This finding is in keeping with Mathur s
(1992) argument that the traditional parameters of Indian society define urban
working women today as being responsible for balancing professional and domestic
duties without failing in either setting. This expectation adds a lot of
pressure to the average working woman s life.
Also, in spite of a slight decrease, the decorative portrayals were still
significant in number in 1994. This indicates that women are still treated as
sex objects by advertisers despite the fact that they are increasingly
participating as equals of men in the Indian work force. This trend acts as a
negative force for Indian women who are in the process of liberating themselves
from being subjected to stereotypes.
As is the case in the portrayals of women in the print media advertising of
neighboring Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Korea and Japan, it may be stated
that when it comes to decorative portrayals being high on the agenda, the
situation is similar in India Today s advertising. However, in the area of
non-domestic and professional portrayals, the women in India Today s
advertisements fare quite well as do the women in the Japanese and Hong Kong
print media advertising.
It was concluded from the literature review that the female readership of India
Today comprises two categories of urban working women those who are able to
fully assert their independence and those who struggle between balancing
domestic and professional duties. The advertisements in 1994 support the first
category but they are discouraging as far as the second category is concerned.
This is unfortunate since the women who fall in the second category are the ones
who need all the inspiration they can get in order to break free of society s
In conclusion it may be stated that the current advertisements in India Today
are making an effort to portray their female target audience in a realistic
manner. Therefore, they are indirectly assisting the social process of women s
emancipation from domestic stereotypes. However, changes need to be made in
the area of portrayal of women as decorative and sex objects. Further research
still needs to be conducted in the following areas:
Comparison of the roles portrayed by women in advertising in Indian media
targeting different female audiences with varying demographics and
The portrayal of women in Indian television and radio advertising.
The portrayal of women in Indian newspaper advertising.
The relationship between the percentage of women involved in the
decision-making and other processes in the Indian advertising industry and the
portrayal of women in advertising.
The impact of the different role portrayals of women in Indian advertising on
different male and female target audiences.
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