The world has a wry sense of humour. It’s with a subtly intriguing irony that the gang-rape case in Delhi dominated Indian headlines on the same day that the Miss Universe crown was contested. One laments the pitiful result of unbridled lust, while the latter celebrates sexuality and beauty in women.
It is in this strange duality that we, citizens of the world, hold ourselves. One fourth of all search engine requests are related to pornography and 35% of all P-to-P downloads contain adult material. At the same time the top trending topic on popular social networking site Twitter is on the gang-rape and 99% of the tweets are expressing an outrage against such behavior.
It’s everywhere. Even as Bollywood celebrities across India have taken to social media and other means to condemn the act and demand quick resolution on the issue, music channels focus on Kareena Kapoor’s abs as she gyrates sensuously to ‘Fevicol Se’.
I’m not saying women should dress carefully and that they’re bringing it upon themselves like some abominably thudding-brained idiots are suggesting in some places. What I’m trying to get at is that the ‘objectifying’ of women that starts on screen, in Bollywood, fashion pageants, music videos, pornography, and ends up in an inexcusable release of pent up frustration through a heinous act like rape or sexual assault.
The effect of the Marlboro man led to many picking up smoking in a bid to look ‘cool’ and ‘ruggedly handsome’. No amount of ‘statutory warnings’ would remove the image of a sexy actor smoking and looking uber cool while doing it. It’s subtly the same when it comes to looking at women.
Recent Bollywood trends seem to feature a growing number of item numbers, fewer strong women leads, more focus on sex and sensuality, and an overbearingly dominant male lead. The weak female leads are often just used as sexy props to adorn the macho muscle-wielding man. Like in ‘Dabangg’. Or ‘Singham’.Or ‘Son of Sardar’.Or ‘Rowdy Rathore’. You get the drift…
All of this sends a subtle unintended message to the gullible viewer who, enjoying the comedy and fancy action sequences, is left impressionable to suggestions of male dominance over women, the impressive power of force to get what you want, the role of woman as a side-kick to male supremacy.
This ‘objectifying’ of women has increasingly become the trend in the world of TV and cinema. Women are drooled upon, lusted after, made to do item numbers but somewhere along the way all of this clashes with our Indian concept of worshipping and respecting our women. It’s this sharp dichotomy that has contributed to recent trends.
All this probably sounds very prudish and conservative, but I’m not talking about getting less explicit or the like. I respect artistic freedom too much for that. I just think that there should be a conscious effort made from the film industry to portray women in more powerful roles, as a commanding lead, as people capable of handling it on their own and a gender not to be easily messed with. Like in ‘Kahaani’, an exception to the recent cinematic norm.
Let’s cut down on the pretty damsels in distress and let’s have more dominant strong ladies. Let’s reduce the show of invincible strength on the part of men while women just look on admiringly and let’s increase the sensitive human element in the characters shown. Let’s have fewer objectifying references to women in dialogues and more women-respecting ones.
Sure, keep the crass rubbish that passes for movies these days and, while it may not be to my taste, keep the titillating movies with sleazy scenes as well. But if the film industry is serious about making a contribution to the country’s gender inequality problem, and judging by recent tweets they sure are, I urge them to create a better balance when it comes to portraying women.
The problem, I admit, lies not with them, but with the abominably sick perverts who can’t keep it in their pants. But this isn’t a blame game, it’s a suggested solution that could help matters. And with the great influence of our acting idols, Bollywood and the world of glamour could at least help take that first step in the right direction.