Written by Samaira Aima, a grade 11 student.
Sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex. It is a socio-cultural and psychological construct that has been existing for ages.
The role of the media
The popular media, as a mode of influencing public mindset and opinion, is also inflicted by sexism. Over the years, Indian cinema has glossed over misogyny and normalized the objectification of women through romance and happy endings.
India is a country where crimes and violence against women are always high, so much so that the capital city of the country is also the “rape capital.” Despite this, entertainment industry productions continue to show that objectifying a woman or abusing her, goes hand in hand with love.
Our films and television shows perpetuate the idea that stalking or abusing women is okay if you “love” them, that women say “no” when they usually mean “yes,” and that consent is a “myth.”
Films such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Darr, Anjaam, Tere Naam, Wanted, and many others, have normalized stalking, sexual harassment, and assault to the point that love has become synonymous with such behavior among the youth.
Over the years Indian cinema has given us a taste of every possible genre. The “mostly helpless” situations, where women are afraid to take an important step without the shadow of a male figure, or even unable to speak up against abuse; the uncomfortable item numbers that see millions of hits and views (by men and women), where a woman is portrayed as an object of great allure.
“Ek hath mein girlfriend, ek hath mein trophy”- this dialogue from the hit 2019 movie, Student of the year, part 2, considers a woman to be secondary, insignificant, and disposable by comparing her to a trophy. The movie “Kabir Singh” represents toxic masculinity at its worst where the main protagonist angrily tells a man, “Woh Meri Bandi Hai” even before he had even spoken to his so-called “prisoner.”
The icing on the cake are the item songs that commodify women, their body parts, and their value. As soon as the song “ Gandi Baat” is played people groove to its signature step. But how many times did they realize that the song romanticizes harassment? Undoubtedly, “Gandi Baat” refers to “non-consensual sexual advancements” otherwise known as harassment. This popular song by Mika Singh and Kalpana Patowary normalizes harassment as a way to convince a woman to fall in love with a man. This song depicts the grim reality of today where women face harassment, threats, and even death just because they dare to own their consent and choice and say “NO.” Such a serious concern is not something to be mocked and danced upon!
The song “BUZZ” sung by Badshah and Aastha Gill has a line “Jahan se hona chahiye wahi se hai tu thick”. The line alone depicts how sexist the song is. The song features a woman enticed by a man and who expresses her love and attraction for him and the man appreciates the woman’s “just right” body and proudly announces how toxic he is and is certainly going to break her heart. This song clearly valorizes a toxic man. But why should the toxicity of a man be praised, so much that a song is written about it, rather than asking him to respect women and treat them as equals?
The only way to abolish sexism from being portrayed in the popular media is to abolish it from the common mindsets, where the popular visual media play a crucial role. Though the productions of the entertainment industry have seen a positive shift, the portrayal of internalized misogyny continues. We must all recognize that any form of violence or demeaning behavior directed towards women is unacceptable.