Surrounded by the weeping seven dwarves, Snow White lay in the coffin dead. Then came her prince charming, who slowly bent down to kiss her, and behold; the dead Snow white is all life again. What a romantic story. But wait, did the charming prince ask for her consent before kissing? No, because it doesn’t matter, it never matters.
We grew up hearing such stories and seeing such films that the concept of consent never mattered. Everything was to be surrendered to the hyper-masculine agendas.
The hero follows the object of his desires. She shouts at him to leave her alone. He grabs her arm. She pushes him off. He forces her into his arms. She struggles out of it. In some films, his group of friends join in on the harassment and entrap her further. Yet somehow after this de facto molestation, the film has found a way to make this abused woman fall in love with their hero, thus imparting the harmful false truth that “no” doesn’t really mean “no.” Instead, a woman’s lack of interest is simply a challenge for a man to overcome. This how films have buried deep down the idea of consent.
There is this scene in DDLJ where Raj pranks Simran that they slept together while she was drunk. A cute funny scene? Really? But more than being a funny it is only reaffirming the misconception that drunk women are open for sex.
We grew up singing ‘Tu Haa Kar Ya naa kar..tu hai meri Kiran’ from the movie Darr. That is, we grew up singing that ‘a woman’s opinion doesn’t matter’.
Feminist Films in India: Let's normalise consent in our films across languages
Bollywood songs have only objectified women and depicted them as a sex toy. Most of the songs are a testament to the existing masculinity that overpowers a woman’s opinion.
A lack of consideration for consent only made restrictions on women tighter as it is easier to teach our girls how to prevent themselves from getting raped than it is to teach our boys not to rape them.
Against The Grain
It is only after the release and success of the film Pink that people began questioning the existence of consent. The male lawyer in the film advocates – No means No! It does not require any explanation or rationalization, when any woman, be it your friend, girlfriend, sex-worker or even your wife say No.
It simply implies that - Men must Stop. Pink, the film sends a message, loud and clear on how we must consider the choices and opinions of women.
A similar movie that released in Malayalam called Queen, staged the same courtroom drama to question the societal prejudice of accusing and slut shaming women who have “male-friends” and are apparently care free.
Kettiyolaanende Malakha is another film that teaches consent but in a different way. The whole idea of sex education in country is a taboo and that is how this Malayalam movie raises voice for consent. In the movie, Sleeva, a sexually illiterate man forces himself on his wife inspite of her several attempts of dodging the attack. In the end when things turn all good he asks his wife, “Can I hug you?”, we are satisfied to know that Sleeva at this moment, understands consent, be it one’s wife, friend…anyone.
Though slowly, surely some of our cinema is taking the road of change. It's interesting how a single director can break the age old convention of item numbers, objectification in cinema and offer that signal for better and meaningful films.
In order to break down the cultural structures that preserve regressive societies, our art must emulate more obliging depiction of love and romance—free of the glorified violence against women that has become normalised in our culture.
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