It is 2019. The amount of sexism around us is still mind boggling. Even some of the most highly educated people do not fail to show sexist attitude. Women often enforce misogyny under the pretext of “traditions”. Feminists are made fun of despite the need for it, and misused feminism used to generalize all feminists at large. Girls go silent on casual sexism, boys are shamed for showing so called “feminine” traits, subtle forms of harassment are ignored. And one of the most popular media of the country is rampantly promoting misogynistic content. Welcome to Bollywood misogyny.
Bollywood has an important role in influencing people, as people of all strata of the society watch movies. And this applies to all kinds of movies. So when a bulk of movies say it is okay to make sexist jokes or show misogynistic behaviour, the already patriarchal mindset is given validation. Change is delayed. It seems, Bollywood still isn’t making any active contribution to overcoming the misogyny present. Time and again it has normalized sexism, even in 2019 with movies like Kabir Singh and Pati Patni Aur Woh.
Here we list how Bollywood has repeatedly gone overboard with its misogyny.
Promoting Stalking, or Awaarapan. Because “Tu Haa kar ya Na Kar Tu Hai Meri Kiran”
It seems, consent is almost non existent in a bulk of Bollywood movies. The girl is either accepts the proposal of a man, or is stalked and harassed relentlessly until she gives in. And that seems to have been made the ideal way of wooing a woman. It shows that the girl eventually falls in love with the eve teaser. Some so called “comedies” even show male characters getting together to stalk a girl, even if she’s in her room about to change her clothes! It seems like Bollywood can’t get enough of promoting this behaviour.
Obviously, the eve teasers get encouraged on the inside, and you can understand why so many women are victims of eve teasing. The worst part is, this is so normalized that most women do not even consider eve teasing to be something serious. What we don’t realize is, all these go on to form the base of the rape culture that is so prevalent in our country.
“Spicy” Lyrics. Because Women are Just Objects of Pleasure, or Simply Because They Don’t Matter.
“Tu cheez bari hai mast..”
“Yeh usaka style hoinga, hontho pe na dil me han hoinga
Aaj nahee toh kal bolegee, ai tu tension kai ko leta hai re”
“Ban mitra di whore. I mean mitra di ho”
“Hai tujhpe right mera, tu hai delight mera
Tera rasta jo roku, chaukne ka nahin”
These are just some of the rampant examples of problematic lyrics that flourishes in Bollywood. Girls are compared to objects, sometimes extremely weird, in order to explain their worth. They are shamed. They are told that they belong to the men. They are told that they will be harassed until they give in. The list goes on and on. And the people of the country enjoy these songs, play them over and over again. Item songs are treated as a specialty, and some of the most serious movies have item songs because it helps in promoting the movie. Item songs are often placed forcefully in the script even though they are unnecessary. And the lyrics are extremely sexist, the performing artist usually a scantily dressed female actor who often has no role in the movie. These supposedly help increase the popularity of the movie before release, because the audience absolutely love such content.
Because hey, aren’t girls actually objects? If you’re a woman, you will be made fun of and catcalled if you’re not slim, fair or beautiful, dressed extremely modestly, or are working in a job as hard as your male counterparts. You will also be catcalled if you are slim, fair, beautiful, dressed in good clothes, not working. You will be harassed if you try to enjoy on your own; you’ll be harassed if you enjoy with a man. You will be shamed for having male friends or going through multiple relationships because you are facing problems, while a guy doing the same is absolutely okay.
Remember when in Dear Zindagi, Shah Rukh used the metaphor of a chair to explain the inability to find “The One” is okay? The boys were in an uproar because they were compared to a kursi. Well guys, now you know how women feel being not just compared, but being treated as objects so frequently in the song lyrics.
The Sanskari Woman
The ideal woman according to Bollywood is the sanskari modest woman who wears saris and does not indulge in behaviour such as smoking, flirting, or having independent thought. She should need saving by the male hero. She needs to be coy and submissive. Bomus points if she is dumb and if she falls in love with the hero at first sight. She dressed in ethnic Indian attire, has insurmountable amount of respect for her parents which shows through her silence before them. She also does ‘puja’ with zest.
This idea is not a thing of the past. In Cocktail Saif Ali Khan’s character chooses Meera (played by Diana Penty) who is sanskari, over Veronica (played by Deepika Padukone), the carefree independent girl. In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai Kajol’s character is a tomboy with short hair who plays basketball, and Shah Rukh is absolutely unimpressed. But when she shows up in a saree, draped seductively, and allows him to win, the man accepts her as a romantic partner.
So if you wonder why independent women are looked down upon, think about how one of the most popular mode of entertainment has standardized the perfect version of what a woman should be. And that it is based on outdated ideas of patriarchy.
Sexual Innuendos and Sexist Jokes. Made by Men, Thank You
If there is one thing the Indian audience seems to extremely enjoy, it is sexist jokes and cheap sexual innuendos. Most of these are extremely misogynistic, but evoke laughter among the audience. It seems like Bollywood likes to use this problematic behaviour for its profit, rather than using its influence to bring about change.
Movies like No Entry, Kya Kool Hai Hum, Mastizaade seem to have no trouble passing through the Censor Board, or finding acceptance among audience. But whenever it is about women’s sexuality, or women’s point of view, it seems the male ego is shaken. Films like Lipstick Under My Burkhaa have trouble gaining a certificate while the aforementioned films are released and no one bats an eye. Women are belittled, objectified, made to look stupid and whiny, their characters reduced to mere promotion of the male characters again and again.
The usage of metaphors and clearly intentional slip of tongues seem to make audience roll on the ground despite being extremely lame, belittling and not funny. Bollywood has used this time and again. While people explain these under the pretext of them being a part of the genre “sex comedy”, and sensible movie watcher knows that sex comedies aren’t this cheap; there are multiple good movies in this genre in the world. Bollywood just misuses the Indian mindset.
Women as Mere Entities for the Male Gaze
A lot of Bollywood movies give men a deep character sketch, with control and meaning over the plot. But the women are shallow, only present to feed the gaze of the male audience, or to help build the character of the male character. Multiple times women centered movies have had their focus shifted because a male character that was supposed to be the supporting character, was played by an important male actor and given greater narrative in the movie. Bollywood has mastered this game very well, giving this support character more importance in subtle ways because he is male, yet masquerading under the banner of a movie about women empowerment.
In most movies, the heroine is just a fill in. The movie would not have changed much in essence if her character is taken out. She is present because people love seeing a sexy woman on screen, a love interest of the hero. This needs to stop; Bollywood should realize women are not their marketing scheme.
All these factors lead up to oppression and gives impetus to the existing rape culture. Often perpetrators in rape cases are not blamed because “they were aroused by actresses and models wearing short dresses” or aroused by “actresses being sexually attractive in their scanty attire”. Sex jokes or rape jokes are considered fine. The saying “men will be men” is repeated. Stalking for the sake of love is supported. Consent is non existent. How would you expect change when the machinery capable to bring it is flawed.
Luckily, there are people who seem to have their senses still. There are people who are calling out on Bollywood as well as its hypocrisy.
People are calling out on stars who condemn rapes, but don’t seem to care about performing in sexist films, or scripts with sexist dialogues. So much for popularity!
In a society where the abusive Kabir Singh finds popularity among audience, and is hailed as cool, there is truly not much to say. Shame on the makers of such films!
Feminists have been a butt of jokes for people. Some women have no doubt misused the power feminism provides, but the way feminism is treated in general is absolutely disgusting. Every time a woman is sexually abused, harassed, raped, groped, or becomes the victim of patriarchy, the need for feminism appears. And rightfully it has bashed Bollywood, for the film industry has become one of the worst promoters of patriarchy and subsequent misogyny.
The good thing is, change is coming. With films like Pink one can hope for better movies from Bollywood. What have been released already cannot be erased. But if it is followed by sensible content, then that would be appreciable. We are all ingrained with many wrong ideas and values. The credit lies in unlearning these to become a better human being.