The harmful effects of the media on young people have been a matter of concern for as long as the media has been around. Now, at a time when the use of technology has reached its peak in communication and media, the world is getting much smaller, and those wary of the harmful effects of the media are feeling its effects in full force. The internet is acknowledged as a means that has not only made the world a smaller place, but has also made everything readily available to anyone with access to it. Too readily available, maybe. A video that recently went viral on the internet depicts the effects of Bollywood on young people. It is a very interesting video, which conveys the opinions of youth in India regarding matters such as eve-teasing and harassment. The video is a portrayal of the macho culture that is slowly seeping in and poisoning the society. This is very true with regard to Bangladesh, too. The media, with its patriarchal content, is encouraging a generation of youth to feel the need to constantly establish their dominance.
On any given day, if a woman, no matter how she is dressed, is walking down the streets of Dhaka, with the possible exception of certain exclusive areas, she will most definitely be harassed in one way or another. Someone will sing a song, someone else will wink, someone might try to grope or touch her, while someone else might whistle at her. Only in South Asia will you see men literally singing as they see women walk past. Why do you think that is? It is because our media teaches men that they must sing at women and harass them to get their attention. Similarly, the media portrayal of anything LGBTI would be transwomen or hijras. If you ask people about LGBTI issues, you will typically get a blank face, but the occasional person will call them monsters, or deformities. Recently, Bangladesh Against Homophobia posted a string of comments that were posted on its Facebook page to promote hatred towards the LGBT community, comparing members of said community to animals and suggesting that they are not normal in any way.  I blame the media for this. Our media is so fixated on gender roles and so very patriarchal that it breeds such hatred.
It can be argued that the media is only a reflection of society. However, the social constraints are worsened due to the media, as there is far more exposure to this kind of behaviour due to movies, music videos, and TV shows. Like any bully, the population of the country picks on LGBT people because they are different. Because men are “not supposed to” like men, men liking men defeats the purpose of being macho and women should be submissive creatures that bow down to men’s commands. The issue of homophobia is deeply rooted in the gender roles and the country’s insistence to have an iron-clad way in which each gender must behave. Women must be the damsels in distress, and men their rescuers. Now imagine trying to fit a same-sex couple into this equation…
I am going to imagine for a moment that the reader (you!) is Bangladeshi. Now try to remember your childhood. Remember the shows you watched, the toys you played with, the books you read and the clothes you wore. If you were a girl, chances are you wore pink, red, and purple dresses, frocks and skirts/tops. You probably had Barbies, dolls, make-up kits and/orsets of small pans and pots with which you used to “play house” with your other friends, and you probably read fairytales about princesses being rescued by “knights in shinning armour”. If you were a boy, you probably wore black, brown, blue and other dark, “more masculine” colours. You probably had toy guns, cars, action figures and violent video games. Now take a step back and analyse these items. Every single one of them can be categorised into a gender box. What do you think gave your parents the idea to buy these things for you? The answer is: The advertisement and marketing industry. In the way Barbie is marketed and the way toy cars are marketed, there is a distinct way of conveying that dolls are for girls and toy cars are for boys. The effect of this is obvious; these go on to limit the aspirations that these girls have when they become women. I look at my former classmates and all except a select few simply want to be married and have children. They have no aspiration to be anything more than trophy wives. They remain in the sad reality of just playing house.
Unless we, the people, the parents, the families, and friends, put a stop to the horrible media that is teaching younger males to eve-tease, pinch, sing at, and harass our women, and stop raising our girls to have very little aspirations in life, we will never be able to stop them from being convinced that gender roles are a matter of perception and that homosexuality is not abnormal but natural. It is up to us to teach our sons to treat women with the same respect they would treat women in their family, and to teach our daughters to have higher aspirations and bigger dreams.
Shudha Chowdhury is a lawyer and human rights activist.
1. http://www.storypick.com/damaging-truth-indian-entertainment-industry-doesnt-want-know/ 2