Sunday, February 1, 2015

Television and Domestic (Dis)ordering

While engaging with debates on the relationship between television and women's domestic roles in this week's readings, I was reminded of this illustration which I first encountered on a t-shirt at a hip South Delhi store. Used as a poster advocating women's 'Right to Leisure', it was developed by Asmita, a grassroots-level research and advocacy group for women based in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Where the primary concerns of women's rights groups and government-sponsored campaigns were issues of female foeticide, infant and maternal mortality rates, and domestic abuse, this poster stood out for focussing on a seemingly trivial matter. The illustration gained circulation as part of the Poster Women project started in 2006 by the feminist publishing house Zubaan, which sought to archive and exhibit posters, pamphlets and other visual materials generated by the women's movement in India. These materials were later compiled into a book and printed on a variety of merchandise, and became popular among a more urban audience well-versed with the political language of feminism.

I find the image provocative not only for its ability to build affinities among women's experiences across class and regional divides within the Indian context, but also for its use of television to articulate the language of rights. In contrast to historical analyses which see television as regulating and merging with the rhythms of domestic life, the home here stands in a state of disarray as the 'time' for TV cuts into the 'time' for household chores. Books and newspapers strewn across the room while the woman watches television suggest that its consumption is distracted, but also distracting from the normative roles prescribed by the gendered division of labour. While the actual situation may be very different on the ground, the image offers an alternative imagination where the TV as an instrument of leisure can become an ally as it carves out time and space for women's enjoyment. Where would such an imagination fit into overarching historical narratives that limit the possibilities that can emerge from the conjunction of particular economic, political and social conditions? In other words, can we gauge the effects of television only through historical and sociological analyses, especially in relation to gender and domestic space, when it sets in motion possibilities that are not easily apparent and quantifiable?

1 comment:

  1. Deb, thanks for sharing! That image is striking compared to what American scholars have written about women, particularly housewives, relationship to television that goes along with labor rather than the leisure depicted. It reminded me a bit of this ethnographic influenced project based in Britain on the history of the relationship between women and TV