When will our Sex Negativity and Hypocrisy end?

While watching the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, one thing I genuinely appreciated it for was the portrayal of marital rape. The scene is where Milkha Singh’s sister (played by Divya Dutta) is raped by her husband. Not just the fact that it showed something that most mainstream films refuse to address, but the way how it is portrayed as well was commendable. Her husband is shown as otherwise “well mannered bloke” – not the evil mythical rapist that waits women in the dark alleys during nights (which is ignored by most people as rape is often committed by perpetrators who are close to the victim). Anyways, IHM has a blog post here with some good comments, which I would recommend reading.

Now back to the post. When I was casually browsing through one of the frequently visited film review blogs, I saw this comment over there:

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So apparently, the guy thinks it was a “sex scene” between her and her husband and showing it would “uncomfortable” to kids. Now I’m not blaming the guy, because he’s not the problem, he’s just the symptom of it. I have lost count of people who fail to understand the concept of marital rape and how wives can still be raped by their husbands.  I won’t get into the territory of movies where rapist marries the victim and it all gets fair and square in the end. Lumping any discussion regarding sex as vulgar is pretty convenient. But what is okay though, is the terrible objectification of women that’s being passed on as item song (the name says it all – where woman is considered an “item“), which has no relevance to the story, but mandatory to most movies these days. Promoting the worldview of woman being just a piece of flesh is perfectly fine, but oh no, god forbid let anyone see any healthy and extremely relevant portrayal of a heinous act on screen. This is not just limited to movies. People are perfectly fine with slut shaming women, but healthy discussion of sex or rape is not necessary at all. That’s all a given, as we are all enlightened beings already. There is no need for any “vulgar” discussions like that. That would be against our great culture and what not. Never go near the issues of misogyny, rape culture etc.

What we can do though, is get morally outraged when rapes are rampant and demand him to be hung or to be castrated. Our one sized solution for all problems. Why bother with all the hard part of having addressing the underlying problems at all?  Right fellas?

Sexism in Movies – Why do I care?

I have been planning to start this blog for ages, but time constraints have been holding me back a bit. Recently though, I have been quite religiously commenting on Baradwaj Rangan‘s (excellent) blog, mostly on Ranjhanaa, and my objection against glorification of stalking in the film. So just to be clear, I won’t be flogging that dead horse anymore, but I think I would like to (at least attempt to) put all my perspectives in a single blog post.

I am a passionate movie buff, to state the obvious. Movies are my obsession. I try and watch movies, time permitting – or else at least follow and keep track of reviews. Recently, in the light of Ranjhanaa and the blatant glorification of stalking, there have been a lot of interesting comments and polarized views on the topic.

The first question people ask is “why take it seriously?” – it’s after all a movie, right? Well that is where I would beg to differ. Movies influence people and our culture in general. I’m not implying that movies cause sexism, but it could play an important role in perpetrating it. This is especially problematic with movies, which are supposed to be emotionally connect with the audience or the masala movies, where hero ends up directly promoting sexism. One example I can think of is the slut shaming in the movie Vel, that I had alluded to briefly  in BR’s blog. The hero lectures the heroine and her friend about how women are exposing their bodies that only their husbands are supposed to see (and to make it more ridiculous, the women he was referring to weren’t exposing anything in the first place). This is worrying, especially since a majority of our population and fans who almost dedicate their lives watching and promoting their movies, would lap it up quite seriously.

Then there’s the second kind of films – which is otherwise quite well made, but still ends up glorifying misogyny. Raanjhanaa is of course one of the recent examples – but since that topic has been discussed to death, another film I felt such disconnect with due to such problematic elements was Cocktail. This was a more subtle case of the conservative ‘bhartiya nari’ winning the guy over rather than the “loose” girl (who attempts to transform herself into an obedient Indian bahu with learning to cook, pray and the whole deal) – although I will give them some credit for showing female bonding between the two lead pairs. This article by Rajashree Sen reflects my thoughts on the movie well.


Pyaar Ka Punchnaama: Women ain’t nothin’ but bitches and hoes

Then there are these eerily misogynistic set of films – like that abomination of a film called “Pyaar Ka Punchnaama”. Which again, was lapped up by the audience, and recommended to me personally by a lot of my (male) friends. I wouldn’t bother get into dissecting that one here.

That said, there are movies which attempt to show these from an independent perspective, which doesn’t end up glorifying sexism or abuse and intentionally portray the characters in gray shades. Those are not to be confused with the above films.

This is exactly why I think these movies should be dissected from an ethical point of view. It is worrying how sexist views are still part of mainstream cinema to varying degrees and still eludes most of the critics. This ranges from demonizing women’s sexuality to suggesting corrective physical violence against women who voice any kind of dissent. It’s ridiculous how the slightest bit of innocuous comment that might offend the religious sentiments is scrutinized, but oh no, we’re never supposed to discuss sexism, something that actually is so appallingly rampant in our society. Then we are back to “it’s just a film” mode.

That’s enough of my rant for now. More later.