As the world spins

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Jirga System

In the agrarian societies, where tribal system still exists, we witness a lot of cases where the poor section of the clan/tribe are affected deeply by political issues. The recent case of Mukhtar Mai has raised many questions about the wisdom of the age old Panchaayat or Jirga, a council held by the elders of the clan. These jirgas, have no constituitional value in Pakistan, and yet the sentences carried out by these jirgas bypass the local police authority, and it is hard for the local authorities to use the legal pressure against this tradition because the locals conider it a taboo and disloyalty to their system. Any literature or awarness programs, especially those relating to women in these areas become a challenging task for the government and the non- government agencies as the elders of the community oppose any change coming to their centuries old Jirga system. Therefore, there is little or no talk about gender issues in many rural areas.

Mukhtar Mai and the Pakistani Media's Trend

The problems in the developing world, relating to women are coherently related to poverty. Today I talk about situation of rape victims and how they are dealt with in strict conservative societies where religious and social norms consider it taboo to talk about any sexual matters. In Pakistan , there has been a constant rise in the rape cases,(please note that these are only those few cases that are actually reported to police out of thousands of cases that are suppressed to avoid shame in society) . Five years ago, they were hardly talked about in the media. But with Mukhtar Mai’s case changed the media’s trend now, only because Mukhtar Mai approached it as a means of last resort, as she couldn’t get the police protection from her aggressors.

Fatherless children left by the Marines

I've been reading about the children left behind the US military servicemen in Phillipines, on the BBC website. It's really sad to read about their plight, as their identities are now confused, and don't know where there fathers are in the US, nor is there any step taken by any authority to compensate for their suffering. This is the first news of this kind that came accross to my attention in years. I've not read any such coverage in any of the American media yet, as opposed to the European media, especially in terms of the issue of the cultural and biological blend left by the servicemen based in foreign countries. There is, on the other hand, more coverage on the marine's action and their casualties, there humanitarian efforts, also about their sexual abuse scandals, but it hardly talks about the social impact they leave behind in the countries they're serving.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Stereotyping in the Western and the Eastern Worlds

Stereotypes, in my view, come mainly from the news media because they are often used for political purposes. I present two examples to elaborate my point, 1st example concerns the stereptyping of western women as influencing eastern women in by Pakistani news media, and in my second example, it's about the way eastern women are portrayed in the western media.
In strict, male dominated societies, whenever a woman starts asking for her rights, she's then accused of following the western models and losing her values and customs. That's one of the reasons why Asma Jehangir, one of the most prominent human rights activists in Pakistan often faces strong opposition from some religious radicals, especially in the North part of the country, where they have a very strong hold on the provincial government. Hence these activists' images are shown negatively in the local, religious publications which then propels the masses to think in a particular way, often calling on their taditional loyalties, about which the general public is very sensitive. Consequently they start thinking that maybe these activists are really getting influenced by the West.
On the other hand, in West most of the media stereotype women as being very submissive, and often illiterate. For example whenever I open an image of a woman in veil, she's often shown as if she's been forced upon to wear it, in fact I never get to see any happy woman in veil picture in any of the prominent newspapers here( except for some student publications.)The media here also doesn't talk much about women there who are fighting so courageously for their equality. The media,it seems , generalizes whole societies on the basis of their religion, and region. And thus the general masses eventually begin to think that way too.

Bollywood movies...and the drama queen saga

The bollywood movies have gone through very interesting phases, from sweet, innocent love stories to todays twisted, dveiant, guilty pleasures, but they always revolve around women who are portrayed ever so meekly. There is always a way in which all tend to be excessively feminine, typical and traditional, that pass for the perfect, good heroine in their sarees...and all the vamps are always portrayed as rebellious, causing misfortune, usually have a cigarette between their glossy lips, and doing really exotic dances in their tight hip-hugging skimpy skirts, in order to entice or steal away the heroes from their heroines who then consequently turn into drama queens, and gives and add spice to the already twisted love story.
What I'm really keen about these movies is that they're not only entertaining in terms of dancing and singing around the trees, but in their monotony of portraying good women as being submissive while the good guys are busy keeping their streets safe from the hooligans and bad guys, which often includes too much senseless violence, often includes lot of fire shots, and of course dozen bad guys die on the street quite mercilessly, and yet there is no finger pointed at the hero who's supposedly done a moralistic deed. The point here is that it's OK for heros to keep bad guys away by doing bad deeds themselves and be glorified for it, while it's not OK for women to be vamps, but rather be good to have a good singing voice and some good dance moves, and of course to become good, loyal wives eventually.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Media spice and Lynch

From the news article that I have read, it appears that Lynch's story had been exaggerated by the Pentagon in order to give a heroic touch to the Iraq invasion. Even though there is a lot of controversy attached to Jessica Lynch's story which is under the lime light in regards to its authenticity, little is focused on other war veterans who've returned home after spending their time as POWs in Iraqi prisons. Especially when it comes to POW Shoshanna Johnson, and Lori Piestwa,the First Indian Woman who lost her life in action Here are the following things I have noticed in the media gender and race trends so far:

  • In an article on BBC website by Daniela Ralph, there isn't much talk about Shoshannah Johnson . There is, but just a little coverage on her in just two sentences.

Check out her story by clicking on the link below.

  • I have also noticed lack of information on other war heroes, Patrick Miller, for instance who never recieved the media praise as Jessica Lynch, shows the gender bias here interms of women doing acts of heroism as something very extraordinary.
  • Shoshanna Johnson, who's referred to as first Black American POW, is not given the same limelight as Jessica.
  • Absolutely no or very microscopic mention of Lori Piestawa, the first American Indian Woman who laid her life to the millitary service in Iraq.
  • While doing my research , I wasn't able to find Shoshanna Johnson after I typed her name in the CNN search engine. I was only able to find her after i typed in Jessica Lynch's name. You can also check that out yourself at
  • When running through the media covering Johnson, Piestwa, and Lynch gender bias is not the only thing that's visible, it's the race issue that is more visible