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Sultana,_Umme_Busra_Fateha.pdf (4.86 MB)

Gender, sexuality and contraceptive advertisements in Bangladesh: representation and lived experience across social classes and generations

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posted on 2023-06-08, 21:33 authored by Umme Busra Fateha Sultana
This doctoral thesis is the first comprehensive, feminist, qualitative study to take a cross-class and cross-generational perspective in exploring women’s experiences of gender, contraception and sexuality, as manifested in their narratives about real life and contraceptive advertisements, in post-independence Bangladesh. The existing scholarship on Bangladesh in the areas of gender, sexualities and contraception (see for instance, Caldwell et al., 1998; Cash et al., 2001; Karim, 2012; 2014; Khan et al., 2002; Rashid and Michaud, 2000; Rashid, 2000; 2006a; 2006b) remains largely restricted to providing a cross-class and cross-generational analysis. In fact there is no study that has focused on the experiences of sexuality in the upper class in Bangladesh. Despite their limited focus on the social classes and generations, the studies generalise and conclude that a highly gendered ‘sexually suppressed culture’ (Karim, 2012:40) exists in Bangladesh. Moreover, feminist media studies in Bangladesh (Ahmed, 2002; Ahmed, 2009; Begum, 2008; Gayen, 2002; Guhathakurota, 2002; Nasreen, 2002:95; Parveen, 2002) have repeatedly questioned the gendered stereotypes re/produced by the media (including advertisements) but without considering the context of production and/or audience reception of such representations. In contrast, my thesis, studying forty years (from 1971 to 2011) analyses interviews with women (across three social classes and generations) and a corpus of 166 contraceptive advertisements; it also takes into account the production issues. Women’s interpretations of these advertisements with regard to their ‘lived realities’ in the heteronormative sexual structure of Bangladesh, provide nuanced insights to supplement the existing literatures on gender, media, contraception and sexuality studies. The thesis concludes: women are not entirely powerless in their sexual encounters, rather, the power balance shifts based on women’s various identities and the multiple determinants which shape their everyday lives. However, the ‘representation’ through contraceptive advertisements operates through a patriarchal ‘circuit of culture’ (Du Gay et al., 1997), which only presents a circumscribed ‘reality’ and offers a predominantly gendered construction of idealised femininity, masculinity and heteronormative sexuality.


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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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