As a child growing up in the early 90s, I remember watching this movie star with awe; I was a huge fan and would watch all his movies with my mouth wide open!
In 2016, I still am a big fan, but, if I could go back in time to change that 1 thing about his movies, I would change those male dominated dialogues that featured in most of them. Not just his movies- umpteen others’ featured such dialogues. Situationally, those might have made an impact on screen, but, objectively, those dialogues were pertinent even to a man- a message seldom conveyed in those movies. This in turn, led to the penetration of ideas on ‘how women should be’, ‘what they should do’ and so on in some ways …
As Indians, we are immensely influenced by the movies that we watch; we idolize our stars who are nothing short of demigods for many of us. And, having grown up watching these male stars dominate their female leads -sometimes in an uncharacteristic and yet an imposing way, we are tuned to believing that that is how it should be.
Think about this:
Female leads in most Indian movies can be classified into these 3 buckets (with exceptions of course!):
A coy woman who ‘panders’ (although I hate to use this word here) to the needs of the man; she is humble and believes that her goal in life is to make her man happy, even if it comes at the cost of her own lost happiness. She is weak; her man is born to protect her from all the evils of the society- she worships him.
And then, there are the bolder types- the woman who would enjoy her life, who would be well educated, independent and everything that one could dream of being- until she meets the man of her dreams and becomes that Type I women
There is the third type of women in movies too- the brash and the ambitious ones who are portrayed as selfish and self-obsessed. These women are the villains who are then to be ‘tamed’ by the men into becoming that Type I women.
With all due respect to some of those wonderful classics and many other brilliant movies, we may want to admit that the characterization of the women fell into these types more often than less. The trend continues into the brand new year of 2016, although there is a growing consciousness…
If movies are the biggest influencers and propagators of such ideologies, its biggest buyers are the women themselves! Many women unwittingly continue to hold beliefs that tend to project the men as the ‘better’ halves of the society.
Again, consider this:
- How many women want a ‘bridegroom’ who earns more than she does, and is better qualified than her? By the way, has someone noticed that the guy is called a bride- groom; groom refers to someone who trains someone to do some activity and (or) to look after someone (by popular definition of the term)!!!
- How many women think that it is the man’s responsibility to maintain the financial health of the family?
- How many women (and men too) stop their sons from doing household chores saying: “That’s not your job”!
- How many women change their birth identities to reflect their husband’s (all in a matter of a few days)? How many women forget to name their children with their own identities?
- How many women don multiple roles singlehandedly- professionally and personally, without ‘expecting’ a helping hand from their spouses?
- How many women come forward to sacrifice their careers for the sake of the family?
The answer to all of them is ‘far too many’, isn’t it?
Some of these things could be small things in the bigger scheme of the world and yet, these small things snowball into judgments and biases that pass onto another generation!
I do not wish to say that things done out of choice are mistakes given the feministic rules of the game. For many women, it is a question of choice, or rather, preference. But, for those that this is not a choice yet, it is time to make it one.
It is time to stand up and speak up, and there is no better medium to do that than the media itself.
It all starts at home- yes. But, as a firm believer in the power of media, I believe that things will start to pick momentum when these ideas are conveyed through a powerful medium. How? Here are some ideas:
- When the movie stars stop doing those “item numbers” that objectify women
- When screenplay writers, actors / the directors make a conscious attempt to treat women with dignity in every screen in their movies
- When ambitious women are shown to be successful with the help of an understanding spouse on TV, movies, YouTube videos and so on (of many other ways)
- When women at home teach their kids to respect women and treat them as equals; when fathers participate in the exercise of being such role-models for their children
- When families start cherishing the idea of having a girl child as much they cherish the idea of having a son
- When school curriculum covers the stories of successful women in history, freedom struggle and so on
- When social media posts and ad-makers put in more thought into bringing this awareness in a positive manner
- When the justice system stops blaming women for crimes committed against them
And the other 1001 creative and necessary ways to bring this change.
Now, some of the readers reading this post might have tagged me a “feminist” with some disdain. If you were one, I urge you to view this with some objectivity. If you were to begin life with no pre-conceived notions on how women need to be in this society, would you still tag the ideas in this post as feminist?
The Canadian Prime minister Justin Trudeau sums it up so well that you might want to watch this video:
We have our own inspiration in a famous south Indian Director Mr. K. Balachander who made revolutionary movies with strong female leads even in those early years. His works are worthy of mention here (pictures below- I have picked 2 of them). [Although one could criticize some aspects even in these bold stories of those years, discounting those criticisms and viewing it through the lens of those early years’]
So, summing it up, feminism has always been around. And yet, the media, the women and several families seldom felt brave enough to challenge the status quo of the society then, which later passed on to the generations ahead. Time has come to witness a change in the way of treating women.
Customising Swami Vivekananda’s famous quote for the women out there:
Also watch this video that tells a telling tale on how men can be a part of that change!