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Back in the director’s chair after Dhobi Ghat (2010), Kiran Rao takes over the cinema by serving the right blend of simplicity, humor, and wit in a cup of gentle feminism.

Significantly departing from the typical Indian cinema landscape, which often perpetuates regressive and hypermasculine ideals, Kiran Rao’s film embraces a nuanced form of feminism, delicately highlighting the uncomfortable realities within society that often silence women and strip them of agency in various aspects of life. The film beautifully captures the journey of ‘Laapata Ladies’ (Lost Women) who ultimately discover their true selves and emerge empowered by the end.

Written by Sneha Desai, the story is set up in the fictitious central state of Nirmal Pradesh, where Kumar (Srivastava) is on his way back home after marrying Phool Kumari (Goel). Amidst the hurried chaos of changing trains at night, he mistakenly grabs Pushpa’s hand and rushes off the train with her. It’s only upon reaching the village that he realizes the bride swap, setting off a series of comedic and heartfelt moments. Throughout the movie, the ‘tamboo-jaisa ghoonghat‘ or veil remains a powerful symbol of societal constraints, yet it is not held accountable by the elders for the challenges it poses in identifying women, ultimately leading to the swap. As the story unfolds, Jaya finds herself in Deepak’s joint family by mistake, while Phool is left stranded at the charming Pateela railway station. Here, Phool forms a unique bond with the station’s residents, including the firm yet empathetic tea kiosk owner, Manju Mai (Chhaya Kadam).

The two brides, Pushpa and Phool, are portrayed with distinct personalities. Pushpa’s mysterious nature attracts suspicion from Shyam Manohar, who closely monitors her activities. On the other hand, Phool, feeling out of place at the railway station, forms friendships with individuals working at Manju Mai’s. Kiran Rao’s perspective in the film shines through in her portrayal of empowerment for women on both sides of the spectrum: those who venture out to study and pursue their dreams, as well as those who find empowerment and fulfillment in being homemakers, departing from the ideals of a bashing feminism that solely focuses on women stepping out.

Breaking away from the conventional narrative of “aurat hi aurat ki dushman hoti hai” (women are each other’s enemies), the film also beautifully showcases the power of women bonding and supporting each other. Whether it’s through Manju Mai’s direct conversations with Phool, Jaya’s determined efforts to bring her back home, or Jaya refusing to be lost in the monotony of daily life and helping to uncover the hidden artistic talent of Poonam’s drawing in the process, Kiran Rao skillfully explores the theme of women bonding in the film.

Beyond the female characters, it’s also the male characters that become the heart of the film. Shyam Manohar (Ravi Kishan), the village cop, delivers some witty one-liners and punchlines, keeping the audience laughing out loud throughout the film. It was even Kishan’s transformation depicted in the end who proved to be a greasy-police officer but also someone whose conscience has not been completely corrupted. Srivastav’s portrayal of Deepak in the perfect shades is flawless. Despite occasional fumbles, his profound English and responsible actions toward Pushpa, despite missing Phool, define him as a well-rounded character. His stellar performance adds up to capturing the audience’s hearts.

The film not only captures the lows of the village, highlighting pesticide-driven crops, corruption, and the sickened societal mindset, but also artfully captures the nostalgic essence and romanticism associated with railways. It portrays not only the trains and stations but also offers us samosas and chai. Additionally, it transports viewers to the charming aspects of rural life, spanning from the era of Nokia mobile phones in the early 2000s to Mai’s bread-pakoras, with a little scold on asking for extra green chutney again!

The beauty of ‘Laapata Ladies’ lies in its ‘addressal’ of various issues of gender dynamics, marriage, dowry, education, individual rights, agriculture, and scientific thinking, but without becoming overly preachy or trivializing the gravity of these concerns. The essence of Rao’s film is in its carefree spirit, playful and lively tone, and ability to approach serious topics with a light touch. Exemplifying a cinema that is astute and thoughtful yet spontaneous and genuine, “Laapata Ladies” is akin to a comforting chai-pakora experience. It tackles pertinent issues while also embracing the audience with a giant, warm hug.

Read Also: An Attempt at Feminist Validation: Animal

Featured Image Credits: Kindling Pictures/Aamir Khan Productions/Jio Studios

Dhairya Chhabra

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Read about the hopelessness that resides in the heart of a Feminist constantly when no where is the place to go and every day looks like a doomsday. 

 

What is it like to be on a constant journey with pricks and thorns all over, no hope of it ever getting better and the need to go on. You can say that’s life but when those pricks and thorns are constantly thrown at you by the very own people you love and by random strangers this analogy becomes suited only for the life of a woman. So welcome to the portrait of a life where hope rarely visits and hopelessness never ceases to exist. 

 

Until now you might have taken this article to be ‘another feminist rant’ and before you close this tab please allow me to have my share of opinion, an opinion that will be heard and not scuffles under the burden of my gender. 

 

I guess everyone has a phase in their life when they take to some philosophy and become a hard core follower of it, so was mine with Stoicism until I discovered the hard core sexism of my favourite philosophers. I get it – they were way back in time, modernity did not exist and all those reasons but when will I get the space to actually vent my anger about why I won’t be able to see them as great men ever. No, I can’t read Neruda anymore with the same amount of zeal. For those statements never cease to exist, the gaze that man casts upon us is still the same. To face objectification on streets only to come back to books to find some resolve and face it again by “great” men of the century. 

 

The hopelessness spreads itself in my way when even a boy who is so many years younger than me eve teases me and a man who is with his daughter at the moment still dares to eve tease me. A simple walk even on the terrace of my own house is not peaceful. The ultimate need to always be on guard, to see if someone’s not following you, to share your location with family every time you step out, the discomfort of being watched every time is what defines my femininity and womanhood more than anything. All of this being encountered not by empathetic listening but rather by taunts of being a pseudo-feminist, feminazi and what not by the Not All Men brigade. 

 

A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself…. might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.

– John Berger, Ways of Seeing 

 

I don’t need the comforting sentences – “things are getting better” or “it’s a long road, change is slow”. For me the reality looks like – “You have faced sexual assault as a child and there is still so much high chance that you will face it again, multiple times”. Let alone be the fact of acknowledgement, these issues are dusted under the carpet. Who knows for how long will the women of this world carry the trauma of being themselves and still be called impulsive, emotional, too sensitive to lead their lives. 

 

The worst shock of being a woman struck when we ourselves were not aware about our very own issues, when a post on social media tells you what you faced was assault, harrasment and at times rape. I hate to recall all those moments when I have been terrible towards other women owing to my own negligence and the guilt keeps building up. The judgement on skirt’s length, our choice of hairstyle being deemed as ‘fashion parade’, just applying a lip balm to be seen as a sin and vilification of brave women are the conditionings of school that haunt me till date. 

 

The worst that stems are hypocrisies rooting in the feminist movement itself. ‘Deliberate ignorance towards issues of Dailt women and erasure of the Trans women’ can be a statement of truth but in actuality the narrative of the mainstream feminist movement is led by hegemony of caste, class and gender. The discussions happening around often do not even take into cognizance the experiences of these women whose voices are unheard, intentionally at times. 

 

Maybe out of this restlessness and the urge to find myself away from the male gaze, even if for a small amount of time I decided to choose an all Girl’s college for myself. And it is here only that I have realised the true meaning of Feminism, unlearning all past notions of bringing other women down and what not. Even when I have not been to college actually the people around me have made me realise what it is like to be at home when away from home. 

 

All I am asking is for you to not come with a plethora of reasons and excuses to not hear us. To say things will be alright at the end is not the suitable thing to say always for in our hearts we know that it won’t be but it is for other women the ones who will come along that we strive for. At times to counter hopelessness all you can do is to listen empathetically as a starter. 

 

Read Also: The “Bare Minimum” Feminists: Are They Enough? Barely

 

Kashish Shivani

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A dissection of Animal, a movie that is Reddy’s toxic alpha ideology wrapped in daddy issues with an honorary bow of feminism.

If your highly stereotypical ‘Men will be Men’ ads were made into a movie, this would be it. Big gun toys (with a pinch of Aatmanirbhar Bharat), one man killing 500 other men while his friends (aka bhai) sing in the background, socially-approved infidelity that gets justified in the end, and crass humour that crosses all lines of decency in the name of being funny are just the tip of the iceberg with Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal.

After the commentary and critique faced by Kabir Singh—for having too much unnecessary violence, for having a female lead that isn’t so much of a lead, and for that one slap—it seems like Vanga tried really hard to be accepted with his latest release. With its narrative of “a strong, independent woman” who is bold and actually questions the male lead, the movie tried to fulfil the “feminism quota” by adapting itself to the taste of its feminist critics but still (somehow) failed horribly. Maybe having the woman slap her husband rather than vice versa isn’t what feminism is about (aw, what a shock).

While the movie with its storyline had the potential to be impeccably emotional (cue a dysfunctional Sooraj Barjatya film), the mirch-masala of misogyny, subtle Nazi imagery (?), and alpha male toxicity only took away from the father-son dynamic the movie was trying to portray.

While Ranbir Kapoor’s character clearly had certain mental issues and a deep-seated desire for validation from his father (in common parlance, daddy issues), in a country plagued by a highly illiterate and influential population (read: padhe-likhe gawar), a movie like Animal became a spokesperson and an enabler, allowing not for an understanding of the character but rather a glorification of him, walking a precariously thin line as the audience fell in love with a son who just happens to be highly problematic. While the portrayal of such characters onscreen shouldn’t necessarily inspire its audience (watching Dahmer—the Monster didn’t make you want to be a serial killer, did it?), Ranbir Kapoor in Animal was advocated as the perfect green flag who does everything right (gaslighting 101), leaving little to be questioned about the “alpha” he was.

In the Vanga universe, the checklist for being the perfect male comes down to being pretty straightforward—raging anger issues? Check. Can it “turn on” with a snap of a finger? Check. Preaches about the superiority of being a man? Check. For a movie that wildly oscillated between a bloody rape scene and the (not so) boyish charm of snapping bra straps and pulling on one’s wife’s hair, it is as if Vanga had only one (albeit veiled) objective: wanting to present a picture-perfect image of all the problematic parts of the alpha male ideology.

As a woman, the movie felt like taking a walk in a shady area with no streetlights while a group of men catcalls you for three hours at regular intervals (as if the streets of Delhi weren’t enough). Under the guise of obsessive and possessive love, the movie tactically parceled and sold off misogyny and toxicity in bulk amounts. Every joke made, every blatant ignorance of the concept of consent, every misogynistic sprinkle of “love” and “strength” received ample validation from the snickers and the smirks of Ranvijay’s (Ranbir Kapoor’s character) friends, not so much different from the reaction of a majority of this animal-loving audience.

A dissection of the movie makes it clear that Animal are nothing if not driven by pure (poisoned) testosterone. The smartest feat of foreshadowing and direction in the movie? Opening with the definition of animal.

Read Also: Taali Review – An Exceptional Biopic Based on India’s Third Gender

Featured Image Credits: Onmanorama, filmfare

Manasvi Kadian

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In today’s time, feminism has not remained a genuine commitment to gender equality. The idea of empowerment has become commodified through marketing campaigns, overshadowing the true essence of the concept. This piece explores the nuanced landscape of feminist advertising by dissecting empowering advertisements and exposing the questionable motives behind them.

This is a world still often designed to please men. Even though significant progress has been made, the existence of unconscious, underlying misogyny is undeniable and has been passed down through generations. And against the backdrop of this misogyny, the world of marketing often comes into focus. As a strong cultural force, the industry shows and strengthens stereotypes about women. When companies use feminist ideas to make money, it highlights a gap between their empowering words and what they actually do, making it an important area to talk about where unfair gender beliefs are concerned.

The battle cries of feminism, which were meant to break glass ceilings, now break sales records. At its core, feminism embodies an expansive belief in advocating for the dignity and empowerment of all genders. However, that belief gets lost when it’s used for profit. While feminists aim for freedom and equality in opportunities, sometimes this concept is exploited and used for personal gain, diluting the true essence of the movement. It’s important to see through these false claims used by the capitalist market and advocate for genuine progress.

When a company advertises its products as “women-friendly,” it may sound uplifting and true to the spirit of feminism. However, when the same company doesn’t align their policies and ideas with the ‘feminist’ image they try to exhibit to the world, that is plain exploitation. They will assure you that all colours are beautiful, but they will implicitly encourage you to buy their skin-lightening products to make you even more attractive. They will claim to reject racism, yet they will never cast anyone who is not ‘conventionally attractive’, aka ‘light skin and slim waists, to play the lead. They proclaim that women are more than just sex symbols but equate bigger breasts with more audience attention. And amidst all this hypocrisy, they’ll continue to emphasise their adoration for each individual, no matter the shape, size, or color.

AXE, a men’s fragrance brand, produced infuriating commercials about multiple “picture-perfect” women fawning over a single man for the purpose of endorsing their “masculine-smelling” deodorant. It clearly reinforced the idea that a woman is only good to enhance a man’s image and for nothing more meaningful. On the other hand, Dove sold shampoo bottles shaped like different body types to instill body positivity in women. Although this campaign appeared to have positive intentions, it was not perceived in the same way. Had it not been public knowledge that both these brands share the same parent company, Unilever, it would have worked out more favourably for the brands involved.

The intersectionality of feminism is often overlooked in these marketing strategies. Companies often exploit the idea of intersectionality to reinforce stereotypes and uphold traditional gender norms. They use factors like race, class, and gender to target specific groups with tailored ads, which can deepen existing inequalities and reinforce societal norms. This approach ultimately maintains the status quo and contributes to marginalisation and inequality.

While some argue that even surface-level activism raises awareness, the bar must be set higher. Big corporations that treat feminism as a brand or a tool for profit should be held accountable. It is not merely a question of contradiction in opinions or brand strategies; it is a matter of blatant hypocrisy, which, in turn, makes it exploitative. Intersectionality demands a more nuanced approach that acknowledges the diverse experiences of women across race, class, and other intersecting identities.

Trigger Warning: Instances of sexual harassment in the upcoming paragraph.

Take the case of ‘Thinx’, a company that set out to break the stigma surrounding menstruation by taking an innovative approach to period products. While they too seemed to be genuinely committed to feminist ideals, their workplace practices told the world otherwise. Miki Agarwal, the CEO of ‘Thinx’, faced severe criticism and legal action from her own employees, accusing her of engaging in unethical conduct, making inappropriate sexual advances, and unfairly dismissing staff members. According to a detailed complaint filed with the City of New York Commission on Human Rights, Miki Agarwal touched an employee’s breasts and asked her to expose them, talked about her own sexual exploits in business meetings, frequently changed clothes in front of her employees, and multiple other incidents that resulted in uncomfortable working conditions. These allegations shed light on a troubling reality within the company, revealing a stark contrast between its public image and internal practices. A poignant example of the pervasive hypocrisy that infiltrates the corporate world, especially in the industries claiming to champion feminist principles.

Even in companies that are supposedly termed modern or liberal, TV ads still cling to old-fashioned ideas. They often use only male voiceovers, which make men sound more important. And when they show women, it’s usually doing housework, like they’re stuck in the past. Even though some companies try to change this, many stick to the old ways because they think it works. So, ads on TV keep pushing these outdated ideas, making it harder to break free from old stereotypes.

In this world of marketing, men are applauded and celebrated when all we are given is a mirror. Distorted. We are forced to see ourselves through the eyes of society. The unspoken reality is that companies aim for male empowerment while perpetuating traditional gender norms for female consumers in order to sell, and what’s worse is that it seems to work just fine.

We’ve been given the short end of the stick since the dawn of humanity. It cannot be denied that we have come a long way, but the question remains: is our progress real or just a better disguise for the old biases against women?

As we deal with the complexities of feminism today, it’s important to acknowledge the steps forward while staying aware of the quieter forms of gender inequality. As long as this capitalism-driven world continues to prioritise profit over principles, the tagline of feminism remains at risk of becoming just that—a mere tagline.

Read also: How to Know Your Reporting is Good 101

Featured Image Credits: medium magazine.nl

Lakshita Arora

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Kamasutra: A Tale of Love, a 1996 cinematic relic that failed to find its place in the Indian film industry of the 90s, gets me to question whether such a contentious movie would survive the scrutiny of the new era.

An unapologetic masterpiece or a stark spotlight on societal norms. Did the visionary filmmaker Mira Nair subvert gender stereotypes or reinforce them? Kamasutra: A Tale of Love sparked this debate when it first came out in 1996. In times when sex was considered taboo and Indian cinema, or just cinema in general, was still largely dominated by male perspectives, she told us a story about two young girls, Maya and Tara, who explored the complexities of love and desire. Set in the 16th century, the movie follows Maya, who, in the wake of a heartbreak, embraces her sensuality and becomes the courtesan of the king. The same king who is married to Maya’s former friend Tara is entrapping her in a loveless marriage.

While Nair was applauded by many for the brilliant cinematography seen in the film and the bold portrayal of female sexuality within the Indian context, she also, not so unexpectedly, faced heavy criticism due to its erotic nature. This resulted in the movie being banned in India. Now the pertinent question emerges: if released in the 2020s, would the outcome have remained unchanged?

Taking into account the female-forward intentions of the filmmaker, this movie was set out to portray that sexual desire is something that comes naturally to men and women alike. The female characters actively expressed their sexual inclinations throughout the movie. Inclinations that would have generally been a lot more silent given the time period Beyond sexual desire, Nair’s female characters exhibit a plethora of very powerful emotions, including fury, resentment, and grief. Focusing the story on the journeys of women and putting them at the forefront contributed greatly to the element of gender inclusivity.

Despite the benevolent objectives behind this movie, it received an enormous amount of backlash. While the power dynamics seen in the characters’ interpersonal relationships were a problem for some, the graphic nudity and eroticism infuriated others. The movie was called out for reinforcing stereotypes, insensitive cultural representations, and male dominance at play throughout the entire movie.

The question of whether this movie falls in the realm of commendable or critiqueable is a complicated one, especially if we are to look at it in the context of the 2020s. It’s safe to say that the movie, in today’s time, would potentially offend multiple cultures. Moreover, the evident patriarchy in the film would not align with newer feminist ideals. Although it could be attributed to the film’s historical context, these aspects would still be considered regressive, keeping in mind modern expectations for diversity and inclusivity.

Nevertheless, above everything, there would still be the persistent concern surrounding nudity and mature content, particularly where Indian cinema is involved. “Showing too much ankle” still remains a breach of cultural modesty in our country. While some people would argue that with a few censor cuts, the film could still make it to the big screen, I hold a different standpoint. Sex plays a crucial role in unfolding this narrative; without it, the story would risk losing most of its substance. So it’s fair to conclude that although this movie would have been looked at more positively where the feminist elements are concerned, I still do not think that the Indian audience would allow its release.

“Kamasutra: A Tale of Love” left a permanent mark on the canvas of film history. It is a production shaped by our own, a work of art that is beyond our grasp. As close as the Indian audience is to Mira Nair’s heart, this creation remains forever elusive—a reminder that maybe some stories are never meant to be told.

Read also: Barbie: A Review

Featured Image Credits: IMDb images

Lakshita Arora

[email protected]

“For most of history anonymous was a woman”- this idea was illustrated in Virginia Woolf’s “In Search of a Room of One’s Own” in context with the suppression of women’s history by men. But for most of the present, who is anonymous?

TW// Sexism, Misogyny, Mention of rape

Social media apps have provided individuals with a way to interact and connect with people who have similar interests, beliefs, or backgrounds. They have expanded social networks and enabled people to connect with people they may not have otherwise encountered in their daily lives. These platforms have also made it possible for people to share ideas and cultures and have given them the chance to learn about other people’s viewpoints from across the world.se

But these positive aspects also brought risks to user safety, such as cyberbullying, online harassment, and privacy issues. With this influx came sexism, culminating in the growth of an online community of misogynists and sexist individuals from around the world who spread bigotry under the pretext of humour.  With the younger generation’s increased access to the internet, these memes may have a big influence on the way individuals think and shape their opinions.

On a regular basis, I come across pages that share memes like “kya fayada itna padh likh ke karna toh kitchen mai hai kaam”. They appear to be harmless, but just look at the number of likes and comments on such posts.”

“I once came across a young kid’s comment under a post promoting the rape on women for taking advantage of reservation benefits. He was just 14 years old. When the Amber Heard case was in the news, social media was a nightmare. You’d think that making jokes about domestic abuse and rape would result in criticism, yet look at the likes and shares. Meme culture is currently nothing more than a weapon used by oppressors to attack a community/minority.” – Anonymous, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University

Instagram, one of the most popular social networking sites, serves as a repository for meme pages. From politics to movies to meme pages of schools and universities, you’ll discover a broad spectrum of memes. Meme pages associated with various school and university groups, such as DPS, DU, IPU, and Amity, often serve as the breeding grounds for sexist and misogynist memes. 

The worst part about these meme pages is that you can’t criticise their content or call them out. You will immediately see a hundred men calling you names and using slurs in the comments section when you call them out for their sexism. They just get away with everything under the pretence of humour.” – Anonymous, Daulat Ram College

University meme pages have become increasingly problematic platforms. These pages frequently demonstrate a troubling tendency of sharing images and videos of women from their universities or elsewhere, accompanied by misogynistic remarks that sexualize and objectify their bodies. This behaviour exposes these women to cyberbullying, harassment, and safety issues. Such behaviours not only contribute to the perpetuation of harmful preconceptions, but also to the establishment of a toxic and unsafe environment for female students.

It is also common in these spaces to record women without consent and upload it on social media with captions like “Miranda ki ladkiyo ko kese patae” (How do we seduce a girl from Miranda?), “aisi classmates toh mai bhi deserve karta hu” (I too deserve classmates like these), “Chalo women’s reservation ka kuch toh fayeda hua” (At least there is some benefit to women’s reservation).

TW//misogyny, sexism

The existence of such sexist memes about students of women’s colleges thrive in these spaces. Such memes pose serious risks to female students at women’s colleges, particularly during the fest when the college opens its doors to everyone. From men mounting the walls of Miranda House and IP and harassing them to men scaling the walls of Gargi College and masturbating, groping, and locking women in washrooms. These meme pages implicitly foster toxic notions, creating an environment that normalises and encourages such vile behaviour while reinforcing the sense that women are nothing more than their possessions.

I’ve seen memes on university pages that propose the idea that women at girl’s colleges like being sexualized by creeps because they allegedly lack “male attention.”  These memes not only propagate detrimental stereotypes about women, but they also encourage a dangerous mindset that justifies behaviours like climbing walls to enter the campus of women’s colleges and participating in predatory behaviour.” – Sneha Rai, Institute of Home Economics

One of the reasons these platforms continue to flourish is because of the way college administration turns a blind eye to such pages set up mostly by their college students, while another is the inefficiency of social media app safety standards. The anonymity provided by these apps provides individuals the confidence to operate sexist pages without fear of repercussions. Building a safe campus is impossible if the administration continues to silence and shackle women instead of taking action against men who make the college unsafe. The increasing number of reports of social media apps profiting from this problematic content makes it hard to trust or rely on the safety policies. It raises the question: does anonymity today still offer a way to stand up to oppression or does it offer a way for bigotry to flourish?

Featured Image Credits: Scroll.in

Read Also: Casual Sexism in Jokes and Not Being a Femi-Nazi

Dhruv Bhati

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Should the historically skewed representation of women in pop culture stemming from male dominance in media suggest the need for their alienation from the field, or does the solution lie in battling the age-old perpetuated stereotypes? Do men make insanely horrible movies on women’s stories? Is it intentional or is it a byproduct of our flawed socialization? How do we combat this?

There is no denying that Men have historically been the gender with the upper hand in every avenue known to humans. This historical gendered privilege has not hesitated to trickle down into contemporary scenarios which have resulted in men still assuming control and leadership in both public and private spheres. Mansplaining is a product of this skewed social construct. Many men have, and even today, continue to believe in the superiority of their gender. Even if this complex has been watered down, the mere assumption that their perspective and decisions matter more still thrives.

It is irrefutable, to say the least, that plenty of mass media, since its inception, owing to the lack of female perspective and the obvious dominance of men in filmmaking have repeatedly objectified women. Such media largely caters to the male gaze and is deeply patronizing. Women’s bodies have been commodified and capitalized upon since times immemorial in advertisements – be it selling Maaza, bikes, or the angels falling for a macho man in axe deodorant ads. The narrative of a “good woman” and a “bad woman” also largely stems from the historically perpetuated male-dictated ideals of an ideal woman. Be it our soap operas or the big screen media, a good woman is always shown fully covered from head to toe, draped in a saree, adhering to all customary norms. Whereas the villainess is always shown to be wearing promiscuous attires with a “pick-me-girl” demeanor. The latter is also the women who generally are independent, shamelessly unapologetic, and break away from the shackles of stereotypes. But does this historical defect justify the absolute abstention of men from making movies on women?

Let us first talk about what these women-centric films look like. These definitely as the name suggests are films with female protagonists, aimed at breaking the age-old gender stereotypes. They move away from the conventional ancient media which has largely portrayed a cis-male as the hero. Such media become channels for marginalized women whose stories have long remained unknown. Witnessing the long-due representation has been nothing short of empowering for all women.

The primary argument presented by proponents of those who believe men shouldn’t make women-centric movies is that men being the historical oppressor will fail to understand the nuances of the struggles of being a woman. They barely share common experiences, and any man attempting to recreate their story on the big screen is bound to trivialize their hardships. Also, men have a greater propensity of projecting women in a way that sexualizes them, thereby creating something appealing to the male gaze and patronizing women in general. But, one also needs to realize that media as an entity is itself vulnerable to being scrutinized or called out for anything problematic being exhibited. The onus then falls upon the general audience to hold the troublemakers accountable. This is a struggle against gendered stereotypes and not gender. Mere exclusion of men from a particular domain will not solve the problem.

Also, the sheer assumption that everyone belonging to a particular gender identity will have shared experiences is flawed. A rich upper-class woman will never be able to actualize the harsh realities of the life of a poor Dalit woman. Intersectional identities cut across and shape the experiences of people from the same gender in very diverse ways. The thriving misconception that a woman will always be empathetic to the oppressive experiences of another woman is broken when one looks at how in many parts of the world, it is women who have kept age-old patriarchal misogynistic traditions alive. Be it child marriage, dowry, sati, or female foeticide – women often emerge as the biggest perpetrators in these crimes against girls.

Additionally, the exclusion of nearly half the population from indulging in making films on a particular subject does more harm than good. The number of people indulging in unraveling the stories of these women immediately gets reduced to half. Secondly, when one propagates the narrative that – only women should be allowed to direct women’s movies because of their shared gendered experiences, all women’s issues get reduced to being only “women’s problems” and not the “society’s problem”. Combating deeply entrenched patriarchal norms requires society to take a stake. Such issues cannot be solved in isolation by one gender alone. Be it the feminist movement, LGBTQ movement, Dalit rights movement or Black lives matter; no battle can be won by a single identity alone. Collective action is critical for a successful outcome.

It is also important to note that many of the strong female characters that we celebrate were either written or directed by men. Be it Kangana’s character in Vikas Bahl’s Queen, Katarina Stratford in Gil Junger’s 10 Things I hate about you, Elle Woods’ in Robert Luketic’s Legally Blonde or Mark Andrew’s Brave – the female leads in these movies are known to be headstrong, unapologetic and at every step assert their autonomy thereby breaking stereotypes.

Furthermore, when men who take up the initiative to make such movies gain accolades and appreciation for their work, the resultant domino effect leads to a greater number of people now pedestalizing sensitive feminist men, as opposed to idolizing a patronizing Macho man. Come on, who doesn’t love Imtiaz Ali for giving us characters like Geet from Jab We Met or Veera from Highway? Such movies with strong female leads often have a caring, sensitive, and extremely lovable side male character. Be it Shah in Dear Zindagi, Irrfan Khan in Piku, Vikrant Massey in Chapaak, or Pankaj Tripathi in Mimi – all these male characters are very hard to not fall in love with. Writing, and directing such roles becomes a cathartic and liberating experience for the scriptwriters, movie makers, and in general everyone involved in the movie-making process. The amount of sensitization delivered through such experiences is unmatchable.

Ergo despite conceding to the fact that to date, even though some men continue to be the biggest flag bearers of male chauvinism, others willing to change should be given a chance for redemption. Our battle lies in fighting the stereotypes, and not the gender. Simply denying men such experiences only based on their gender would be nothing short of criminal.

Feature Image Source: Pinterest

Rubani Sandhu

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In its report, the Delhi Commission for Women has exposed various inefficiencies on part of the authorities and the police, and has asked for accountability.  

Following the reports of sexual harassment of women during the annual fest- ‘Shruti’ of Indraprastha College for Women (IPCW), the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) took suo moto cognizance of the situation. Its chairperson, Swati Maliwal on Tuesday asked the police, Delhi University and the colleges concerned to submit an Action Taken Report by 18th April. According to the official notice, college authorities and the police have to submit a set of guidelines and mechanisms before that panel that will help in preventing such incidents in future.

On March 28, a group of men barged into the Indraprastha College for Women by scaling the boundary walls, leading to a stampede. Several women were allegedly harassed and injured in the chaos. The incident led to protests by hundreds of students, who demanded strict action against the accused persons and the resignation of Principal Poonam Kumria.

It is disappointing that no action has been taken against any official of Delhi Police or IP College over the security lapses. Girls are sexually harassed in their own college fests and the authorities are not doing enough to prevent these incidents.” – Swati Maliwal

The Delhi Commission for Women also issued interim recommendations to Indraprastha College for Women, DU and Delhi Police. It found several lapses on the part of the authorities and the police in conducting the investigation. 

Its inquiry showed that the Delhi Police officials did not act in time to collect CCTV footage of the incident and have not made any arrests.

It’s unfortunate that despite the passage of ten days, police officials had not secured CCTV footage of the incident from college authorities which is crucial in identifying the perpetrators of the crime. Commission again summoned the officials on April 8, wherein they informed that CCTV footage has been collected from the college now, but the footage is incomplete, and they have contacted the college to provide them the complete footage.” – Delhi Commission for Women

It also added that the college had sought police security for a crowd of 8,000 plus people on their premises but did not seek permission for the event. The Commission further stated that “the Delhi University and Delhi Police should design a coordinated strategy for ensuring adequate security before any fest is organised in colleges” as it had noticed that there was a “complete lack of coordination between the two authorities on the matter, as no police permission was obtained by IP College for the event”.

Additionally, DCW suggested that the local SHO and college principal meet, ideally one week before the program, to go through the security measures in place to ensure the safety of the students. The commission discovered that, as of April 6, accusations of sexual harassment had not yet been transmitted to IPCW’s Internal Complaints Committee and that the ICC should have representation from students and an external member from a reputable NGO working on women’s rights.

Read Also: The Invasion of IPCW: A Student’s Account

Featured Image Credits: The Indian Express

Samra Iqbal 

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Not just monotonously draped women in Sarees and custom roles designed by Men, women craft their own niche on the Indian Celluloid perfectly and permeably.

Ever since the ‘release’ of Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love and Fire in 1996, stirred rows of controversies among the audience, the population was laid exposed to multiple cultures that were about to ferment in the decades to follow. The perception of women in Indian imagination sought to have a great thrust now, but what was more monumental were the two directors – Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta, who re-narrativised the ‘Bhartiya Nari and Sabhyata‘ in a post modern view.

The global egalitarian debate has pulled the female representatives at multiple fronts to collect together for achieving gender neutral objectives in – politics, business, sports and perhaps the most important the arts and entertainment industry; without any doubt the women in entertainment business exercise the highest influence and its Indian counterparts are no different, in recent times Indian celebrities have found a global following and new icons are emerging every year.

The Indian Film Industry occupies a central space in every household and it’s Pan India reception makes it even more desirable and challenging. The glamorous lead women over the years have instilled a feeling of aspiration among many young girls who dream to get a slice of ‘The Dream Pie’ and this in fact has turned true in many cases. From Durgabai Kamat to Rekha, Waheeda Rehman to Madhuri Dixit, Shabana Azmi to Priyanka Chopra many female leads have made the marks on the world memory, apart from lead actresses, playback singing seemed to be the only alternative for women for many years in this male dominated industry. But, in the last two decades the industry has witnessed many talented women who have impressed everyone with their skillful exuberance of potential as directors, screenwriters, music directors, cinematographers, etc.

My discussion on the professional female enterprise in Indian film industry has a tripartite perception – firstly, as an avid Cinemaphile general output; secondly in terms of the political depictions, thirdly as a demarcation between the West and the East.

Women making Films not your Food

1926 release ‘Bulbul Ae Paristaan’ saw a major moment in Indian Cinema when Fatima Begum became the first female writer, producer and director. Female Filmmakers like Kalpana Lajmi,  Sai Pranjpaye and Tanuja Chandra might be alien to many but their productions ‘Katha’, ‘Rudaali’ or ‘Dushman’ have captured an audience of its own. Similarly, Aparna Sen and Sumitra Bhave have successfully exploited Bengali and Marathi regional cinema with films like ’36 Chowringhee Lane.’

To reiterate the genius of Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair are beyond words, their movies have garnered critical acclaim not only in India but globally with topics that were really necessary.

Promising female directors like Meghna Gulzar of ‘Raazi’, Kiran Rao of ‘Dhobi Ghat’, Reema Kagti of ‘Talaash’, Nandita Das of ‘Manto’, Zoya Akhtar of ‘Gullyboy’, Farah Khan of ‘Main Hoon Na’, Gauri Shinde of ‘Dear Zindagi’, Shonali Bose of ‘The Sky is Pink’, Alankrita Shrivastav of ‘Lipstick Under my Burkha’ or Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari of ‘Bareily ki Barfi’ have been received well both by audience and critics and have severely diversified into script writing, editing, short films and online content.

Instigators of New Ideas

Female filmmakers have brought a range of topics like Surrogacy, sexuality, same sex relationships and horrors of patrirarchy and misogyny to attention. Depiction of lives of a lesbian relationship in ‘Fire’, a widow’s condition in ‘Water’, mental health in ‘Dear Zindagi’ or surrogacy in ‘Filhaal’, the women have hit the bell hard for others; parallely movies like  ‘Firaaq’ and ‘Salaam Bombay’ comment about the socio political condition of India in a sharp tone.

Not just Makers

Women are known for their adorning skills, their presentation has nuances of meticulousness which has been visible in recent times not just as directors or filmmakers but also in music production like Sneha Khanwalkar and Bombay Jayshree or the lyrics business like Anvita Dutt Guptan and Kausar Munir. Where Choreographers like Farah Khan, Vaibhavi Merchant and Geeta Kapur have grooved their way, designers like Niharika Khan, Anaita Shroff Adjania and Bhanu Athaiya have marked their own style.

Cinematographers like Priya Seth, Fowzia Fathima and Archana Borhade have captured stories that must hit film Critics like Subhash Jha hard when he comments as, “It comes as a surprise that the film is shot by female cinematographer Priya Seth. The images her camera captures are rugged, virile and predominantly masculine.”

The Critical Women

Nikhat Kazmi to Anupama Chopra and Namrata Joshi, women have been acclaimed critics for years, reviewing movies and it’s various aspects they have derived the opinions for the Indian Masses particularly and successfully.

It won’t be enough to say that these women are merely talked here for the sake of being one but particularly to affirm the success of these women in a misogynistic environment where their efforts have striven hard in order to see results. The male dominated land had to send out a message for the viewers who voraciously consume what is screened and pretended by their stars on and off the screens and in a state, where the patriarch and opressing society needs to acknowledge these women substantially.

Image Credits: ForbesIndia

 

Faizan Salik

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Language creates a link between gender binarism and the system of patriarchy. The existence of this bridge has been internalized by societies that are thriving towards progress.

Like other social systems, Patriarchy is also created by humans. It becomes rigid when something as absolute as patriarchy pierces into the most basic thing related to human behaviour, language. It then becomes a tool used by a group of social animals to assert and maintain their dominance in culture.

The structure of patriarchy is woven in a manner that sustains itself through deep-rooted sociological patterns. Language, which acts as the primary medium for communication between people, is one of the breeding grounds of the system of patriarchy. Women being subjected to certain roles is a product of gendered languages, and thus the way we speak reveals many facts concerning human behaviour.

Conversations become important to break societal structures. But if the tool itself is based on a gender binary, then it is the status quo that perpetuates. Almost 75% of the world’s languages employ a sex-based system, which also indicates the sheer usage of male pronouns. These pronouns clearly display gender binarism, which classifies gender into two distinct forms, thereby ignoring the existence of many other genders which should be recognized by the social system.

One’s gender can be communicated with the use of pronouns. These pronouns have a power that goes beyond these societal structures. Articles that a person reads have capabilities of bringing out the biases within people. Many such articles with heavy usage of gendered language go unnoticed by the people. The use of terms like ‘chairman’ ‘fireman’ suggests two things. One, that these positions were believed to be reserved for men only, and women were not allowed to take such jobs. Two, that the existence of many genders was disregarded in society.

A lack of representation has fueled the existence of such languages. Most of the editors of the Oxford dictionary have been men. Websites like Wikipedia and Reuters are dominated by men. The community of authors around the globe largely consists of men, most of whom lack the understanding of the implications associated with the use of language in such a manner. Patriarchal values are thus maintained by the structure itself. It is a vicious circle.

To bring about inclusivity, gender linguists suggest three things: Re-building language, using words differently, and creating new words. Such new words include ‘mansplaining’, which refers to a man explaining something to someone, in a condescending manner, to assert his influence. Use of pronouns like ‘they’ ‘their’ can help to build a discourse that would aid the society at large. While some may have an issue with ‘they’ being used in a singular context, many others argue that ‘they’ should be adopted as English’s standard third-person, gender-neutral pronoun.

Language is a mirror of society and its beliefs. Gendered languages, therefore, reflect how society has failed to progress in a way it should have. Waves of feminism have appealed to linguists around the world, to create languages that are inclusive and non-binary.

When a society progresses, each element has to cope up with this progress. Language is one such element. With the inclusion of a multitude of identities and genders, the world is moving towards an era of inclusivity and structural reforms. These words are a product of thought. Thought can be altered through conscious effort and reasoning. Gender-neutral words and pronouns can bring about change in society. Thus the power to create a discourse lies in our hands. Change lies in our hands.

 

Kuber Bathla

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