The New Heroine? Gender Representations in Contemporary Pakistani Dramas

  • Virginie Dutoya


This chapter studies the representation of the ‘new Pakistani women’ in contemporary Urdu dramas. Specifically, it examines the heroines of four recent dramas that have been celebrated for their progressive outlook on women’s issues. I argue that the discourse on women’s rights has been reinterpreted to shape a normative role model for urban middle-class women. This new woman is set in opposition to the upper-class, ‘westernized’ women as well as to ‘backward’, lower-class women. She is expected to be educated, self-reliant, and aware of her rights but also family-oriented, respectable, pious, and above all, ready to compromise on her desires in order to avoid familial and social conflict. By doing so, she preserves the unity of the family and by extension of the nation.


  1. Abu-Lughod, L. 2011. Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Anwer, Z. 2015. Humsafar Was Rejected by Two Production Houses: Momina Duraid. Dawn. Available at:
  3. Aronson, P. 2003. Feminists or ‘Postfeminists’?: Young Women’s Attitudes Toward Feminism and Gender Relations. Gender & Society 17 (6): 903–922.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bagchi, B. 2010. Two Lives: Voices, Resources, and Networks in the History of Female Education in Bengal and South Asia. Women’s History Review 19 (1): 51–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baig, A., and U. Cheema. 2015. Broadcast Journalism in Pakistan: A Hostage to Media Economics. Islamabad: Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives.Google Scholar
  6. Becker, H.S. 2007. Telling About Society. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Biscarrat, L. 2014. Figure de la mère célibataire dans un programme de téléréalité: Une réassignation de genre sous conditions. In L’assignation de Genre Dans Les Médias: Attentes, Perturbations, Reconfigurations, ed. B. Damian-Gaillard, S. Montanola, and A. Olivesi, 37–53. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.Google Scholar
  8. Chambers, S. 2009. The Queer Politics of Television. London: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  9. Chatterjee, P. 1987. The Nationalist Resolution of the Women’s Question. Calcutta: Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, (Occasional Paper n°94).Google Scholar
  10. Chatterjee, S. 2016. “English Vinglish” and Bollywood: What Is “New” About the “New Woman”. Gender, Place & Culture 23 (8): 1179–1192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chaudhary, N. 2014. This Is Where You Belong: Representations of the Ideal Woman in Pakistani Television Serials from the 1980’s to the Present. Available at:
  12. Chaudhuri, M., ed. 2004. Feminism in India. New Delhi: Kali for Women.Google Scholar
  13. Chowdhury, E.H. 2010. Feminism and Its “Other”: Representing the “New Woman” of Bangladesh. Gender, Place & Culture 17 (3): 301–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Lauretis, T. 1987. Technologies of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Désoulières, A. 1999. A Study of Kamal Ahmad Rizvi’s Urdu TV Drama Alif Nun. In The Annual of Urdu Studies, ed. M.U. Memon, 55–84. Madison: Center for South Asia/University of Wisconsin-Madison.Google Scholar
  16. Devji, F.F. 2008. Gender and the Politics of Space: The Movement for Women’s Reform 1857–1900. In Women and Social Reform in Modern India, ed. S. Sarkar and T. Sarkar, 378–388. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dutt, S. 2015. 15 Reasons Why Pakistani TV Serials Are Better Than Indian Ones. India Times. Available at:
  18. First Post. 2014. It’s Not Fawad Khan! The Reasons Why Pak Serials Work for Indian Audiences. First Post. Available at:
  19. Foucault, M. 1978 [1976]. The History of Sexuality, vol. 1. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  20. Gallup Pakistan. 2013. Media Cyberletter Jan–Dec 2013. Google Scholar
  21. Haider, B. 2013a. Kankar: Standing up for the Abused Woman. The Good Life (Express Tribune Blog). Available at:
  22. Haider, S. 2013b. The Award for Best Pakistani Drama of 2013 Goes to…. The Good Life (Express Tribune Blog). Available at: Accessed 11 Oct 2017.
  23. ———. 2015. Review: Chup Raho Suggests There’s No Honour in Silence. Dawn. Available at:
  24. Hall, S. 1980a. Encoding/Decoding. In Culture, Media, Language, ed. S. Hall et al., 128–138. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 1980b. Introduction to Media Studies at the Centre. In Culture, Media, Language, ed. S. Hall et al., 117–121. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  26. Hasan, M. 2013. Commemorating Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain and Contextualising Her Work in South Asian Muslim Feminism. Asiatic 7 (2): 39–59.Google Scholar
  27. Hussain, A. 2012. Interview with Mehreen Jabbar. Youlin Magazine: A Cultural Journal. Available at: Accessed 11 Oct 2017.
  28. Hussain, S.A. 2016. Regulating the New Woman. The Friday Times. Available at:
  29. Hussein, N. 2017. Reading the New Women of Bangladesh Through Mobile Phone Advertisements. In Media and Cultural Identity: Texts and Contexts, ed. Z. Raju and Asaduzzaman. Dhaka: University Press Ltd.Google Scholar
  30. Kothari, S. 2005. From Genre to Zanaana: Urdu Television Drama Serials and Women’s Culture in Pakistan. Contemporary South Asia 14 (3): 289–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lécossais, S. 2016. La fabrique des mères imaginaires dans les séries télévisées françaises (1992–2012). Genre, sexualité et société (16). Available at: Consulted 19 Feb 2018.
  32. Mani, L. 1987. Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India. Cultural Critique 7: 119–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mankekar, P. 1999. Screening Culture, Viewing Politics: An Ethnography of Television, Womanhood and Nation in Postcolonial India. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  34. ———. 2009. “Women-Oriented” Narratives and the New Indian Woman. In The Indian Public Sphere: Readings in Media History, ed. A. Rajagopal, 135–150. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Medialogic. 2015. Medialogic Monthly Review. Available at: Accessed 11 Oct 2017.
  36. Mehta, A. 2004. Progressive Women and Political Identity. New Delhi: Kanishka Publishers.Google Scholar
  37. Metcalf, B. 2004. Islamic Contestations: Essays on Muslims in India and Pakistan. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Minault, G. 1997. Women Education: Better Women and Better Muslims. In Madrasa: La transmission du savoir dans le monde musulman, ed. N. Grandin and M. Gaborieau, 158–167. Paris: Arguments.Google Scholar
  39. Sunder Rajan, R. 1993. Real & Imagined Women: Gender, Culture and Postcolonialism. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. The Express Tribune. 2014. Sanam Saeed Wins Hearts Across the Border. The Express Tribune. Available at: Accessed 11 Oct 2017.
  41. Titzmann, F.-M. 2017. Live-In Relationships in Indian Media Discourses. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal 16. Available at: Accessed 19 Feb 2018.
  42. Zakariya, S. 2012. Drama Serials: Golden Age? Dawn. Available at:
  43. Zia, A.S. 2009. The Reinvention of Feminism in Pakistan. Feminist Review 91: 29–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar


  1. Mera Safar”, BBC Urdu, 10 March 2016, Accessed 23 Feb 2016.
  2. “Naya zamaana. Nayi baatein” (New Age. New Conversations), QMobile Advertisement Accessed 23 Feb 2016.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginie Dutoya
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre national de la recherche scientifiqueBordeauxFrance

Personalised recommendations