Bollywood is pushing the feminist debate in India and taking it where it should be. From taking on slut-shaming to fat-shaming, from damning misogynist comments to unrealistic expectations, the celebs of Indian film industry are not afraid to call a spade a spade in real life. Sonam Kapoor has time and again called herself a feminist and taken a stand for equality, Amitabh Bachchan recently became a part of a campaign and told the world his assets will be divided equally between his son and daughter after his death, Shah Rukh Khan spoke about how you don’t need to ‘save’ women but only provide them with an equal platform and Farhan Akhtar runs Men Against Rape and Discrimination.
But the moment you shift your attention to the films and songs churned out by the Hindi film industry, sexism is so pervasive that it takes your breath away. No, we are not talking about pay gap and women still being treated as an after-thought in films. Instead, our fight is with the rampant objectification of women and country’s lead stars happily stalking the actresses in films. So, Bollywood, what message are you exactly trying to give? This International Women’s Day, here are the anti-women tropes that you need to do away with before you wish us a ‘Happy Women’s Day’.
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Can we stop objectifying women in the name of item numbers, oops, special numbers?
Of late, the term item number has fallen out of favour. Bollywood celebs would have you call them special numbers. So, what changed? Well, nothing. It is still about a woman dancing among a horde of salivating men with lyrics that are sexually provocative. Replace Munni with Fevicol, Chikni Cameli with Sheila or Laila with Cheez Badi, nothing’s changed. Changing the name of item numbers will not help, changing this mindset might.
That’s stalking and it is a legal offence
A woman’s no means yes. This line should have died with the dodo but it hasn’t. If a woman says no to a man’s unwanted advances, it is believed she is being shy, coy, womanly. Once and for all, she is saying no because she means no. Nothing has encouraged this thought process more than Bollywood films where the lead actor follows a woman even as she shouts, slaps, rants and even goes to cops in certain cases. She then says yes and they live happily after. In real life, that will get you certain years in jail, ideally without an option of parole.
The scourge of roadside Romeos
A Salman Khan suggestively lifting Jacqueline Fernandez’s skirt with his teeth did more harm than his ‘raped woman’ comment. And it is not one particular star but every single one of them who has crossed the line in their films, which celebrate such transgressions. And last we checked, these guys are heroes to thousands of youngsters out there.
Can we please not listen to various parts of a woman’s anatomy in dirty, derogatory details? Can we stop talking about consent like it is theoretical? Leching is not cool and it is so much worse when people dance on a song about ogling! Maybe Hindi film industry should have taken a lesson from Malayalam superstar Prithviraj Sukumaran who has promised never to vilify a woman again, “I have mouthed lines that vilified regard for your self-respect and I have taken a bow to the claps that ensued. Never again will I let disrespect for women be celebrated in my movies.” This International Women’s Day, that is a promise many have to make.