THE ASSAULT ON FAMILY VALUES from the world of 'K' on TV.


By ur friend

A lot is said in the media about the Saas bahu serials and a lot is left to be said .. the propaganda from it being family serials and those profound family values it is supposed to present as also the so called political mileage some parties have taken by using the family oriented characters to support their campaigns is a laugh.

The bottom line is that all these serials is propagating adultery (a perfect justification for a marriage to another in the presence of an existing spouse) all in the name of a kid, though one would wonder about the legal justifications of the same, and what a house full of women could not have brought her up with the motherly love which could only be given after the marriage to a man who in the name of love stood up against the entire family the ease with which illegitimate children are enfolded in the FAMILY .

The horror is not in their telecast of these serials but in the TRP ratings and the award functions for the TV serials which most of us are convinced are bought for the asking. Common one look at sites such as and a look at their punching bag entries (the term is self explanatory) surely shows the popularity of these serials by the frequency / repetition of these names ooooops terms saas bahu. Dont think that five years back anyone in India could have spoken about these two terms in one breath.

One is forced to think, is this all that the entertainment industry can come up with are there such dearth of ideas and talents, where story and screenplay is concerned and why are the so called educated masses encouraging such a sad portrayal of women in these serials. Whats the difference between these and the Bold and the Beautiful which was once so widely discussed politically as propaganda of incest and taboo if that is so I beg to ask Ms. Kapoor what is the moral behind these serials are we headed towards liberalization or a moral hara-kiri.

"This is an article from The Tribune, Chandigarh April 7, 2002.
Glorifying retrogressive patterns
Neelu Kang
Man for the field and woman for the hearth;
Man for the sword and for the needle she;
Man with the head and woman with the heart;
Man to command and woman to obey;
All else confusion.
Alfred Tennyson
This is what most of the, even so-called "women-oriented", soap operas on TV project, be it Kyon Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (KSBKB), Kkusum, Shagun, Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki (KGGK), Kasauti and the list goes on.
The analysis of these serials would raise many feminist issues. These serials massively disseminate the discourse on domesticity stemming from Manus composition of the man-woman relationship. She is helping men to achieve their goals and adjusting to manneeds. Her life revolves around men of the family."

The argument is that these representations glorify patriarchal values and womens victimisation. They reinforce and perpetuate stereotypes and gender roles. Instances are unlimited e.g. neglected and deserted Tulsis return to her in-laws family in KSBKB or wifes worship of the husband who rejects her and has a relationship outside marriage in Kkusum. Women are shown caught up in domesticity where they do everything for others but for themselves. In Shagun a young widow is committed to her husband and refuses to remarry because her dharma prescribes so. To top it all, to save her family honour, she becomes ready to mother the illegitimate child of her sister-in-law and declares herself as the biological mother of the child.
All serials wrapped in tradition of male chauvinism encourage women to aim for nothing more than a loving husband, happy children and a modern home. She is shown as passive and subservient portrayed as a glamour doll whose physical beauty is her only asset.

The dominant structure of patriarchy in the form of a joint family indulges in early domestication of bride. She submits not only to her husband but also to her in-laws and grand-in-laws and this trend is found in all serials. In Des Mein Nikla...Pammi cant dare to marry her beloved against her parents wishes since she is obliged to them for giving birth to her and bringing her up. Even if she rebels, she does that only to forget and forgive the man soon and hopes to have a supposedly happy relationship thereafter. She redefines her role and function only when she forcibly becomes single, e.g. in Kkusum, Kasauti, the women only attempt to become economically independent when their men leave them. On the extreme end, the woman is shown as a bitchy character that plays politics and breaks families. This is very demeaning. A woman is projected either as a Devi or a devil, a static personality. She is docile, dependent or holy or she is a vamp who creates problems and indulges in extramarital affairs. She is arrogant, hostile, and jealous and loses her anger on all other women of the family. A woman is not shown as a human being, a dynamic character, with combination of all emotions, whose temperament and attitude can change according to circumstances.

The mother-in-law and sister-in-law is always depicted in a negative manner (Kyonki Saas Bhi... Kasauti) except the grand-mother-in-law, who has mellowed down with age and is relatively empowered to control others.
The present serials can also be criticized for glorifying the concept of motherhood. A woman is pinned down through a justification of womanhood that narrowly focuses on procreation. In KSBK, KSKS, KAS and Shagun, women find themselves incomplete and useless if they are unable bear a child.
Serials like KSBKB, Kkusum are emphasizing superstitions and fatalism in Kkusum, Abhey gets married to Kusum only to avoid his death predicted by pandits whereas he never accepts her as his wife. In KSBKB, women are shown as superstitious and emotional and men as rational.

These soap operas affect women more simply because the latter are watching them more then men. Men spend maximum time outside whereas women are confined to home. Moreover, men like to watch horror shows like Aahat, crime shows like C.I.D, news channel like star, zee, and aaj tak. Another reason for their immense popularity among women, particularly housewives, is that they provide already established and identifiable images appealing to their emotions and sentiments (in an over-exaggerated way). Women easily identify themselves with the character and feel their pain and rejoice in their pleasure.

However, professional women are not getting adequate representation in these serials. Rather most of them are quite sick of serial produced by Balaji Films. "Most of the serials are family-oriented, focusing only on the saas-bahu conflict. These are day-to-day problems, which every one is facing and handling in their own way. These problems will persist. Thus media should focus on some thing different", says Gurmeet, a college lecturer. "These serials cater to the emotional and psychological needs of women who are free and have nothing constructive or productive to do", says Aarti, a volunteer in an NGO.

Many women are of the opinion that these serials reflect experiences of a majority of the women. This is not true because women either as construction or domestic or as agricultural workers are not shown at all. Uneducated rural women, struggling in their day-to-day life, but at the same time economically productive, are not touched upon. Countless educated women working independently and striding ahead towards their goals are hardly shown on TV.

Even if womans representation in these serials is relevant and applicable to the conditions of women in general as Geeta, a housewife feels, why cant media smash them off rather than reinforcing it? Dont we need transformative and critical media to check it? Hasnt the time arrived to present women in the spirit of equality with men, women redefining themselves with their own identity, self-awareness and self confidence and women recovering their loss identities. Earlier, construction of knowledge and control on production of knowledge was in male hands and the tradition was to observe women as passive objects and project then in the same way. As a result both artists and spectators got caught in the same image. Feminists advocated involvement of more women in media production because women often perceive the world differently. Asha Parekh, Aruna Irani, and Neena Gupta are producing serials, as is Ekta Kapoor. But they also face fierce criticism from the educated class. They cant be blamed as their idea of women is shaped and controlled by male discourse and they have internalized male ideology. The need of the hour is to consentient media people and steps should be taken by women at the helm.

And what is sad and hurts most are that women enjoy watching this serial most, what does that go to prove? Guess it just proves the old adage right that women are their own enemies and one woman can actually derive entertainment and relaxation from the plight of another as portrayed in these serials.

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Lauren RobertsonBy:
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