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You can cook, but you can't take part in elections gendered representations of politics in Pakistani newspaper cartoons.


A picture is worth a thousand words and we regard our sense of sight more reliable than our sense of hearing. It is usually seen that politicians are the subject of semiotic discourse(s) in political cartoons in Pakistani newspapers. Semiotic discourse(s) can be powerful in shaping people's perceptions because the point they are making can be absorbed unobtrusively, and thus easily transmitted. Semiotic discourses have twofold appeal. On the one hand, they can amuse us and on the other, provide a current social commentary on the world around us. The message imparted by them can be absorbed easily without much reflection or resistance. Semiotic discourses employ different techniques of persuasion. There is an element of power within and behind the semiotic discourses. Images are an example of graphic satire that could be used as an instrument of suppression, oppression, and even emancipation. Semiotic images represent social and political issues. They act as social commentary and represent the dominant ideologies to maintain the status-quo. Semiotic discourses of newspapers can also challenge the way we accept official images as real and true.

In human societies, language clearly plays a very prominent role. It is generally taken to be the predominant means of communication. However, human beings communicate by non-verbal means as well. These non-verbal means are capable of stretching our concept of language. Exploration of such stretching is one of the greatest achievements of linguistics. Semiotics acts as a meta-language (Jakobson 1975). Kristeva (1969) observes that every speech act includes transmission of messages through the language of gesture, posture, clothing, hairstyle, perfume, social context. In Sapir's (1921) words, every cultural pattern and every single act of social behaviour involves communication either in an explicit or implicit sense.

Semiotics have non-verbal power. Symbols are speech bubbles. A diagram, a painting, or a cartoon is the signifier to its subject's signified in the iconic mode. The semioticians are entirely right to draw to the plethora of possible and extra linguistic vehicles of meanings influencing our lives. Semiotics plays a crucial role in understanding human nature socially and psychologically. The use of sign system for communication with others determines our potential for thought and social action. A sign is a 'mark' or 'trace' that permits both universalization and individuation. Besides this, a sign refers to something immediately evident which leads to some conclusion about the existence of something not immediately evident.

We cannot deny the fact that human intellectual and social life is based on the production, use, and exchange of signs. A sign is something that stands for something else. Semiology allows us to see language in a de-naturalized way. Swiss Linguist Saussure and the American philosopher Peirce (1950) proposed an autonomous discipline for the study of signs. The former called it semiology; and the latter called it semiotics. Saussure (1916) considers semiotics a "science that studies the life of signs within society ... semiology would show what constitutes signs and what laws govern them". He further says that language is just one among many systems of signs. Linguistics, therefore, should be seen as a sub-discipline of wider, overarching discipline of semiotics, the science of sign system. Peirce considers semiotics as a "system of principles for the study of sign-based behaviour". Similarly, Price (1985) asserts that words cannot be described without signs. The term semiotics also features strongly in the work of French poststructuralist and literary scholar, Barthes (1973) who studied fashion, boxing, etc as sign systems.

Fawcett (1984) says that semiotics is contextual and varies from culture to culture and this diversity matters a lot in extracting meanings from them.

Semiotics and the Discourse(s) of Newspapers

The print media of Pakistan plays a role in shaping perceptions of the people with regard to feminist issues through semiotic discourse(s). Political cartoons can, more often than not, express a more biased opinion regarding the representations of gender in Pakistani newspapers than words. Because all opinions expressed through the semiotics of the newspapers are implied rather than stated and the readers extract meanings from them by using their prior knowledge surrounding the content as displayed by the cartoon. The political cartoons usually satirize government and celebrities by the use of caricature and exaggeration. Semiotic discourse(s) of the newspapers function as texts among other media texts. Semiotic discourse(s) of newspapers facilitate our understanding of the political realities around us and are used to construct the representations of what is going on in the world. Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) argue that cultures, values of societies, histories, intrinsic characteristics, and potentialities of the medium play an important role in semiotic modes. The new realities of the semiotic landscape are brought about by social, cultural, and economic factors. Similarly, it has been observed that visual structures of Pakistani newspapers are never merely formal: they have deeply important semantic and ideological dimension. The visual semiotic has a range of structural devices that have no equivalent in language. Zubair (2009; 2010) through a feminist critique of semiotics in popular Pakistani women's magazines showed how these representations served the interest of the patriarchy and the Muslim clergy by articulating certain ideologies regarding women's sexuality, roles and identities. She went on to show the ambivalence and dichotomous strands in identity formation among women readers of these magazines, as they tend to internalize and emulate those limited and restrictive roles (Zubair 2010). Barthes (1968) introduced semiotics as a tool for gaining a discerning understanding of the mediated nature of cultural meanings. In the light of the foregoing discussion on the role of semiotic structures in shaping ideologies and identities, the theoretical premise of this paper is that ideologies are typically, though not exclusively, expressed, and reproduced in the semiotic discourse(s) of the Pakistani newspapers to represent and to reinforce gender inequalities.


We, as researchers, are aware of the limitations of this type of study and the criticism against semiotic analysis that it privileges semioticians' specialized readings of the texts, and the semiotic structures, that may not match with the popular reception of the same texts and discourses. Keeping in view this reservation, our analysis employs Fairlough's (1993) method of critical discourse analysis (CDA). Critical discourse analysis intends to focus on the ways social dominance is secured and sustained through the manipulation and construction of particular discourse structures. It takes into account various perspectives including a linguistic one. Discourse analysis is also a form of speech act analysis and it investigates linguistic strategies which legitimize or naturalize the social order. Fairclough (1993, 135) defines CDA as:
   Discourse analysis, which aims to systematically explore
   often-opaque relationship of causality and determinism among
   discursive practices, events, and texts. It investigates how
   practices, events, and texts arise out of and are ideologically
   shaped by relations of power and struggle over power.

Discourse is a means of securing power and hegemony. Therefore, discourse analysis can be seen as ideological analysis. The main aim of discourse analysis has been to analyze language and functioning of language in its social context. It not only takes into account the "mere" linguistic structures of the text but also takes the social and institutional conditions of the text production and text reception into account. Thus, language is irreducibly a social practice (Kress & Hodge 1993, 202).

We also draw upon Barthes' (1973) model of semiological analysis to locate the elements of political hegemony, representations of gender inequalities, and the concept of women's exclusion from domains of power at the linguistic and semiotic levels. The models mentioned above develop meanings from lower to complex levels of language and semiotics respectively. According to Barthes (1973), particular connotations and myths combine to develop social meanings at linguistic and semiotic levels. These meanings then become synonymous with social representations. This is how they generate power with the dominant belief pattern of the time. It has also been mentioned by Barthes that a social semiotic theory of truth cannot claim to establish the absolute truth or untruth of representations. As far as social semiotic is concerned, truth is a construct of semiosis, such as truth of particular social group arises from the values and belief of that group. In short, it can be said that reality may be in the eye of the beholder but the eye is culturally trained and sees the things within a particular context. So, the semiotics along with the language from the above-mentioned newspaper of Pakistan have been critically analyzed in relation to the dominant gender ideologies in our culture. Two semiotics have been analyzed below to show how Pakistani print media shapes readers' perceptions in regard to gender inequalities, feminist issues, and women's institutionalized exclusion from the domains of power.


Linguistic Analysis of Cartoon One

We are well aware of the fact that language shapes our perceptions, cognitions, and preferences. With the help of language, roles are assigned and are made common sense. Rahman (1997) observes that language is a site of competing views on how life should be lived. According to Hardt (1981), the press as a technological invention and as a political medium plays major role in the definition of reality for individual as well as for the nation. Wood (1992) asserts that language defines gender roles and shapes our perception.

Fairclough (2000) says that language contributes to the domination of some people by others. Analysis of language can help the readers be aware of the ideologies of gender differences. Discursive frameworks construct sense of self, legitimization of certain practices, empowerment, disempowerment, hegemony etc. In the following section, we analyse the choice of discrete linguistic items--pronouns, conjunctions and modal verbs--and their implicatures, as well as deconstruct the discourses of the two cartoons to illustrate our argument.

In cartoon 1, the sentence you can cook but you can't take part in elections represents a strict division of roles highlighted at the linguistic level implying that politics is not a field of women but of men. Their role is confined to the four walls of the house for cooking, child rearing. The pronoun use does the othering work here by excluding the female gender by referring to them as a collective you who represent the other of the implied norm we who can take part in the elections.

Thus, this institutionalized exclusion and marginalization of women in a patriarchal society finds ways of expression in the cartoons in the newspapers. The use of pronoun you is both inclusive and exclusive. It can be taken as exclusive in the sense that it represents only the woman in the picture which implies that feudal lords (see semiotic analysis below ) are by no means willing to grant equal rights to their women and hence want to continue their dominance by keeping their women confined, ignorant and away from politics. Therefore, the concept of gender inequality is being played up. The pronoun you can also be taken as inclusive in the sense that not only the women of feudal families should be kept away form politics but all the women so that they may not be able to revolt by seeing other women struggling for their emancipation. The repetition of the pronoun you stresses the point that women--as a rule--should not take part in politics rather should remain busy and satisfied by doing what is asked by their men.

Christie (2000) opines that women are excluded from the mainstream politics by saying that politics is only meant for men. Similarly, the discourse in cartoon 1 takes for granted the norm that women should keep themselves busy and satisfied by doing household work and being confined to the four walls of the house. The sentence You can cook but can't take part in elections is a representation of stereotypical social construction with the underlying assumption that women are unfit to cope with the difficult game of politics since they are physically and mentally inferior to men. Therefore, they should not take part in politics because they are not capable to do so. The implicature of the use of the modals can and can't is significant as it denotes inability by citing their ability to cook and inability to take part in elections.

The sentence under analysis also highlights the concept of women's disempowerment and male hegemony. Here women are being disempowered linguistically and it is being normalized using discursive linguistic devices. Such representations are backed by a series of similar texts appearing in the popular media channels as well as newspapers that are seen and read by millions of readers and viewers across the country. The facetiousness of the cartoon also highlights the fact that whenever women appear in public domains or mainstream politics, they are not taken seriously enough by their men folk by brushing aside their public skills and leadership capabilities. The levity at the expense of women's participation in elections also hints at their expected social and cultural roles in the wider community and political arena in the contemporary Pakistani society. Whereas women did play an active role in pre-partition freedom movement, such representations suggest that any serious effort made by women to enter the predominantly masculine domain of politics is treated with laughter and women made a butt of satire through similar media representations. These representations are a reflection of Pakistani society's attitude of belittling women, crushing their spirits by reducing their endeavours to laughing stock, whenever they try to take on leadership roles. Such jokes are not innocuous: they are embodiments of social values and cultural mores, encapsulating social behaviours, roles, and attitudes. Saeed (2002) has observed that Pakistani society denigrates women whenever they display their talent in the public domains.

Similarly, the use of conjunction but which is used to join the parts of sentence is also used for the positive self-assertion and negative portrayal of others. The part of sentence before conjunction legitimizes or normalizes the stereotypical roles of women. As long as they are busy, doing these roles in accordance with the patriarchal norms there is nothing wrong with them. However, the next part of sentence joined by the conjunction but highlights that their taking part in politics and struggle for the domains of power is deviation from the norms that is taken as negatively by the man and this is unnatural, illogical, and unacceptable on their part. Hence, this dialogicality suggests the conflictual nature of structure and agency (Goffman 1959) in that despite the strict division of roles, women do exercise some agency as the cartoon clearly shows two women; one in the polling booth upholding the placard VOTE ME, which indicates that women are running for parliamentary seats while the other women are supporting them; however, there is gate keeping around these domains of power by men as the man in the cartoon blocks their way and does not let them enter the polling booth.

Furthermore, VOTE ME is written in capital letters. The use of capital letters is a device to highlight a message or is used for more visibility. It also implies that women are doing their best to make their presence felt in the field of politics, though they are facing obstacles in this regard in the form of patriarchal norms and men's resistance yet they are determined. The use of pronoun ME indicates the sense of self-assertion on the part of women that instead of strengthening the males they should elect women for their emancipation. As mentioned earlier, VOTE ME also indicates the element of social contest going on between the members of both the sexes. VOTE ME also implies that by voting for women the oppressed class of women can get rid of the patriarchal norms suppressing them.

Semiotic Analysis

Semiotics and verbals operate in mutually reinforcing ways that make them difficult to disentangle. The size of the photograph and the position it takes on the page is an important code for the readers as it conveys the intensity of feelings of the writer and importance given to the message being imparted through the semiotic. This semiotic is on the inside page of the newspaper and has not been given a prominent place on the page as well which implies that a particular class does not want to give any media coverage or space to the feminist issue that it deserves. Rather, they want to hide it from the public by placing it on the inside pages. It also implies that such feminist issues are not considered as important as to be highlighted on the front page. Hence, the element of diminishing or belittling feminist issues is obvious.

In language, we use different word clauses and clause structures to convey particular type of meanings whereas in visual communication this is done through the use of various colours. The connotations of colours vary from culture to culture. Danesi (2002) says that grey colour symbolizes dullness, mistiness, obscurity, nebulousness etc. The colour of the dress worn by the man is grey which symbolizes unclarity or obscurity on his part because he is desperately offering resistance to stop the lady but seems uncertain in his attempt. This is a portrayal of typical Pakistani feudal lord. Rahman (2011) observes that both clothes and language serve as markers of class, urban-rural and gender identities. He goes on to link the dress codes in Pakistan to urban elite suggesting that pag or headwear ( as worn by the man in the picture) is an emblem of power and shalwar kameez ( also shown in the picture ) is a dress of the urban or the feudal elite in Pakistan. The peasants still wear the loincloth in the villages of Pakistan. They may wear the pag or headwear rarely on the weddings (Rahman 2011). The dress code of the man shalwar kameez, waistcoat combined with a headwear is typical of the way Pakistani politicians and feudals usually dress. The dress of the woman is traditional shalwar kameez with her head covered with dopatta that also indicates that she comes from an elite feudal background. Usually, women from the urban and anglicized classes in Pakistan do not cover their heads or dress in a conservative style, but women from feudal and rural backgrounds do.

The semiotic indicates that the man is more in defensive posture by blocking the way of the lady to save his so-called lordship/supremacy while the woman is equally adamant to make her way towards the initiated change represented by a woman standing at the door with a placard in her hand. She by no means is afraid but the raised nose and head of the woman tend to symbolize her determination to break the vicious circle of feudalism.

The role of economic power is also obvious because usually it is seen that the wives that are kept in the native houses of the feudal lords are often from their own families and that they are, equally strong, economically. The way the woman is contesting physically clearly indicates that she is backed by her economic power and is confirming Marx's (1887) maxim that economy plays an important role in shaping and rupturing ideologies. She is claiming equality.

It is obvious from the semiotic that resistance and change are not only possible but also continuously happening. The woman in the picture has developed a critical consciousness of the male domination and she is trying to contest the pre- existing patriarchal conventions. On the one hand, there is an element of resistance form women's side against the dominant block of feudalism and on the other the element of struggle between the members of the same class either to maintain or to redefine social positioning, roles, and identities.

Another point that the semiotic seems to highlights, as suggested above, is women's emergence and active participation in the electoral processes and the men's resistance to female participation, by literally and figuratively gate-keeping around the domains of power, as the cartoon shows one woman holding a placard with the wording VOTE ME standing in the background but she is almost invisible to the lady trying to approach her. There is a small door-opening blocked by the man in the picture, occupying all the public space with his big body, his turban and his posture, which could suggest that the man in the picture is physically creating obstacles by blocking the sight and way of the woman trying to enter the polling booth. This could mean that the feudal lords are consciously struggling hard to keep their women unaware of their rights and the changes occurring with regard to feminist issues so that they may not be able to raise their voices against the norms which deprive them of their rights of political franchise. Thus, the semiotics and linguistic codes when read together go far beyond the facetious elements by juxtaposing representations of women's political will and aspirations who--by trying to enter and share the domains of power--are contesting the male hegemony in Pakistani politics. Thus the semiotics and linguistic structures when decoded offer competing discourses of male hegemony and the threat of rupturing it symbolized by women's entrance into these male domains. Barajas (2000) maintains that semiotic discourses of newspapers represent the element of change. Similarly, Markiewics (1974) opines that semiotic discourse are essentially an element to contain and constrain the public opinion for the benefit of major corporative interests. The observations are relevant and applicable to the discourse of the cartoon under analysis at linguistic and semiotic levels because on the one hand we witness an element of change (semiotically) and on the other there is strict division of roles (linguistically).This illustrates how semiotic discourses of newspapers play their role in making the ideas of ruling class common sense to maintain their hegemony over masses.

Bignell (1997) suggests that captions underneath the picture enable the reader to load down the image with particular cultural meanings and the photograph functions as the proof that text's message is true. In a similar vein, Pakistani print media is conveying a socially constructed message about the patriarchal norms by belittling the status of women.


Linguistic Analysis of Cartoon Two

The MMA has mobilized women to participate in the local elections

The given sentence highlights that the MMA is the only religious party among various organizing or assembling women to vote in the elections for their emancipation, thus implying, that, this is how they (women) can make their presence felt by exercising the power of vote like men. The fact that the given sentence is written in commas indicates something very significant, attention- seeking, and hence, highlighted by commas. It implies that the credit goes to the MMA for taking imitative with regard to women's right to vote.

The use of the definite article the with MMA carries significant meanings representing this religious party as the only one struggling for gender equality granted by Islam to women. At the linguistic level the given sentence highlights that the MMA is doing its best to make women work side by side with men and to ensure their freedom to vote. In this regard, the MMA has done a lot by letting the women know that taking part in politics and electing the persons of their own choice is their basic right.

Lexicalization is an important device employed to convey various implicit and explicit ideologies. Thus the implicatures in the sentence are:

a) that the MMA has started doing what the need of hour is since it is commonly acknowledged (but seldom practiced) that we cannot make progress by excluding women from domains of power and politics. Hence , the implicature is that the MMA is not a rigid ,fundamentalist political group and hence, is willing to embrace change and this is a positive attribute of 'The MMA' because religious groups are supposed to be hard liners and un-willing to embrace change

b) that otherwise women in this country are stationed and/or indifferent or disinterested, they are neither mobile nor interested in participating in the local elections or the political processes around them. It implies that women , prior to being mobilized by the MMA had no intention of taking part in their local polls, and would not have voted had not been mobilized by the MMA, hence,

c) women in this country as a group have no political awareness, will or volition and generally remain unmoved or unaffected by the political processes surrounding them.

d) Thus, the implicatures are reductive in dismissing women's political awareness and their active participation in community and citizenship rights thus reducing the social stature of women by belittling them as we hope to have shown in the analysis of cartoon 1.

Although explicitly the MMA is propagating its ideology of being modern and encouraging women to participate in all the domains of power, including politics, our analysis of implicatures in the above section, suggests otherwise. They are willing to work with women to achieve national goal. In a way, the given sentence implies that the MMA has taken initiative in deconstructing the patriarchal social norms where we see institutionalized exclusion of women. The sentence under analysis also highlights the socio- cultural context where the domains of power are occupied by men. Similarly, the present sentence can be very useful in showing to the people that the MMA is not a rigid and fundamentalist type of a religious party rather it believes in modern interpretations of the religion, which allows women to work with men if needed.

To further strengthen our argument, we would link this text to our prior knowledge of the MMA's stance on women's rights' issues in the parliament, since it is really hard to get at the reality by reading a given text without using our pre- existing knowledge regarding the context. The notion of intertexuality within the CDA (Critical Discourse Analysis) helps relating two texts to get at reality. When Women's Rights' Bill was presented in the national Assembly of Pakistan, the MMA boycotted the session and they even tore the copies of the bill at that point in time. They might have realized later on that in this way they cannot win reasonable number of seats in the assembly by behaving so rigidly with regard to feminist issues. So, to maintain their political status they have--explicitly through a statement-verbally allowed women to participate in the local elections.

The word mobilized can be interpreted in many ways. The mobilizer is a person who pursues the people to buy a product or makes them inclined towards doing a thing. The moblizer has his/her own interests as well by making the people behave in a particular way. The MMA as a religious political party has had an image of sticking to the fundamentals of religion unable to mould their vie according to the new scenario. The word local is also connotative. On the one hand, it implies that The MMA is willing and putting efforts to restore the rights of women from the grassroots level to the top, and on the other, it can also imply that women can take part in the local elections but not in the elections for provincial and national assemblies. The implicatures suggest marginalization and belittling of women. The word women has been used in a generalized form. It implies that The MMA is putting efforts to mobilize women all over the country to exercise their right of vote. Hence, this word also is ideologically loaded.

Semiotic Analysis

Words and pictures work in close conjunction to convey the meanings comprehensively because these days communication is multi-modal and it is hard to disentangle semiotics and linguistic codes. Usually it is seen that the linguistic message does not match with the body language. Similarly, if we look closely, at the linguistic level it is clear that The MMA has no objection in women's participation in the local elections but the visual message is quite contrary to the linguistic one. The man in the cartoon is trying to stop the covered woman in the picture from entering the polling station. Hence, the double standards and the mixed and ambivalent messages that the MMA is signalling to the readers of the paper and the wider public are quite obfuscating.

The woman in the picture is fully covered in burqa and can see only through the narrow slits of her burqa, which seems to suggest that the Muslim women have little or no freedom at their disposal. They are given very few chances to see the world around them. Because of the narrow slits and little exposure, she is unable to explore the world fully. Thus, women remain ignorant, marginalized, and excluded through religious exploitation. Therefore, the identity of women is concealed, relational, and mysterious. Similarly, the tightly covered head of the religious man in the cartoon symbolizes his narrow mindedness and rigidity. Furthermore, the man in the cartoon is shown far more powerful than the woman. He is able to stop the woman by using the strength of only one leg. Also, the size of the MMA leader is enormous as compared with the woman. She appears a pigmy in contrast to the huge MMA leader (ship). Both the media person and the woman in the picture are dwarfed by the MMA leader (ship). So, here we have clear examples of coercive powers being exercised by the head of The MMA. This implies the stereotypical norms where power is associated only with men. The woman in the semiotic is shown less powerful and struggling to free herself from patriarchal norms and physical oppression of men.

In language, we use different word classes and clause structures to convey particular type of meanings whereas in visual communication this is done through the use of various colours. The connotations of colours vary from culture to culture. Danesi (2002) says that grey colour symbolizes dullness, mistiness, obscurity etc. the colour of the shoes of the religious man in this semiotic is white which implies knowledge about the world. He is well informed whereas the colour of the shoes of the women is black which implies her backwardness and ignorance. The grey colour of her burqa also symbolizes her dullness, mistiness, obscurity etc. She is shown to be totally dependent on men to mobilize her.

In the modern age media claims to be very powerful and free but in the picture, the media person appears lilliputianized before the giant -like MMA. It suggests that the religious parties use media as a tool for their interests. The media person in the cartoon appears as half- headed, or dim-witted. This implies that the media spreads the information constructed by the religious parties and the media have no access to such core issues regarding gender inequalities. It can also imply that media have become a tool in the hand of political parties for their own interests because the media persons' posture in the cartoon portrays subservience as he takes dictation from the giant MMA very obediently.

The arrow on the signpost representing women's polling station also indicates the segregation of the sexes in the Pakistani society at all levels. The gendering of the polling stations shows the overall segregation of genders in Pakistani society. Owing to the gender divide, women and men do not freely mix in public life; if women work, they work separately: there are separate seats and compartments for women in the buses, trains; separate rows in university classes ; separate universities, schools, colleges and banks for men and women. This compartmentalization does not only exist at the physical level, it extends and permeates all domains of power and representation including the domain of political representation. Thus by using a sign in a combination of signs the cartoonist has captured the entire social scenario with its segregated lives and segregated domains for men and women. Linguistically and socially, this segregation is a pointer towards the marginalization of women, since in these segregated spaces, women are relegated to the margins and men occupy spaces that are more central.

The MMA leader in the semiotic is blocking the woman's way coercively so that she may not be able to vote to liberate herself from socially constructed norms. The smile on the face of the man in the picture and the raised eyebrows symbolize his pride and tricks employed by him to cheat the media discursively and the woman coercively. Hence, apparently powerful media seems helpless before the religious man.

If we take into account the linguistic and semiotic messages, we can say that The MMA is willing to allow the other women to take part in the elections but not the women of their own families because the woman being stopped in the cartoon is stereotypical representation (i.e. fully covered and with narrow vision) of Muslim woman. Hence, it indicates the double standards of the MMA that it allows other women the right of vote who enhance its political impression as a liberal religious party but not their own women at home.


The discourse(s) of newspapers are one of the strongest means in shaping perceptions of the people about the world around them. Our analyses of two cartoons at the semiotic and linguistic levels illustrate that whatever appears in the newspapers and the media discourses is ideologically loaded. These ideologies suit the interests of a particular group(s) and are instrumental in perpetuating their hegemony over meaning-making processes through similar media representations across the board. We hope to have shown the role of semiotics and photographs in creating meanings through a system of codes which when read together connote certain ideologies regarding the positioning of women within the domain of Pakistani politics and within the larger Pakistani society. Newspapers are read and television channels are viewed by millions of Pakistanis; what people read, hear, and view tends to get internalized through such representations.

Our research is an attempt to raise awareness about the power and ideological underpinnings of semiotics within the media discourses and exploitative social relations with regard to gender. Such semiotic discourses are used to propagate various types of explicit and implicit ideologies. Semiotic discourses are representative of social, discursive, and coercive practices. The readers (viewers) extract meaning from them using their knowledge and beliefs of the world. These semiotic discourses represent the picture of the world around us, shape our understanding, and win the consent of the readers. The use of powerful symbols either in the form of vocabulary of power or other non-verbal devices plays a pivotal role in representing as well as in socially positioning people in particular ways through semiotic discourses.


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Muhammad Akbar Sajid is a visiting lecturer at the Baha-ud-Din Zakariya University, Multan. He has recently submitted his Ph. D dissertation.

Shirin Zubair, Professor of English at the Baha-ud-Din Zakariya University, Multan. Her research interests include gender and power in contemporary discourses; feminist critique of literature and language; new Literacy Studies and critical and cultural theories. She has to her credit several publications in journals on women and gender issues. Shirin Zubair has researched and taught at various universities in the USA as a Fulbright scholar.

Mohammad Akbar Sajid & Shirin Zubair

Baha-ud-Din Zakariya University, Multan
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Author:Sajid, Mohammad Akbar; Zubair, Shirin
Publication:Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies: Alam-e-Niswan
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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