Normative model of new-woman: A discourse of ten female protagonists of Urdu TV drama serials (2010-2019)


This paper examines the normative model of ‘new woman’(Dutoya 2018) in Pakistani dramas from the perspective of gender, class, and culture. TV drama is a predominant form of entertainment in Pakistan. In early dramas, female characters are infrequently depicted in a progressive way. Paradoxically, now educated, independent, and urban middle-class women can generally be observed in lead and supporting roles in the Pakistani TV dramas. This study discusses this very shift of female representation in Pakistani Urdu dramas. It confers the construction of a Pakistani normative model of ‘new woman’ that showcased as urban middle-class, progressive, energetic, and independent person. She is an embodiment of contrast qualities. On one hand she is progressive and eager to achieve self-reliance, while on the other hand she possesses abilities of submissiveness, and conventionalism.

Through a qualitative content analysis of ten female protagonists from Pakistani Urdu TV dramas of last decade (i.e., 2010 through 2019), I argue that Dutoya’s socially permissible model of ‘new woman’ can be noticed in the majority of contemporary Urdu dramas. The main focus of this heterogeneous portrayal of ‘new womanhood’ in Pakistani Urdu TV dramas is on a moral character and women self-empowerment. In other words, female protagonists are portrayed with diverse attributes of modesty and modernity. Their consistency towards self-empowerment and a respectful attitude towards oriental values differentiates them from a westernized elite woman. In this study I focus to find the answers of following research questions:

  • How Pakistani Urdu TV dramas portray new woman balancing between traditionalism and modernity?
  • What basic talents and competencies are presented in these dramas that shape the personality of new-woman?
  • What socio-economic status and intersectional oppressions of these female protagonists are showcased in Pakistani dramas?

I further argue that the idea of ‘new woman’ is not a new phenomenon for Pakistani society. Unlike a colonial idea of ‘super wife’ (Chatterjee 1989) and Victorian concept of ‘super woman,’ my assertion is that Pakistani version of ‘new woman’ is a response to western wave of feminism, religious orthodoxy at home, and cultural conservatism prevalent in Pakistan.

Keywords: Women portrayal, Pakistani Urdu drama, New-womanhood, Television drama, Gender representation, Stereotypes,