Stop enforcing feminism on Bollywood

It’s disappointing when Shah Rukh Khan shirks away from topic of a slightly better shelf-life, or even equal pay for Bollywood actresses. Not because of his many roles as a stalker, emotional blackmailer, misogynist have paved the way for his enlightened view on ageism. But because he is considered one of the more intelligent actors around. According to him, women work ‘5 times harder and gets paid ten times less,’ and the market forces determine the value of an actor.

And he’s not wrong.

This is the reason why Dangal wouldn’t have done well if Aamir Khan hadn’t played the tough patriarch. It’s the reason why Mary Kom, which is also about a successful female boxer didn’t do well. It’s also the reason why Sultan did do well. Then again, bhai ka picture always does well.

We do have the occasional Mardani, Queen, or Jai Gangajal. But they will never come close to the sycophantic 100-crore club, which remains dominated by the likes of Khan. Of the top 10 most commercially successful Hindi films, only one is without a Khan (Bajirao Mastani). And of the highest grossing 15 Indian films, only Bahubali and Rajnikant’s Kabali are Khan-less.

In a sense, SRK is right. Commercial cinema is entrenched in financial super-success. Seemingly, the people in the best position to change that are the Khans.

Aamir, with Dangal being his last release, is the one creating the most positive change. A film about two young girls who are sportwomen, and not romantic accessories, is something none of the Khans have done before. He may have played an authoritarian with little regard for his daughters’ wishes, but any father-daughter story from Haryana that doesn’t involve infanticide, forced marriage or honour killing is commendable.

SRK may publicly accept the sexism and ageism, but that’s all he’s willing to do. He may even go the extra mile to patronise feminists by saying women are better than men. But his films rarely demonstrate a basic respect for women. He might have done a Chak De! India, but that does not dissolve him of his criminal offences like Chennai Express and Happy New Year.

Speaking of criminals, Salman may have films with fiesty-looking women, until they fall in love with him and forget all previous personality traits. They dissolve into the quintessential Bollywood wife: attractive impregnable slaves. Salman, on the other hand, has risen even more ever since he stopped trying to put an effort into his roles.

As the actresses cast against them get younger and younger, they are in such a cemented position that they will never get rejected by the heroine. That responsibility falls solely upon Ranbir Kapoor. Age is not the only deterrant to women starring against the Khan. They will have no qualms starring against ‘pure’ newcomers. On the other hand, the industry will subtly (and overtly) slut-shame Sunny Leone. She can be an item number, but never the love interest of any of Bollywood’s most expensive men.

Bollywood’s leading women have predominantly shied away, or gone back and forth on being feminists. And it’s completely fair that they don’t call themselves the f-word. It’s because they aren’t feminists.

The only women who have openly addressed the wage-gap are Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kangna Ranaut. Yet, one is known for her whimsical behaviour, or her apparently horrifying choice of name for her own son. The other one is known for her terrible taste in men.

There have been moments of some female empowerment. Cleavage gapers have been shamed, a cricketer boyfriend of an actress spoke up against calling her a ‘distraction’, and there are some women without the ideal Bollywood-heroine body type defending their right to exist whilst not looking like a Barbie doll.

However, none of the actresses are ready to be openly feminist. They dance in heels while men wear flats. They wear skimpy clothes and dance in freezing temperatures with a fully clothed man. They are constantly nitpicked on for their natural facial features and bodies. And if they dare change something, they will be shamed for that. They work as much as the men do. Their financial success is short-lived: many of them will be out of work by the time they’ve reached their industry shelf-life – for everyone loves a movie about a man and a youngthinbeautifulperfect woman. In spite of this, if they still don’t firmly believe that they deserve equal pay, then they’re really not feminists.

So we should really stop asking every famous vagina-owner about feminism. Especially when they come from an industry created to satisfy the patriarchy through elaborate song-and-dance rituals. If we want an unbridled feminist moment from Bollywood, all we can do is wait for the occasional Queen. Or even a Sunny Leone interview.

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Online feminism is like a donation box

They’re the ones whose mundaneness we marvel at, and whose career decisions we jeer at. Celebrity culture has provided even the most insignificant of us the opportunity to assume roles moral superiority, and fashion critics. If it wasn’t for them, we would have only funny animal videos to fall back upon for small talk. 
It’s only logical that we ask them for their opinion on issues and have feelings of outrage or rapt admiration. This is precisely why we started asking every vagina owner who’s been on TV/movies about women’s rights and feminism. It’s like asking every car owner about the inner mechanisms of the vehicle. Or asking every bank account owner about the economy. But since feminism comes under humanities, opinions are much easier to fake.  
We love nothing more than when women pretend to be humans by declaring their love for food, requesting to be asked about their work rather than their booties and asking for as much pay as their glorious male peers. It even makes us care about currently-irrelevant women like Mallika Sherawat and her tiff with a reporter, and potentially irrelevant women like Radhika Apte. That’s internet feminism, I suppose.

Another exciting but inconsequential and futile attempt at understanding women’s rights was Homi Adjania’s ‘My choice’ video. As the old saying goes, put it in monochrome and it looks important enough for every man, woman, fish and reptile to discuss. The creators of democracy clearly didn’t foresee the internet and the diarrhoea of opinions that would give an outlet to.

Internet feminism is like an open donation box for crisis relief. It began with good intentions, and if you really dig deep into the box you will find some useful donations that will help the victims. Then there are misguided charitable offerings that were meant to help, but miss the point. But most of the donations will baffle you and make you marvel at the minds of those who thought these things belong to a donation box. At least there’s one field where men and women are truly equal: in being passionate about their vastly misguided opinions.

A recent social media campaign that I came across was published in an online article with the wonderful headline: ‘Social media campaign tries to make a point about feminism, fails spectacularly’ (http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/social-media-campaign-tries-to-make-a-point-about-feminism-fails-spectacularly–eJg8ZlBFoWZ). This came with the hashtag under which the campaign functioned, #BlameOneNotAll. This was also one of those campaigns where women hold up quotes that express how they feel so that men can see how non-intimidating their opinions are and so that they can shove the image into the face of anyone who says “I hope you’re not one of those feminist types…” This is excellent news for ‘meninist’ campaigns, who can now repost these images and claim to be in love with these women.
The campaign posters, some of them as artfully composed as the hashtag, included some gems like ‘My favorite professor and he doesn’t show any inappropriate gesture’, or ‘When my parents are not around, my uncle doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable’.
This is a rather unfair trend. In fact, it has just aggravated gender inequality. You never get to see pictures of men holding boards saying ‘I saw a woman today and she did not invoke me to harass her by dressing provocatively’. Or ‘I have a female colleague and she doesn’t voice her opinions in public.’

Men’s Rights in a Country like India

Men's Day4
Image Courtesy: MRA

Mahesh Shinde is an engineer from Pune, India, who works for a manufacturing company. He’s also the President of the Men’s Rights Association (M.R.A), a registered NGO working solely to protect the honour and dignity of men. This is just one of the many organisations worldwide that have taken up this particular cause. On International Men’s Day, (November 19), Let’s take a look into what Men’s Rights actually mean to these organisations. Here’s an interview with Mr. Shinde about the organisation, its goals and philosophy.

  • Tell me a little about Men’s Rights Association. How did you get involved with the NGO? How often does the group meet?

Men’s Rights Association (MRA) is an organization whose sole purpose is to fight for the elusive Men’s Rights. MRA is very revolutionary in its concepts.It has been listed in the Top 100 social organizations of Maharashtra.

We believe that men should not be made to suffer so that women can enjoy. Society should not be divided on the basis of gender. Men often tend to carry a lot of baggage due to societal pressure. They are thrust into the role of ‘provider and protector’.

Nowadays, there’s a trend to denounce men for all the problems of humanity. Indian media continuously portrays all men as the perpetrators of crime, and women as the perpetual victim. Such biased propaganda will have serious repercussions, some of which has already been seen.

In India, the suicide rate of men is much higher than that of women. (According to a report by the World Health Organization, 258,075 people committed suicide in India in 2012, with 99,977 women and 158,098 men taking their own lives). But society is apathetic to the suicides of men, whereas women’s suicides have received a lot of attention

Just because a few (less than 1%) men have power doesn’t means that we are a male-dominated society. What happens to the remaining 99%? And it is an open truth that most of these so-called Alpha males are hen-pecked, and end up dominating other men. It is stupid to call this as male dominance.

Below is some of the important work done by MRA

  • Provide free legal help and counseling to men in distress.
  • Create awareness about anti-male laws and attitude
  • Remove negativity against the male gender, and spread positive thoughts
  • Work towards reducing suicides of male.
  • Sensitize law making bodies about men’s issues.
  • Reduce violence against men.

MRA works in all spheres of life.

 

  • What do you think are the main reasons that the high rate of suicides among men goes ignored?

The suicides are ignored because society treats Men as disposable. Since society doesn’t consider Men as human beings, their suicides aren’t a serious matter for society.

 

  • What are your major demands?

We are fighting for gender equality. Our main demands are:

  • That both genders should be treated equally
  • There should be no prejudice against men
  • Treat men as humans

 

  • What kind of activities/events do you organize?

Our activities are divided into two major parts. One is helping men in distress. The other is to spread awareness, through various actions like writing campaign letters to higher authorities, RTI (Right to Information) application, police station visits to generate awareness of the law process, various awareness campaign and protests, celebrating Father’s Day, Men’s Day, etc. For the past one year we have been doing collective projects with other NGOs as well.

 

  • India has been ranked as the worst country amongst the G20 nations to be a woman. How do men’s rights figure into the scenario?

This is a canard which is used to subjugate men, and impose more inhuman conditions on men. This is a totally baseless and extremely flawed ranking. We dare those who publish such nonsense to come and have an open debate with us. We will tear their arguments to shreds.

 

  • Do you receive flak any flak regarding MRA?

Since our society is so biased against men, we are the subject of several jokes. If anyone fights for women’s rights, they are glorified, while those fighting for men’s rights are ridiculed.

 

  • Do you believe in equal treatment of both the genders?

Absolutely… And this is NOT happening, which is our main grouse.

 

  • What are your feelings about reservation for women in the parliament and other spheres?

They talk about equal rights, and then ask for reservation. This is robbery. Those asking for reservation for women, imply that women are incompetent.

 

  • What according to you are the major issues faced by men in India?

There are several. Men are trained to work hard, and what do they get in return? A man’s entire life goes in doing things for others. He has to work to provide for his wife, children, sisters. Society expects men to work for others.

 

  • Sexual abuse laws in India are often framed with terminology like ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’. Does the MRA deal with male victims of abuse? How can these laws be framed to be more inclusive regarding men?

Of course we do. In fact, in the last two years, we have seen an increase in such male victims of abuse. One of our demand is to make these laws gender neutral. Currently, male victims aren’t even considered by law.

 

  •  One of your demands is to eliminate false rape, dowry and other cases. Have you received many complaints about this? What are viable solutions to this problem? How does one differentiate between the legitimate cases and the fake ones?

Yes, we continuously receive complaints about false dowry, rape, etc. The viable solution to this problem is to modify these laws, to prevent misuse. In their present form, these laws are downright idiotic. No rational person can justify these wicked laws. If anyone reads the complaint itself, it is very clear, that it is false. And yet, complaints are being lodged because of biased laws, and the anti-male legal system.

 

  •  What might be the reasons that women lodge false rape and dowry complaints?

A primary reason is extortion. The complaints are filed to extract money from men. Otherwise, it may be to harass the husband/concerned man, harass his parents, siblings and other dear ones, humiliate him and destroy his mental peace; to push him towards suicide, or harm himself.

 

  • Can you provide some examples of the kind of complaints you receive?

With regards to dowry harassment, wives harassing their husbands for not listening to her absurd demands is quite a common complaint. The husband’s life becomes a living nightmare. The wife has a whole array of laws which she can misuse against the husband. The woman simply has to go to any police station/court and lodge complaint against her husband, and she has the upper hand. Even in cases where no complaints are lodged, mere threatening is good enough to harrass the husband. Many men take the extreme step of committing suicide because of the daily torture they face from their unscrupulous wives.
With regards to sexual harassment at workplaces, some women employees harass their male colleagues. Some women at senior posts want the men working under them to be their play-things. If the man resists, he faces further harrassment. Even with colleagues, men have faced harassment. In another case, a junior female employee filed harassment complaint against her boss, because she was asked to be more professional by him.

 

  • Do you think the new Modi government will bring about any changes for men’s rights?

No, we do not think so. However, we would like to have a dialogue with the government. We have petitioned previous governments, which didn’t pay heed to our demands. When we show factual data to the officials, all they do is accept that our demands are legitimate, but they do not have the courage and the political will power to act on it.

A tribute to Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou passed away yesterday. There’s a lot to be said, but I decided to express myself by writing a poem inspired by her works.

I don’t want to be a woman, I just want to be me.
It was dark and I walked into it
Without shame or fear.
I did not think of you. I did not think of how short clothes will pull your eyes towards me
Nor of what my shape will do to your mind.
My hair was wild and free, it couldn’t fit into what it was expected to be.
The buttons on my shirt were open only because they didn’t know they ought not to be.

And I walked into the night because it felt right to me.
It wasn’t meant to hurt you- I don’t know how it could.
I was trying to see your reason, but reason didn’t let me.

I refused the guilt you thrust on me and I felt lighter still
Because I can’t always be a ‘woman’, sometimes I’m just me.