In a country like India where people worship goddesses like Parvati, Durga, and Sita, there the females who are considered mere objects. Such an irony in one go, but it’s the true state of the nation. One of the major influences is through the Cinema and Advertisements that people come across in their day to day lives. Bollywood being the power source of entertainment has largely depicted the women in a sexualized roles. Objectifying women in the name of acting is not at all justified, and actresses playing the crass role of ‘glamorous dolls’ are equally disgusting. Whereas in the case of advertisements, they have shown women in a stereotypical manner. It’s not just this if we look for things in the bigger context these issues have lead to the heinous crimes against women. ‘Item songs’ are ubiquitous in almost all the Bollywood movies. If you see any film/song shot in a very cold place, the actor would wear a jacket and pants, and the actress would be dressed in skimpy attire or a translucent saree. Why is that so? Many advertisements /show women in a submissive manner, an object of interest, wives shown as doing all the household tasks, less educated/informed than her husband. Nonetheless, the woman deemed as an accessory to the man is an idea that holds a lot of significance to the nation at large.
Advertising began as a tool to bring into the consumer’s notice the existence of the product, why one should purchase it, what are its benefits but with time it has become a tool to express a particular set of thoughts such that they even define what society will come to accept as desirable and true. Most advertisements that promote sexual objectification of women are in plenty. A major influence that advertisements have for women across the nation is going to be the idea of the woman as the object of sexual pursuit. Taking examples of Axe and Wildstone. They have their entire advertising strategies built on the idea that the product being advertised will make the person ‘achieve’ a woman. This woman is a bodily construct who has no humanity. Here, the idea of bodily display and sexual persuasion fall together and in a combinational way. In very effective research on how the identification of men and women is undergoing it was found out that those women are identified ‘locally’ whereas men are identified globally which is again a demeaning factor.
Objectification of women is not merely sexual bodily display, which is the most obvious form of objectification but also about customization. With the increasing obsession with physical beauty, a lot of products that are advertised to ‘customize’ or change bodily characteristics fall under this category. This includes beauty products promising to change the color of the skin. Fair & lovely, a fairness cream always had its advertising strategy that builds on a woman fulfilling her dreams with a customization of skin. When particular characteristics of humans are picked and analyzed and made to change, the humanness of the person is lost to a certain extent, and the person becomes a piece of object that can be changed according to attractiveness and desirability.
Two facets in which objectification of women is done in Indian Cinema
- Bodily characterization
Out of the 18 films, 10 have some sort of an ‘item number’ in the film. In these item numbers, the dance techniques and dressing are sexually provocative in nature, with bodily display aided with sexual movements and expressions. Firstly, it is necessary to analyze why these dances cause the objectification of women. This happens when the woman in question (the ‘item girl’) is dancing, the camera angles move across parts of the woman’s body, focusing on the sexually stimulating body parts (breasts, legs, waist, and butt). The role of the women in that particular movie is then reduced to only the ‘gaze’ of the male, hence, and there is no human-ness left in the woman at all. This happens the same in advertising when a woman’s body is all the identity she has left. This viewing of the bodily structure is done by men, as well as women themselves. While watching an item number, a person’s consciousness (whether male or female) will look for these bodily traits in every person around them, even if it is in the mirror.
- The portrayal of sexual harassment in Indian cinema
In the movie ‘Wanted’, starring Salman Khan and Ayesha Takia, the character Salman Khan lustily stares at a woman’s yoga-pants. After a short while, says to one of friends that, ‘In jaisi ladkiyaan, ham Jaise ladko ke liye yeh sab karti hain’ meaning “These kinds of girls behave this way for boys like us.” There are several movies like Rascals (2011), Wanted (2009), Grand Masti (2013), Dabangg (2010), Rowdy Rathore (2012) that have male characters overtly pass derogatory remarks about women’s bodies. Not only that, there are several examples of the leading male characters physically ‘teasing’ the woman (who is a stranger to them) who will eventually fall in love with them. For example, it is a very common storyline where the female leading character resists the attempts of the male character to romantically pursue her and eventually agrees. Movies like Singham, Dabangg, and Rowdy Rathore have three leading actors of these times in roles that are idealized and heroic. But when the portrayal of how they deal with women is concerned, the behavior is rude, demeaning and there is a downright refusal to attempt to understand the agency of a woman’s body and consent.
Connection between the two
Drawing a connection between the Advertising and Indian Cinema the objectification of women is done to an extent that a certain understanding of women is been made. They are reduced to being sex objects, like this it is easy to view them as objects of ownership. This leads to an air of unsafety for the women. The woman now understands that others see her as a culmination of breasts, legs, and buttocks, making her believe that she is unsafe if she dresses a certain way that reveals her body parts. Since the identity of the woman is reduced to being available for sex, for men sexual harassment becomes the norm. But this does not end here only. Bodies of women themselves become an object. This plays into the larger picture of the society that if a woman dresses up, it is to fulfill the gaze of the male. The idea of ownership leads to ‘eve-teasing’, sexual harassment, and also rape. Due to the influence of cinema, a person’s manhood is defined by how heroically he can convince the girl by being manipulative and persuasive. The leading characters of the mainstream Indian films are stubborn and have suggestions to make to the leading women of the film, and since this is not objected to by these women, it is understood to be the norm and something that the woman-object deserves. Sexual objectification is very easy to go unnoticed, but it can only be with responsible viewership that the nation can be made safe for women. Sensitizing campaigns could represent, at least for women, a powerful tool to raise awareness against unrealistic beauty ideals and sexualized images that are regularly shown on television and to motivate individuals to engage in collective action aimed at improving how media portrays women. Unless there is a complete overhaul in the arena nothing can be changed.