Feminism

Feminism

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people , said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded defin...

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Feminist Movies, Anyone?

I just happened to watch two awesome woman-centric movies on two consecutive days, in the midst of trying to figure out Hindi movies which pass the Bechdel Test- an enterprise probably doomed to failure from the start. Right? I will write about one here and maybe a second post on the other one, later.

 The first movie is A Thousand Times Good Night.  Starring  Juliette Binoche , it portrays a woman who works as a photojournalist in conflict regions of the world. She's "driven" and often risks her life - both "male" traits. Visiting these areas of strife and violence, she repeatedly puts her life in danger, in search of the perfect shot. As a friend chides her in a later scene, its the adrenaline rush which keeps her motivated to do the job she does.

As an Indian, I'm used to seeing women as the primary caregivers to their children even when they have full time jobs outside the home - whether paid or unpaid. What struck me most in this movie was the gender role reversal and the ease with which the movie handles it. It seems the most natural thing in the world that one parent  should take care of the kids when the other parent is away - as this movie depicts. It's simply a coincident that the primary care giver parent here happens to be the father.

And ooh, what  a hot dad ! The hunk who plays dad is Nikolaj Coster-Waldu  I haven't come across him earlier but I believe Game of Thrones fanatics will recognize him.

As the movie unfolds we are drawn to its central theme - how Gretta ( the character played by Juliette) going away repeatedly to these conflict zones and coming back wounded, having been in situations where she's come close to losing her life- is a huge drain on her family.

When she returns, there's an emotional distance,specially between Gretta and her husband and with her older daughter.They are wary of becoming close again,  because she will be gone once more. As her husband tells her "you smell of death". He tells her, each time she's gone, they prepare for the worst.

All of which made me think of the awesome role reversal the movie offers. Almost all such movies where the person putting his life in danger is a man, and the person left holding the home front, is almost always a woman. I for one can't recall any other movie with such a role reversal. Can you?

Needless to say Julitte Binoche is ethereal and luminous as is the ocean, the most gorgeous backdrop of the movie where a lot of the movie is set.

There were parts of the movie which I found uncomfortable. Scenes such as Gretta shoving her camera into refugees' faces without their permission, because "the world needs to know" or the whole sequence ( suggestive of Afghanistan ) though it doesn't explicitly say so, of the woman suicide bomber. being a Muslim - tried and tested tropes all, very much part of the white saviour complex. Where would we be without the "civilizing" impact of white people? Sigh.

Yet, all this didn't dilute my thorough enjoyment of the movie. Go watch it if you can. If you already have, tell me about it.




Saturday, 14 February 2015

Postscript

Had I known better,
would I have  not held you closer -

let you breathe your own breaths 
not stolen with my tongue 
strips of yours, wet.

Had you not held me so close 
throbbing organs bursting forth, 
my rashes on your skin.

And before my day begins, 
I get to lie close to you-in my head
and bring you into my dreams

never having needed to flee, before,
from myself so secretively.

Would it have been easier, 
when I knew I had to, to let go ?


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Breakable

Fragile beings, we, each one.
In the constant struggle of everyday living,
we pack it away, this breakable self bubble wrapped,
safely - or so we think-
in the corner shelf,
behind the large jar of self esteem we've been hoarding in.

But it's glass after all.
A little crack,
and it all spills out,
in a gory mosaic.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Women only spaces aren't the answer

Yet again it's election time and once more women's safety is one of the issues being discussed, in the run up to the elections in Delhi. Happy as I am to see women being given some importance at last - if only in party manifestos, with promises of protection. Of course, no political party is prepared to concede half or even a third of it's seats to women candidates.

Once more the talk veers to " safety " the holy grail of a woman's existence. This talk conveniently ignores the fact that we live in a society underpinned by patriarchy, which celebrates and elevates machismo and toxic masculinity. This is the reason women are unsafe, not because they are born less strong.

The traditional wisdom of women's safety, usually centered around keeping women away from dangerous zones locked up at home has at least changed somewhat. ( Let's not even begin talking about what goes on inside the home, where the vast majority of indian women report facing the most abuse and violence. )

We have at least moved beyond that. However, "women only" spaces, whether public spaces or in public transport, are not the answer. By limiting women's access to public spaces we only pander to the fear psychosis. By limiting women's freedom we play right into the hands of patriarchy, supporting the idea of women as fragile creatures needing protection in order to be safe. 

Segregation based on gender only contributes to further the impression that women are different, less able, fragile even, almost a curiosity. A society where gender segregation is the norm and boys are encouraged to see girls as different, 'the other" gender roles become even more entrenched by encouraging separate spaces for women in public too. 

A profusion of cctvs as suggested by some, is not the answer either. Yes, the frequency of instances of assault that women face in public spaces is high. But the issue of privacy seems to have escaped most of those who advocate the use of cctvs to monitor attacks on women. What about the privacy of the victims? Do we trust such a large network of closely monitored surveillance in the hands of the government who would use it to what purposes, who knows? 
Would you feel safe knowing your every move was being tracked by a public eye ? Big brother is here; all hail Big Brother !