Films like Erin Brockovich, Little Women, Lady Bird and even Marriage Story among so many, spark thought and create conversation about women's social status and female experience.
It is important that there is a difference between feminism and equal female representation and one must not outweigh the other, even in films. What we can call a film feminist does not have to portray a female protagonist always. The film must enlighten, inculcate feminist values and speak against patriarchy and anything that can hurt women in the long run.
Short Films Address Social Problems: Counting on Girls' Education
'&t=79s">Counting on Girls' Education' a short animation film by Sadbhavana Trust and Chambal Media, says, “The policies made for girls appear simple, but the more you understand these policies, the more they will resemble a puzzle.” From a 2002 World Bank report discussing the problem of child marriage in India, Brazil and Bangladesh to investigating the number of girls in India who are married underage, the short film seeks to communicate that in order to talk about the missing parts of the “puzzle” revolving around girl’s education, one needs to talk about the girl herself. The film discusses domestic violence, how it affects a child’s mind and heart, how stalking, catcalling and harassment - reduce a girl’s resilience - how policymakers discount these inhibitions. While focusing on a girl’s future is important, it is also of utter importance that we address the present hinders she faces while growing up. Questioning the “neo-liberal” broader spectrum of women's empowerment, the film discusses the realities of conflicts a girl encounters every day, how much vigilance she requires to fight them, and how policymakers ignore the deep-seated patriarchal problems of domestic violence, broken homes, girls dropping out of schools.
One of the most significant means of empowering an individual or a community is education. Since its independence, India has accepted many paths and strategies for national, social, economic and political development. Going to the 2011 Census, the increase in female literacy rate was 3.15 per cent more compared to the male literacy rate. The gap between the genders still exists. Women have been lagging from the beginning in terms of literacy rate and educational activities. Factors including gender discrimination and exploitation, occupation of girl children in domestic chores, low enrollment of girl children in schools, and the high dropout rate among girls - have been responsible for inhibiting a woman’s literacy. Films reflected the same thing.
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At the elementary and secondary level, girls’ enrolment rate has decreased from 2012 to 2015, but girls’ gross enrolment ratio has increased at higher education level from 2012 to 2015, says Sanjukta Sahoo in her 2016 work, Girls’ Education in India: Status and Challenges.
Women’s education got a stimulus after the country got independence in 1947, but the policymakers have not taken measures to educate all Indian women and millions of girls continue to be excluded, regardless that quality education for girls has always correlated to lower rates of poverty and improved standards of health.
Likewise, women inhibit their sexual desires too. In ">Unlocking Desires, another short film in the series a woman reveals that she was engaged as a kid. “It has been almost eight years now and while girls go out freely, I have never really gone out by myself. I have always stayed at home.” She could not even complete her education, but one fine day when she was out taking the exam with her friends, a boy asked her to share her phone number. She did not even have a phone. She also realised how her early marriage had made her internalize the taboo around intimacy and relationships. She realized she could not even be interested in someone who would reciprocate her sentiments as well. All this because her family married her off early. The short film is a blend of all such restricted voices who could not experience the freedom of desires, sexuality and the body. The film also highlights how important it is to have these conversations in real-time without discomfort or awkwardness.
Good Girl, Bad Girl - Who’s That Girl
The third short ">film, “Good Girl, Bad Girl - Who’s That Girl?” illustrates the problems surrounding the image of an “ideal” woman - how deeply patriarchal this concept is and how it deprives a woman of their voice and hinders their decision-making abilities. The question all three films pose to us is: Why can a woman not go to classrooms and beyond to get the education they deserve to plan their own viewpoints, be it in parliament or academic circles? Why can a woman not have sexual desires? Why can we not accept a woman for her opinions and her femininity?
The views expressed are the author's own.