Bollywood: Sexism at its Best

Gender inequality isn’t a women’s issue, it is a human issue that needs to be taken more seriously. Indian Cinema has had a tremendous impact on our society, more than any other art form, ever. And yet, we chose to ignore the discrimination the media industry has been doing over the years. Movies mirror (with creative liberties) the problems, issues, thinking & perception of the contemporary society. Therefore, it is believed that movies could act as the proxy to understand how prevalent gender bias and stereotypes are in any society. Last year, IBM and two New Delhi-based institutions released a public study of over 4,000 Bollywood(the world’s second-largest film industry, churning out over 1,700 films annually) films that looked into the disparities between their male and female characters. The findings were notable. In an average plot summary, male characters are mentioned twice as much female characters. The gender stereotypes are even more glaring when it comes to occupations. Female characters are stuck with being teachers, nurses or secretaries. Women also have to deal with getting molested a lot in Bollywood films, according to the data.

Sexism runs deeper than just the roles portrayed by women on screen. Sexism runs deeper than simply the parts and characters played any females on screen. Bollywood has a culture of pairing older male legends next to young new females in the industry, as male stars are unwilling to resign and play more established characters. In the interim, female performing artists are required to assume the part of a mother or grandma the minute they reach 35. This has brought about unmistakable age contrasts between co-on-screen characters. According to a study, the age contrast between co-stars in Bollywood has expanded from a few years to more than 25 in the previous decade.

There is no country on earth where women earn as much as men for an equivalent work, in line with the World Economic Forum. It predicts the worldwide gender pay inequality might take up to one hundred seventy years to close. The pay data for the Republic of India is no different. Sonam Kapoor has always been vocal about the disparity in pay between male and female actors. Though the gap in India has decreased slightly from 2014 to 2015. As per the Monster Salary Index 2016, women still make 25% less than men, and as many as 68.5% of women in Indian workforce feel they have been victims to wage inequality.

For the past few years, the deliberation around women in Bollywood has intensified, because of leading female actors like Kangana Ranaut, Anushka Sharma, Vidya Balan, Priyanka Chopra and Sonam Kapoor raising their voices against sexism. Anushka spoke to the media about an instance where the better hotel room was given to the male actor because he was the more ‘popular’ star. During an interview with NDTV, Priyanka brought to light how she refused to sign a ‘no-pregnancy’ clause for a film contract and how ambitious men and women are looked at with different lenses in the industry. Meanwhile, Kangana, who is known to be very vocal about her opinions on scripts and direction, has been subjected to verbal insults for her honesty and has earned a reputation in the media for being a “loudmouth.”

Reese Witherspoon at Glamour’s 2015 Women of the Year Awards said “I dread reading scripts that have no women involved in their creation because inevitably I get to that part where the girl turns to the guy, and she says, “What do we do now?!” Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do? I mean, don’t they tell people in crisis, even children, “If you’re in trouble, talk to a woman.” It’s ridiculous that a woman wouldn’t know what to do.” and sadly, the same trend continues in Indian cinema as well. Bollywood is largely dominated by powerful film families that have engaged in filmmaking for generations. This has led to wide-ranging nepotism and lesser opportunities for new talent to make a mark and create change in the industry. According to a 2017 report by the Geena Davis Institute, only 1 in 10 directors in Bollywood are women. The number of women directors, producers and scriptwriters are way less than it ought to be, which means that even though we have a few occasional movies like “Neerja”, “Pink” and “Lipstick Under My Burkha”, women-centric cinema is yet to see a breakthrough. We need more and more women directors, screenwriters, camerapersons, producers who can present the stories of their gender with much more specifics and subtleties, in a way that male directors can never do.

The chances are if a man had directed Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot may have never landed her career-defining role because the director might not have been convinced by the physical attributes. Director Patty Jenkins knew what she wanted in her Wonder Woman. Even men with great noble intentions, fall short when it comes to capturing the little details that make a huge difference and leaves everlasting impressions. We need more women, who understand that if you want something to get done, you should get it done yourself.

From better dialogues, better songs to better roles in scripts and better pay, females deserve to be paid and recognised for their work just like their male counterparts. It won’t be absolutely wrong to say that the responsibility lies with women themselves too, to exercise a right over their body and not allow any kind of sexualisation. We have smarter and stronger women in Indian cinema today. They should put their foot down and demand changes in scripts and situations that make them uncomfortable.

Picture Credits : Filmcompanion

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