PINK Review: Are You Enlightened Or Just Entertained?

PINK Review: Are You Enlightened Or Just Entertained?

WARNING: Spoilers ahead but it doesn’t cause any real harm in this one. 

After a banality of clichéd content that managed to keep Bollywood on a rampant typicality and regular public in the theaters, came PINK that attempted to break the mold. With the name of Shoojit Sircar, and a just approach by the writer, Ritesh Shah, the audience FINALLY saw what us feminists have been yelling at the top of our voices for centuries. Yes, it took a mysterious training-mask wearing Amitabh Bachchan to tell the masses that “Dude, NO means NO!”

Don’t get my tone wrong, I loved the film just like you did. But let’s just give it one of those reality check reviews.

What’s for real?

First of all, no doubt, the storytelling deserves your love. A gripping and detailed tale of a hangout gone wrong takes you vehemently through the edges of three women’s attacked modesty and impeached personal lives before finally offering you a seat in the court where Bachchan sahab gives a lesson on consent.

You get a sense of that north Indian misogynistic rage  when the dudes plan to teach these girls a lesson. You can also feel the realism of harsh intimidation that the prosecutor (Piyush Mishra) puts to prove that the women are solicitors, by constantly shaming them from every angle possible. The performance of Piyush deserves a medal as he manages to make every one in the hall chew their seats with his arrogantly stuttered speech and wearing that vibe of an asshole that everyone has an out-of-the-belly hate for.

The irresistible outbursts of the three women at different times is something new. I’m sure dialogues like “Kisko accha lagta hai, koi is tareeke se chhue, zabardasti!” (Who likes to be touched in such a manner, forcefully) have never been echoed in the lanes of Bollywood before where stalking, harassing and assaulting are magical methods to successful courtship. The issue surrounding the lives of women are portrayed in a way that it questions every angle there is, to view it – A satisfying blow to the discrimination against north-eastern people living in Delhi will steal your heart and it’s probably the first tackle ever seen on the silver screen.  The film grabs  by the neck all the victim-blaming arguments of a patriarchal society and chokeslams it with blunt sarcasm, delivered by a weighty-voiced Amitabh Bachchan. You see how I keep coming back to our beloved Mr. Bachchan? Here is why.

 What’s not for real?

As I drooled over the heated cross-examinations and debates, that formed the core of this film, I couldn’t help but relate to what I and most of my feminist friends do on the social media regularly. It all felt like a hot debate comment thread we come across once in a while. Like the writer sat down with a couple of friends, divided the group into two teams- feminists & misogynists, shot up a nice and long comment thread and directed it on the screen.

The unrealistic props did not seem right when put under true circumstances. For example, a highly rational judge who never once took a victim blaming swing at the accused women, or a trial that lasted only a few sessions before giving a clear decision in favor of humanity. It’s not what happens. While the judiciary system remains a muddle of corruptions and compromises, women have to go through the most disgusting aspects of its so-called procedures. But I get it. It’s called drama for a reason. Alright, I will give you that. So, what did people learn?

Did they really take home the teachings of Amitabh? Or were they just there to see the good side beat the bad side? I am not the one to make presumptions but we live in a country where victim blaming nurtures within families as ‘Sanskaars‘ . Most of the uncle-aunties clapping over an on-your-face feminist counter just did not fit. There is a fair chance they would still go home and take the very same side (as shown in the film when the girl was being taken away to the police station) when something like this involves their children or known people. That’s where casting Amitabh felt important. Had it been a woman or an actual feminist speaking in his place, it’s very possible this brilliant idea would have ended up in  the trash. Business is important. Risks cannot be taken. It’s enlightenment all the way trying to infuse some rationality in feudal heads, but it’s boring to people until Bachchan sahab says it and makes it an entertaining piece, because who wants to get involved in feminism afterall. I remember chuckling inside when I could see everyone applauding and woo-hooing feminism. It was quite ironic, I wonder why they diss it otherwise.

The Indian audience thrive on emotional frenzies and a lot of it had to be injected into the film at certain points because if it were to be brutally put into an authentic setup, a quick positive victory is not what would have followed.  Not to mention the giggles and laughs around the hall when the women were being harassed and inculpated by the police officer and this is very mild in comparison to what happened with Aanchal Arora, when she went to watch the film in Allahabad.

Question is not whether or not you understand it – it’s fragmented beautifully into a very understandable explanation of what consent means. And the “safety manual for women” invented by Amitabh exposes the mindset of the people as well as the system. Question is whether you will allow yourself to follow it. Can you expect a fairer service of justice to the victims of abuse because now a majority knows what has been wrong with them all this time? Chances are rare. It should have been a film on the debate of consent but it looks like it became an Amitabh Bachchan film. Hopes are not high but appreciation is due since Shoojit Sircar is willing to pick on topics like these and delivering justice to them. Rest of the responsibility lies on us whether after watching a film that has strong feminist values, would we still go for the next one which reeks of pure misogyny?

There is no ‘pseudo-feminism’, there is only patriarchy

There is no ‘pseudo-feminism’, there is only patriarchy

“You can’t handle the truth!”, shouts a dreadful looking dead-eyed Jack Nicholson in the infamous court scene monologue of, ‘Few Good Men’. I remember watching it last night and drawing parallels to a feminist’s pursuit in this world full of Qs and As when something from the ‘trending’ cortex (or some brain parts) of my brain constrained me into writing this piece. This is about a new flash card ‘Pseudo-feminism’ being tossed around these days by some wolves hiding in sheep skin.

I knew I had observed it quite a few times within vents and debates bursting over random pictures by pages who often have hardons for feminists. But there are different connotations to how the term is being used and squandered and eventually, by the grace of logic, ending up in the trashcan. Here are the kinds I came across.

1.  I came across articles, posts, comments that were screaming “Hey welcome to patriarchy-land!” while putting up mansplained opinions, victim blaming “advices” and latent sexism encrypted with sentences like “I support feminism but..” or “I’m for gender equality but you have to understand that..”.

2. I recalled a woman being booed as a pseudo-feminist by a group of “life-enjoying” marmalades after she angrily called out the sexism in a “funny” post. We have all been witnesses to this scenario as it happens all around the social media, in fact there are pages dedicated to defy the movement as a wrong attempt towards gender equality.

As much as we’re all familiar with the intention of placing the word ‘pseudo’ before any other word to describe a hoodwinking pretender, we’re also bound to overlook it as nothing but a precise representation of the opposition.  Such is the case with feminism. When a person is being what folks call a “pseudo-feminist”, he/she is being patriarchal and not a dysfunctional follower of feminism. There, I said it. After overgrazing on a series of brain pickings and internet boo-hoos these people are  just trying to portray their same old outlooks that are strictly patriarchal but coated with vanilla icing and crushed Oreos. That also marshals together all those “progressive” filmmakers creating deceivingly strong female characters, those TV Ads showing an overenthusiastic back-patting husband cooking on a Sunday morning to surprise his wife, those clickbait Menxps on social media with one article about “why men need to embrace feminism” while the other reading “10 reasons how women have ruined it”. Well, here are a million reasons why this receptacle of media reptiles do not deserve even to be seen around the word feminism, let alone a ‘pseudo’. This is patriarchy in the modish structure- patriarchy in jeans and goggles.

Even when it comes to forums like the Femitheist divine which is publicly illustrated as a clear pseudo-feminist by the urban dictionary, there is no notion as to what parts of feminism are wrongly described but the absence of what feminism actually is (In fact, the owner of the page herself claims, she is far away from being called a feminist, in her bio).  That’s really all there is to the term because it makes zilch sense when put under introspection of a rational mind. We don’t need it!

But let’s  give it a fair chance, everybody deserves it right? I’m in a good mood. Let the words fly around, let people use it to push their inherited social justice lexicons, let them use it to set differences and point out the logical fallacies that exist even in renowned feminists. Let them evolve discussions.

Hold on! what! What is that? Did that guy just use, pseudo-feminists and feminazis in one sentence? That joker face Sheldon on Facebook who claims to be sarcastic but spews everything other than sarcasm? Oh again! Look, another guy just dissed this woman condemning her tone of voice WHILST talking about feminism. You know how that sounds right? Allow me lay it out for you in points (Teacher ne kaha hai point me likhoge toh zyada marks milenge)

Here is what you must have heard:


“Oh, I know your gender has endured centuries of physical and mental torture, but I didn’t like the tone of your voice right now, it’s not feminism, it’s pseudo-fewmewniwsm”

Yes, it sounds exactly like it reads. There are these well-brought sahibzadas who have been showered their whole lives with rose petals of male privilege and will ask you to lower your voice because it’s them you’re speaking to, albeit it’s about how you got sexually assaulted. They will search their big bag of classiest vocabulary, clinch on the term pseudo feminist and fly-kiss it to you just like the Bollywood heroes used to do in the 90s while stalking their college crushes. Ugh. Sometimes, women unaware of something called ‘tone-policing’ do give up and confusingly admit they might have been talking over their voices, which is even worse.

 

Image by AIB
Image by AIB

i support

 

Here is the second genius-

“You’re such a pseudo-feminist. You should be caring about the women in middle-east, or women who get raped on a daily basis in poor countries, African women. You just care about burning bras and workplace sexism, seriously grow up. Third wave is such a wannabe.”

What you read above is not a concern, it’s boredom. This person is actually setting a bar within the facets of oppression, as to which one is more thrilling so he can, not care about it because he does live in a first world country,  derail the movement by deceiving people in their own fights before disappearing into the imperceptive clouds of prerogative comforts where he can continue harassing his female co-workers, because if he doesn’t see the wrong in it, he probably does it too.

 

 

Image by Feminist Bollywood GIFs
Image by Feminist Bollywood GIFs

Saying no more I will allow this cut-throat tumblr screenshot to take the stage –

14055130_1156379344407591_279124993617679257_n                                  *mic drop*

There is a third one which often goes on targeting feminists as ‘pseudos’ who try to care about women wanting to exert their religious norms like wearing hijabs or entering worship places. The argument calls out the hypocrisy as to why would a feminist help someone fighting to conform to a role devised by the patriarchy. Well, there is a reason why feminists do that. When you imagine a desolated refugee woman walking down the street of a first world country, already scared to her toes and still traumatizing of the horror she escaped, harassing her on the street for wearing a burqa won’t do any good, right? When it comes to controlling what women wear, burqa would probably win a gold medal and there is no doubt in its wrongness but why not let her decide what she wants, how about giving her some time and space to, I don’t know, understand this new world she has been denied of all this while? 

Another one  down the drain.

There could be numerous reasons as to why atrocities against women aren’t taken seriously, like patriarchy, patriarchy, or patriarchy maybe? But there is also a more appalling glitch these  privileged bummers try to play out when they deliberately collude feminism as pseudo-feminism, trying to save guess what? Yes, you got it, patriarchy! It’s a maze embedded into knotted paths finally revealing to one single opening.

Putting it another way, behind ever Brock Turner getting released after doing half of his baby-time in prison for raping a woman, is a group of obnoxious plantheads shrieking “pseudo-feminism” and “feminazis” to degrade the significance of women’s issues in order to support a baseless sexist meme. Yes, it all sums up and if you are one of those “but how can a joke help increase rape” people, you’re a part of it too.

The story of this infant term ‘pseudo feminist’ trying to get a life around here is not a happy one. It ended up getting involved with the thugs and cool-dudes of patriarchy, completely forgetting its purpose and now it’s not entailed. If it takes a feminist to set a breakthrough in these obdurate lives of women, it also takes a feminist to care about issues circling the male gender. But when you “pseudo” the everlasting movement of struggle to fit your farcical beliefs & arguments you’re just making Colonel Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson)’s case stronger-

 

Jack Nicholson in 'Few Good Men'
Jack Nicholson in ‘A few good men’

When Bigotry Impedes Mental Healthcare

When Bigotry Impedes Mental Healthcare

According to Dr. Mathew Varghese, professor and head of psychiatry at NIMHANS, there are about 4000 psychiatrists, 1000 psychologists and 3000 mental health social workers in India. This stark inadequacy, given the population of this country, is compounded by the widespread social stigma attached to mental health, both acting together to prevent individuals from accessing the care they need. As if these were not enough, we have to contend with yet another obstacle that embraces a bigoted attitude of mental health professionals towards sexual and gender minorities- women and members of other marginalised groups.

It’s time we talk about this unnerving situation where a therapist denies treatment to a person or shames them for having contradictory views about society or politics, gender roles, identities, or normative sexual orientations. Such prejudice targets many marginalised communities, and continues to take a big toll on LGBTQIA+ people as well as on (cis, heterosexual) women.  Shockingly, none of these occurrences of blatant discrimination get reported in the media and there lies no way to report them.

The recently passed Mental Health Care Bill induces an element of hope. Clause 21(1)(a) states, “there shall be no discrimination on any basis including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability”. But the hassle still remains as to which group of professionals are or aren’t prejudiced and how one evaluates that, because it shouldn’t be on the expense of a further deteriorating mental health of the person in question.

Pervasive prejudice among healthcare continues to target patients based on caste. For instance, a survey on untouchability in rural India found that Dalits in over 21% of villages were restricted from entering private medical care centers. Dalit women in parts of Uttar Pradesh were barred from receiving health care during pregnancy. A concern for mental health sounds too much of a far-fetched approach when basic medical provisions are in denial to the community. Given this scenario, it seems hardly surprising that sexual orientation and gender would be exempt from discrimination.

Homophobia, transphobia, sexism and misogyny are worldwide phenomena. However, they seem most vicious in societies and communities bound by religious beliefs and traditions that fiercely uphold the patriarchal norm, and dismiss any alternate way of life. This is by no means restricted to India. In August 2016, the Governor of the state of Tennessee (U.S) passed a bill allowing therapists to deny therapy to individuals from the LGBTQ communities. This bill is part of a wave of bigoted legislation across the US that seeks to institutionalise discrimination against LGBT people, such as  North Carolina’s Bathroom Bill.

Guidelines such as those of the American Psychological Association (APA) for psychological practice with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients, adopted in 2011, lay down best practices based on clinical research and practice.

13020443_1048099541933394_1934645738_n

(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Despite the availability of such guidelines, and studies that have resulted in a growing body of evidence suggesting LGBT youth are at higher risk for major depression, generalised anxiety disorder, substance abuse, suicidal behavior, sexual risk taking, and poor general health care than their heterosexual counterparts, mental healthcare providers in India and elsewhere treat homosexuality and bisexuality as pathological conditions to be “cured” [see work by Vinay Chandran and Arvind Narrain, and Ketki Ranade]

A friend says: “ I was talking about my nightmares to my therapist and while in the middle of that I accidentally told him that I am a bisexual and out of nowhere he just slapped me and asked me to go away. The incident did make me badly depressed, took a toll on my health and everything. I already have ADD and OCD and that’s what I was seeing the therapist for. So the depression just doubled from there and although now I have overcome it slightly, it still keeps on running in my head.” – Vinay (Name changed)

Such prejudice on the part of mental health professionals is not restricted to just LGBT people. Heterosexual women are subjected to a barrage of “suggestions” and “treatment methods” that are polluted by the system of patriarchy. Those seeking professional help for issues such as depression get pathologized if they do not choose to live “by the rules”. Women are slut-shamed, body-shamed, victim-blamed and coerced to conform to traditional “Indian values”. Such treatment, besides being grossly unethical, ends up vitiating the depression one has already been caged in.

black-and-white-black-hair-depressed-girl-hurt-favim

Carelessness can also be observed. Being told to look at the less fortunate lives to overcome the ongoing depression or propagating religiosity as treatment to surpass stress are some of such widely performed ill treatments. These heart rending experiences by two women speak for themselves –

“I have borderline personality disorder. Got diagnosed at a very young age and was taken to several psychologists and psychiatrists. While some gave me heavy doses of medication without hearing me out properly, others gave me huge lectures on morality about how my lifestyle and opinions are very wrong for a ‘girl’ and how I am difficult and should be more passive. I had been in an abusive relationship for a long time and my previous psychologists slut-shamed me for having sex with that person out of marriage and kept calling me a “psychotic” all the time” – Shruti (Name changed)

“My first psychiatrist told my parents that being 24 years old, I should have been married by now and have started a family of my own as my unmarried status was the root of my depression. He ignored when I said that I’ve very low emotional quotient and it’s very difficult for me to recognize feelings. The second one repeatedly kept asking if there was violence at home and how do I know that I get anxiety attacks. He mocked me in every session. When I informed him about the side effects I have been having from the prescribed drugs, he asked me not to blame the drugs. I then refused to respond to his queries. Finally, he rudely asked me and my parents to leave.” – Priyanka (Name changed)

While minorities in India are still fighting for basic human rights, access to unstigmatized mental health care has become a very significant part of social justice.  NGOs and community collectives working on feminist, LGBTIQ* or caste issues can advocate with mental health professionals to generate this much needed flexibility and open-mindedness.

middle aged woman talking to psychologist

More broadly, Indian therapists must learn to work non-judgmentally with clients whose social, cultural, political, sexual and religious views may diverge widely from their own. Having biased professionals in the field not only impacts provision of much-needed quality mental health care but also impedes the ongoing battle for social justice.

Knowledge, sensitivity and a rational attitude towards the client’s personal issues are essential. There is a dire need to include minority, feminist and LGBTQ* issues within academic courses and training. These should comprise of detailed and culturally relevant content on how minority stress and institutionalized prejudice impact women, lower castes, LGBTQ*, and other excluded groups.

LGBT-affirmative psychotherapy has been a tremendous step in helping LGBT clients accept their sexual orientation and/or gender identity Practiced mostly in the west this acceptance is a must for the regular Indian therapists. Donald Clark, the first openly homosexual psychologist, says the following in one of his extended interviews:

“Gay people do not grow up in gay families. The vast majority of the time, they do not have any support around who they are. There is nothing comparable in the human experience. It is as if the gay child is the result of having an egg from outer space planted in the uterus of the mother.There is nothing comparable in the human experience. It is as if the gay child is the result of having an egg from outer space planted in the uterus of the mother”

On a similar note, Feminist therapy has its roots in the interventions by women psychotherapists during the U.S. feminist movement of the 1960s. Such feminist therapeutic approaches  also need to be adapted for the Indian cultural context.

When bigotry impedes psychological therapy and other mental healthcare provisions, it not only worsens the condition of the patient but also holds back humanity as a whole. In a country where privilege becomes a persona, we are asking for an affordable and accessible mental health care for those in need and it is demanding a separate streak of struggle. It’s high time to appear concerned for there remains a limited time to fix such quandaries.

A version of this article has appeared on Nirmukta and Orinam.

Films and Feminism: The Melange of Progress.

Films and Feminism: The Melange of Progress.

The world had just stepped into the 20th century when Alice Guy-Blaché released ‘The consequences of feminism’ in 1906 which became the first ever movie to lay out an honest depiction of a rather reversed patriarchy where women were envisioned to roam freely in the society enjoying leisure activities while their male counterparts were demoted to child-rearing and household jobs. This daring portrayal despite being a menace in such an era marked the very beginning of a sub-revolution for women filmmakers and directors who are still grappling to raise their heads up in this highly male dominated field of art. The strong trail of the first women filmmakers putting their foot down then began with Lois Weber and Dorothy Arzner in the US, Tazuko Sakane in Japan, Germaine Dulac in Europe and finally Fatma Begum in India, who started her own production company and directed ‘Bulbule Paristan’, in 1926.

It is 2016 now. The skyscrapers are up, technology is on fire, people have urbanized; but subjection still lurks, perhaps in a more modernized approach. Yes, the one where humor wins. It’s incredibly irksome to note that filmmaking while being considered a much liberating field of work hasn’t been able to emancipate itself from the dirt of sexism and misogyny and there are various connotative descriptions, incidents, anecdotes and cases to prove that. Incidents are small and casual, but provoke a larger pressure and you’ll be astonished to know there exists a tumblr page just for blogging these which goes by the nameShit People Say To Women Directors.

One of the many posts on this page reads:

I was at a film festival fundraiser in LA with my husband and we were talking with a few people about the film we were working on together. Some random guy joins and derails the conversation, and then turns his sights on me. “You,” he says. “I’m really good at guessing people’s jobs in this industry. You’re a makeup artist!” I reply, “While that’s a completely legit job, it’s not mine. I’m a documentary Director and Editor. But thanks for assuming!”

The quotation above can provide you a glance to how, in a so called modish societal worldview, such offhand attempts to degrade the already oppressed gender still exist in a particular workplace.

A recent study on gender inequality in Hollywood conducted at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism brought into limelight the initial disadvantages women directors have to face from the start of their careers. The study found that women represent 28% of the directors of narrative shorts. “Female film directors face a fiscal cliff in their careers after making a short film,” noted smith, one of the researchers. “For males opportunities grow, while for females, they vanish.” In the period of 2002 to 2014, female-directed movies comprised just 4.1% of the total top-grossing movies.

Now, let’s take a few steps back into an even darker demographic state where people cling so tight to the tag of “Bharatiya Nari” but fail to provide women even the basic sense of respect or dispensation. Filmmaking in India for women is one of the most arduous decisions taken as a career choice because of an established patriarchy that hasn’t left a single area uninfected. The problem here doesn’t even begin with workplace sexism but starts right from the beginning when a female student in her early twenties aspires to pursue a career in films, because here we hardly consider girls to even see a career, let alone moviemaking. A lot of such dreams are crushed; some manage to not give up and grow out like a tuft of grass from a crack in the rock, only to later find themselves surrounded by sexist decision-makings and misogynistic set ups offered by the film industry.

Starting from the prominence of directors like Fatma Begum and Arundhati Debi to the contemporary stardom of Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta, India has produced some of the most influential film artists till date and it is quite natural that each one of them carries an invisible weight of oppression they underwent to emerge in their careers. Another issue is the lack of takers of women directors in making larger feature films. While a few possess the economic privilege to venture out of the country and carry on with the production, the hassles stand adamant for the ones still living in India trying to alter their lives and the world with their movies. Deepa Mehta while making the ‘Elements Trilogy’, which was wholly based on the oppressive traditions of Indian culture, had to face numerous objections from religious organizations and wasn’t allowed to direct it within the country until she finally decided to shoot it in Sri Lanka. This is just the tip of the iceberg and we know of it because it was in the news at that time. Think about the ones, we don’t get to hear of, the ones that take place behind closed doors, the ones that some women in the industry- actors, directors, cinematographers, keep buried in their selves fearing the unsavory prudence of the society.

The denotation of sexism in earlier times was characterized by blunt confrontations and straightforwardness of male oppression, now it has been transformed into a milder structure of self-righteousness and casual humor, the idea behind it still speaks the same and harms even more because it comes as an indirect blow to the achievements of women, even among filmmakers. It’s not just about the directors and writers, but other jobs such as cinematography are often seen more of a masculine worthy area of work and the case of Priya Seth, the much appreciated cinematographer of a recent Bollywood movie ‘Airlift’ is a serious illustration to this fact. In a recent chat with Vegabomb she said:

The opportunities are fewer because you’re judged already right at the beginning on the basis of gender. I don’t understand what a ‘physical film’ means! I don’t understand why a man can shoot this and I can’t.

The quotation above can be tethered to a comment by a reviewer who casually expressed his surprise towards a cinematographer ending up being a woman. The critic tried to make an appreciative statement, but went off-road formulating a pre-conceived and generalized assumption, making it sound like benevolent sexism and then entered-yes you guessed it- feminism-bashing.

                                             “Dude, she is a feminist, so be careful.”

This widely used sentence has a significant place in maintaining the base of gender inequality in India. The reason this phrase is included here is because things are no different for women who dare to call out sexism and misogyny in the filmmaking business. The moment Priya Seth gave her statement about the gender bias, the anti-feminist brigade spun out from all corners with their “respectful” language and gestures and “#notallmen” flashcards trying to discern how we all should just take a break. Another setback that flows around the filmmaking community is the assumption that women don’t really mind “minor issues” very much and a case of copyright violations filed by Jyoti Kapoor against Kunal Kohli is a screaming example of it which a lot of us missed when it first came in sight. Quoting from a detailed description by the TOI :

Jyoti’s ordeal began when her agent emailed her script to Kunal. He met her and they discussed money and credit. She wanted top billing since she had given him a bound, 90-page script. But Kunal wanted certain changes and wanted to buy the script without giving any credit to her. The deal fell through…..
….Kunal has been asked to withdraw the defamation case against Jyoti. He has called her names in the media like ‘extortionist’ and ‘publicity hungry’.

Because, since it’s a woman you are talking about here, she won’t really mind it, nor does the whole scenario require much attention. Wrong! It does, because one doesn’t need a history lecture to comprehend a trail of cases and incidents where women are shunned and shushed indirectly for speaking up against the system and living in this fear a lot of them do not actually open up.

When it comes to the recent efforts in breaking the barriers, the name of Jennifer Siebel Newsom comes to mind, a feminist director who wrote and documented the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence and challenged the limited and often disparaging portrayals of women in media in her film, ‘Miss Representation’. Featuring a group of influential women like Gloria Steinem, Nancy Pelosi and Condoleezza Rice, Jennifer not only exposed the sexualized objectification of women in mainstream advertisements but also highlighted the unending stream of machismos faced by female politicians like Hilary Clinton- The kind where females are often interpreted as “complaining” while males tend to “state their opinion”.

 

When I started the film I wanted to make a feel-good film, but I could not. In a way I feel bad about it, but I felt like it would be good to share a real story. When you take the story to the people there can be discussion. Importantly, I want to talk about something. I wanted to do this film also because it challenged my own notions as a feminist from an urban area.

— Director Nishtha Jain on her film ‘Gulab Gang’. (Full Interview here )

Nishtha is one of those few Indian feminist movie directors who decided to capture the rural theme and did a wonderful job by featuring the infamous group of women (Gulabi Gang) at Bundelkhand led by Sampat Pal Devi, revolting against patriarchy and caste oppression in the most conservative locations of India. Such influential movies and their independent makers usually go inconspicuous in the rabble of “enjoyably” sexist comedies and regressive thought-clinginess of the general public. Nisha Pahuja, Anjali Menon, Ajita Suchitra Veera, Sonali Gulati. These are some of the names you might not have heard of on a very regular basis, obviously not as much as you have heard of the male directors but when you watch their films which have touched a sea of festivals around the world, you can feel the immensity of their talent, their passion and the message they attempt to send out with their films and workability and there is a website on the internet that is helping this happen.

Women Making Films founded by Vaishnavi Sundar is a recently launched website dedicated to establishing an appreciable connectivity among women filmmakers within India as well as the world. Vaishnavi herself being an emerging young director/writer and a strong feminist decided to create a forum organize an online campus for the promotion of filmmakers, their works, blogs, workshops and mentorship programs for everyone including those who are passionate to pursue filmmaking. On the Facebook page, you can find daily featured posts capturing women artists from all over the world along with their achievements and stories. Vaishnavi has written and directed three major films to this date under her own company Lime Soda Films , one of which attained the fame of becoming India’s first ever documentary on fossils.

We have walked into a new yet strange world of complex upshots in which we are bound to doubt the fidelity of progress because of the rigidly existing vicious circle of wrongness, discrimination and tyranny hidden in laughs, adjustments and teasing. Every time a woman marks a peak in her career, be it art, science or sports, it is seen as a revolutionary move but the very same crowd that appreciates it also undermines it in the sense that it is this gender who did that, the gender that wasn’t expected to and the gender that usually is supposed to be regulated by our system. We try to arrange chunks of great progressive achievements by women in filmmaking but we are also very keen to see the world get rid of measures and actions formulated to stand against oppression that we have been overlooking all this time and which is still there, hiding.

Feminism and Filmmaking, when combined forms an intense duo because both of them sustain the propensity to bring change in the society and the names mentioned above are just the dawn of it. Appreciation, recognition and consideration have helped and will help but to get this artistic field liberated from the chains of patriarchy, the base needs to be shaken. A necessity of more forums like the Women Making Movies (USA) and Women Making Films (India) still stays determined in order to strengthen the solidarity of women in media and to glorify this aesthetic subculture of womanism and celluloid because as Edgar Degas put it,

                      “Art is not what you see but what you make others see”

Note: This article was originally posted on – http://nirmukta.com/2016/02/25/films-and-feminism-the-melange-of-progress/