Thursday, 19 June 2014


Semiotics is the study of meaning making. Semiotic analysis looks for the cultural and psychological patterns that underline language, art and other cultural expressions.

Plato, Aristotle, Saussure , Jacques Derrida, Levi Strauss, Roland Barthes etc. have deeply contributed to this study of semiotics. Gender studies, study of myths, Study of objects, study of the human mind  etc. all are included under semiotics.

"One is not born a woman, one becomes one"- as Simone de Beauvoir once said.
In today's society, women are conventionally supposed to nurture children and males are conventionally supposed to be the sole breadwinners. But if this is vice versa, the society considers it to be wrong. Newborns are differentiated on the basis of their genitals. If a child has a vulva, she is given dolls and kitchen sets to play with and if a child has a penis, he is automatically given cars, electronic sets, racing games etc. Why do we assign stereotypes to males and females? Why can't little girls play with cars or racing games?
Women have been insinuated into the world of gods, husband and home since a very long time. Do we exist for society or the society exists for us? It is human beings who make rules. Again, it is human beings who break them. No rules live on for indefinite periods of time. Therefore we as women shouldn't bind ourselves to old traditions and do as we please.

Myths are include in semiotics because apart from the story, they try to tell us something else, something which requires us to delve deeper. The story of Pandora's box tells us that despite suffering, hope exists in this world. Myths are generally expressed in the form of binary oppositions. Mythology is full of contradictions and sophistications. Some myths struggle with the concept of existence and non existence.

Sometimes objects around us have a deep meaning associated to them and are symbolic and semiological in nature. If a woman dreams about snakes which are a phallic symbol, she has suppressed sexual desires according to some theories. Objects have denotations and connotations associated to them. Engagement rings are usually diamond studded and are more attractive because the final commitment for the marriage hasn't been made. But wedding rings are usually plain bands of metal which are more functional and symbolize a much more deeper commitment. Sindoor, red powder worn by married women in the parting of their hair in India, symbolizes a river of red blood full of life. It is wiped off when the husband dies.

Human beings start forming memories when they start understanding language. This is related to semiotics because we try to understand how the human brain begins cognition. According to Sigmund Freud who is considered the father of psychology; Id,ego and superego are the three parts of psychic apparatus. Id is the impulsive part of our psyche which responds directly to instincts and is based on the pleasure principle. Ego is that part of the Id modified by the direct influence of the external world. Ego is the balance between Id and Superego. Superego refers to how a person wants the world to perceive them and incorporates the morals of the society which they learn from their parents. Jacques Lacan talks about the 'real' and the 'reality' and believes that knowledge is constructed of linguistic structures. Under psychology, it has been discovered that lack causes fantasy and fantasy leads to desire.

According to me, people have their own interpretation of symbols, views on feminism, belief or disbelief in myths etc. therefore a totally acceptable and universal theory for a particular thing or phenomenon cannot be arrived at while studying semiotics.




3. Tasleema Nasreen- No Country for Women

4. Indian Gods and Myths -Grange Books

Other good reading material

Semiotics and advertisements- click to read

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