Red Fetters,Pink Freedom

An unintended language error by Mamta Sharma,chief of NCW,in her use of the word 'sexy' gave us some coloured debates.

Written by Shefalee Vasudev | New Delhi | Published:April 20, 2012 11:18 am

An unintended language error (through serious in context ) by Mamta Sharma,the chief of the National Commission for Women,in her use of the word ‘sexy’ gave us some coloured debates.

What’s sexy and who should be free to call a woman sexy? I was part of some TV discussions that also tossed up whether feminism is mere tokenism now,or should we still chant it at least once year.

Importantly,for one of these debates,actor Vidya Balan,now a National award winner for her portrayal of Silk in ‘The Dirty Picture’,was a co-panelist.

On the other hand,Sampat Pal Devi,the founder and leader of Rajasthan’s now well-known anti-violence Gulabi gang was one of the special guests in the audience.

Barkha Dutt who anchors NDTV’s We The People threw me a question I have been restlessly toying with ever ‘The Dirty Picture’ was being loudly promoted across channels. The point that needs to be strongly made is that Vidya Balan wearing her red sari in the film was all very well. Hers was an intelligent interpretation of the life of a C grade star who was exploited. But the same Vidya Balan distributing red saris for the promotion of the film confuses the message. Silk inspired by the Southern siren Silk Smitha was a disillusioned,unhappy woman,she killed herself.

Giving red saris to women on talk shows or to female characters in fictional shows (all that Vidya did and more) is like saying here,take this garment of enslavement and celebrate. Promotional strategies are heady but they can,like this one,tread the line of caution and must ideally not treat each film like the other. Here the garment of enslavement (the red sari) was being distributed by Balan,who we have begun to call a feminist. Ironical?

On the other hand,Sampat Devi’s pink sari is actually the garment of liberation. She and her fellow rural feminists may chosen pink for some reason,yet the unambiguous message that they give is that they stands for protest against wrong. Between the pink sari’s freedom and the red sari’s enslavement is a world of difference. Nobody needs to tell us which one we must hold up as a flag of feminism.

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