#Personal Stories

Under The Microscope: Demons or Women?

women self worth
One of these mornings, a notification popped up on my screen. Once again, quite unsurprisingly, netizens had spewed insurmountable amounts of hate speech towards Rhea Chakraborty, the Indian Actress, for topping the ‘The Times Top 50 Most Desirable Women 2020’. Women self worth

We are all well aware of the tight spot she has been in since the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, the Indian Actor, in June 2020. All of a sudden, with the media going into a state of frenzy, she found herself placed under a microscope, under an excessively and disproportionately harsh scrutiny of her previous relationship with him and somehow, her career and her self-worth.

At the first glance, the feasible explanation seems to be the worse side of human nature, blindly looking for a person to lay bare their suspicions. Who was to blame? How did all this come to happen? Was it death by suicide? Innumerable questions and an ongoing search for answers, had landed the spotlight right at her. She was questioned, belittled, vilified by almost every news agency out there, while being caught in the crossfire between states, agencies, departments, and shrewd politicians.

If this doesn’t ring a bell, then you most probably be living under a rock,  because where has such extensive news coverage failed to reach? However, this article will not talk about the finer details of the investigation, whether she is innocent/guilty or whether this was all a huge scramble for publicity by the involved parties.

Casual Demonisation of Women?

Let’s take a step back and put the history of our own media, literature and movies under the microscope. Women, for generations, have been the subject to casual demonisation, being morally policed with negative stereotypical constructs and tools like ‘homewrecker’, ‘seductress’, ‘witch’, basically the perfect antagonist. For example, our very own Indian daily soaps.

The constant portrayal of the daughter-in-law versus the mother-in-law dynamic has promoted the school of thought that these two key figures in a family setup are always plotting to control the men in their lives.

The daughter-in-law ‘seduces’ her husband to be inclined her way, while on the other hand, the wily mother relies on her maternal love to ‘help’ her son realise that his wife is simply trying to drive a wedge between them. Between the disdain for each other and their ‘tactics’, the man is painted as a ‘victim’ of their follies, as if he himself were a neutral shade pulled out of a colour book.

Strangely, he is shown as an impressionable block of clay, although he has a fully developed mental & emotional state and is accountable for his own decisions. This skewed narrative of men’s decisions being one hundred percent controlled by the women of their lives, has also led to massive public demonisation, particularly in context of celebrity relationships and breakups. Typically, the girlfriend, or the ex-girlfriend is ostracised for bringing about a ‘negative change’ in the behaviour of the boyfriend, or for causing him to break up with his previous partner, or for trying to ‘poison’ him against his family.

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While I’m not saying that all women are right, but when they are labelled as ‘home-wrecker’, ‘the other woman’, accused of ‘stealing’ the man from his previous partner, the angle of the ‘cheating’ man is conveniently neglected. We forget that the man is not just out of his cradle and has full control over his own actions. By painting the woman as the driving force behind ugly decisions, we are thus simply absolving the man of his individual mistakes and normalising not taking responsibility.

There are endless examples like Meghan Markle and Prince Harry; where Meghan had been called ‘the older divorced woman’, hunted by tabloids, and blamed for their mutual decision to step back from their royal duties. If this wasn’t enough, the utterly misogynistic wife-controlling-husband jokes on ‘WhatsApp University’ fan the flames of demonisation to another level. This is even more so in the case of bold, powerful women. When these women speak their mind, breaking the stereotype of the ‘innocent, shy, feminine’ woman, they are termed as aggressive and dismissed as unfriendly. This not only compounds this issue but also hinders their ability to develop meaningful relationships in and outside workplaces.

Learn to Unlearn?

It can be safely concluded that the treatment meted out to Rhea Chakraborty, is not an isolated incident. It is just one drop, one strand in the evolving pattern of casual demonisation, which has unfortunately become a part of today’s culture. Growing up in such an environment can sometimes cause us to pick up the wrong values and learn inappropriate behaviour. What can we do, you ask? Learn to Unlearn. Learn that such demonising behaviour is problematic because it puts undue burden on women.

Whenever you feel, there is wrongful, casual demonisation of the women in your lives, speak up, support them, and educate others around you. Because, in the end, they’re not demons but actual humans, with feelings, emotions, and a heart that is not looking for a dramatic plot. For all the women out there, quoting these inspirational lines!

You may write me down in history,
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod in the very dirt
But still like dust, I’ll rise …
You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise …
– ” Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

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