While I was at home, I came across a very good site that sells lingerie. It has almost all sizes possible, has sales almost all the time, and is overall just a very good place to shop. I bought things for myself, and celebrated the fact that I finally had a place where I did not have to wonder if it had the sizes and types I wanted or not. (For the women, here is a subreddit that will tell you how it is highly probable that the bra that you are wearing currently is the wrong size and how important it is to wear the right one.) My happiness of thoroughly subdued when I attempted to open that site again when I was back in college. This was what greeted me:
Now, I know that our college (and a lot of other places) does not allow for a lot of sites to be accessed. These websites are generally of pornographic nature, contains violent content and/or has some gaming related importance. Apparently, swimwear and lingerie is also one of the categories that disallows me to view this particular commercial website. I am obviously not for too much censorship, but I have never really given the blocked websites a lot of thought. After all, it is not that easy to get around it anyway. I have, in fact, visited content that my college doesn’t want me to visit. That said, this was something that does not fare very well with me.
Lingerie is an inherently sexualized topic, in spite of the fact that almost all women do wear innerwear. Cyberoam is automated, so of course this site wasn’t blocked specifically. The official website for Jockey India, though, is not blocked. Was the keyword for the blocking, then, ‘lingerie’? The lingerie and nightwear section on Flipkart, though, can be accessed. What is specific to Zivame.com that renders me unable to access it? I have yet to figure this out. Regardless, it cannot be denied that the lingerie has had such a negative and pornographic connotation, in spite of the fact that it should really be normalised to a certain extent. Other than the pornographic sites, lingerie sites will most likely be shopping sites. The top searches for lingerie are actually all official websites for lingerie companies. These are products that are specific (almost) to women and are not accessible to women because some people have decided that it is not appropriate.
But how can a hypocrite complain about this? I asked around if there was a way I could point this out to the college authorities, and tell them that maybe this site should be unblocked. I found out that I need to contact a student member who is responsible for technical happenings of the college. I froze. How was I going to convince a stranger that a lingerie site (that I want to shop off of) is something that I want? There are numerous connotations to this act. I did not want a stranger to know what I shopping for online; I was too ashamed, and this was in spite of the fact that this is no secret that only I know. All women use lingerie, all men know that we use it, then what is the problem? Although, I am now unable to come up with a solution for this, I suppose I will have to talk to the student member to try and get this particular site unblocked. I will discuss further about how ‘secrets’ that are exclusive to one gender are talked about in such hushed tones because of taboo, and how hypocritical it is, but for now, I have to get some courage and do this. God bless my soul.
I absolutely love coming back to college, and it has been a while since I felt sad while leaving home. I do, however, feel extremely dreadful thinking about the bus journey to college. The constant sleepiness and headache for 4 long hours evoke a sense of dread in me that I cannot seem to get rid of. But the worst part out of all of this is the movie that they play in the tiny television. I generally seat myself in the front seats, because it gets tumble-ful (if that is a word) in the back seats, and have to handle the immense noise that the television makes. I try to drown it out by playing loud music in my earphones, but today, due to bad battery life of my phone and earphones that only play in one ear, I got to see the most amazing movie that Bollywood has released in 2014 – Yaariyan.
I was hoping the bus driver’s friend would play Highway, it was a movie I wanted to see when it was released, but couldn’t. Now, some movies are so bad they are good (like Aap ka Suroor starring Himesh Reshamiya), but this movie was so bad it was quite simply bad. Here is what happens in the movie in a gist. I will not even begin to say how sexist it was, because it will a complete waste of breath.
Lakshya (Himansh Kohli) comes to this magical college, the location of which is completely unknown, where a lot of strange, non-collegy things happen. This may include a girl called Jiya constantly licking lollipops in the most pornographic way possible (I have to say here, the use of double entendre by the director is flawless), nerds identified by full-rim glasses and pigtails, and Australians (all of whom are exceptionally evil and believe in cheating by the mere fact of them being white; this film takes the freedom fight to a completely new level). This movie contains everything, and I am not kidding here. Does it contain a convenient friend that suddenly enters out of nowhere dying while protect the honour of the college, you ask? Check. Does it contain this very college losing because they cannot concentrate on a bike race because of said death, you ask? Check. Does it contain a son not loving his poor, helpless, widow mother enough? Check. Does it contain a guy falling into a high-ass waterfall, jumping out of it, and finishing a race by climbing onto the roof of a college? Check. What does this movie not have?
Also, two minutes of silence for the Australians who have been shown in such poor light, that they might as well forget their chances of redemption in India. They are the most vile, cheating, and ruthless people on the face of the earth. All they want to do is steal horrible songs by some Indian band which got formed out of nowhere and began writing music, because yes, writing music is that easy and doesn’t require any real skill at all. I apologise to Australia, the entire goddamn country, because that is what the film made me want to do.
This movie gives us a very clear idea of what men like once they are in college. This is what the story writer thinks, not me. So this fresh-faced young boy comes to college and finds himself among women of two kinds. One who dresses skimpily, gets drunk, kisses boys and licks lollipops (and conveniently begins to play the electric guitar eventually), and two, the nerdy girl with glasses who wears shabby clothes, does not drink (because sanskar) and does not want to kiss a boy or lick lollipops. That is the full extent of the variety of girls in the film. The boy is torn between choosing what he wants. There is that girl who is so morally loose that all he wants to do is pretend to be drinking out of her cups due to exceedingly tasteless camera angles, and there is the girl who is the perfect girl because she does not drink alcohol, but who is ugly as fuck (by ugly, I mean, glasses and curly hair, nothing else). This Sophie’s choice only has one solution. Makeovers. Make the ugly girl look sexy, and the problem is solved! But the director must have told the wardrobe-handler (or whoever does this kind of a job) to make sure to make her look sexy only in a wet salwaar kameez (because, well, sanskar). But do not, and I repeat, do not make her want to kiss him yet. Make her want to kiss only when he forcefully grabs her in front of the entire college, and then kiss her. Perfect love story!
Let me also please spend a few words to tell you exactly how bad an actor Himansh Kohli is. Very. Extremely. Excessively. Frightfully.
I advise you to go watch The Xpose. At least it will make you laugh. This movie couldn’t even do that well.
I am not going to even try and defend myself about watching this show. What can I say? I love drama, and I am an above-average fan of Bigg Boss and shows like that. Which is why I watched one (or two) episodes of this show, Khatron ke Khiladi. The extremely tasteless humour (read Rohit Shetty) did not really appeal to me much, which is why I was about to watch something entirely different, but I watched the part of the show that I began to object to. This is why I also watched another episode of this show, that I really do not know how many people watch.
(Please ignore all the extremely annoying parts)
Because of slow internet, I cannot point out exactly (on the video) where my problem begins, but it is this episode that caught my attention. In the episode, for entertainment, a crocodile is ‘caged’ in a completely opaque enclosing, which is exactly the size of the crocodile itself. It tries to attack the participant, who very carefully enters from behind the crocodile, and cannot even turn its head around. Crocodiles are not animals that a lot of people empathize with, yes they are predators. They are extremely scary, and as a child, I refused to bathe in a bathing tub after watching Lake Placid for the first time. That is how scared I am of these beasts. But this kind of treatment got to me. It is not correct.
If this does not convince you, I have more. I could not find the YouTube video for particular episode, but this time it is the lion. The participants are supposedly to play Tug-o’-War with the lion. I only saw the promo, but the lion is fighting against a human. The end of the lion is tied up with some sort of meat, I think. I do not see how else the makers of that show have given a lion an incentive to pull at a rope. Lions are not inherently violent animals; they attack for food, and that is all that they care about. That and protecting their young ones and their pride, but you know where I am getting at. I wonder if the animals have been kept hungry so that they might behave this aggressively; it is certainly not their natural behavior to pull at a rope for fun.
Not just this, this particular show (and I suppose many others) have made use of snakes quite a bit, enclosing them in small containers for the purpose of entertainment. I understand that a snake is another reptile that never garners any empathy, but it does not take a lot of it to understand that maybe the snakes do not like it. I could not find much information regarding studies about how these ‘performing’ animals are kept and treated, and would love to find out. But until then, these show makers do not get a benefit of doubt because at face value, they are treating the animals far worse than any human would be treated.
I also found this. This lists the Act that responsible to overlook these animal related laws. I did not understand a lot of the procedures of these laws, and I certainly do not know if they have been followed by the show-makers of “Khatron ke khiladi” while making their show. If you read this now, and have any information or solutions, please contact me. It is absolutely essential that empathy begins with those upon which we humans have decided to exert control over.
I have been asked why I take so much offence at everything more times than I can count on my fingers. Close friends have asked me this, and it is a question that has, in its own nature, made me feel quite uncomfortable, and I have had to ask myself whether I have had the justification to raise questions regarding thoughts that deeply unsettle me. One instance of this question came up when I was slightly critical of a play that I saw being performed in college, and my friend asked me why I couldn’t just leave the sexism aside and just enjoy the comedy. I will come to this later.
I also recently came across this video. Although this video has very low production value and is quite poorly made, what came across to me was the exceptional presence of women on the screen. I am hoping people reading (and watching) this will feel similarly. This parody trailer made me realize that the overbearing presence of women on screen like this is not what audiences may be used to, even if the audience is a feminist who tries as hard as she can to not attribute characteristics to either gender. Every time we see more than a few women on screen talking, it is different and gives it a feel of a romantic-comedy (‘chick-flicks’), while this is seldom noted when the same thing happens with men. It is normal to watch men interacting on screen, but not women. No wonder so many movies fail the Bechdel test.
This is not to say that the Bechdel test is a test to disregard a film, but it is evidence to a much more compelling problem in media today. This is true especially for Indian cinema, where there is glaring difference between how actors of gender are treated. The female characters are commonly bland, uni-dimensional and mere plot devices, if not dancers in an ‘item-song’. Most movies have a male lead who is the driver of the story, and the female character is a device used to pleasure the audience gaze. The dancers (mostly major actresses of these times) use sexual suggestions to grab the attention of the audiences, and one may argue that this is just a healthy sexual expression, something that women have lacked in India for a long time now. But there are two responses to this:
This healthy sexual expression is only done by these ‘item-song’ dancers; the leading women characters are still virtuous, virginal and coy. This tells us that even if there are women expressing their sexual interest, it is still not a desirable quality in a woman that you are supposed to admire. These women are nice and wise, albeit with some quirks. This is much unlike the leading men who have had areas of grey, and not just black and white. There is a dearth of what I call ‘imperfect women’ in the cinema today. For example, it is common to see a male pursue a female romantically in movies, but that kind of forthcoming nature is rarely seen from women.
When an actress that I suppose is a decent actress does a role that has no value as such, it makes me want to take her less seriously, something that I don’t like doing, but is a personal preference. Amazing actresses have had still to do songs that appeal to nothing but the audience gaze. The song “Ram chahe Leela”, “Chikni Chameli”, “Shelia ki jawani” and many others solve no purpose other than for the movie and the song to sell. These are definitely things that the audiences prefer to watch, but this in itself should be a concern since there are talented actors (both male and female) who have to resort to bland musical performances to earn popularity. I would repeat again that this would not be a problem had there also been other kind of movies running mainstream. My only concern is, after all, a lack of variety.
Exceptions do exist. I suppose Queen handled the idea of a female lead extremely well. But, Indian cinema is based on the idea of escapism. India is dirty; show the audiences beautiful beaches which are spotless. Sex is a taboo to be talked of; show scantily clad women and resort to voyeurism. That said, the movies which do have female leads, them being female is a major selling point of the film, as if being female is a shift from the normal. Why is this so troublesome to me? I also watched this video a while back, too. The video is not flawless, the study more so, but it does reveal to us a worrying thought. That people will start to believe what media will tell them. It made me extremely sad to watch the video where kids as young as in the video, were falling trap to standards of “goodness” and “badness” in particular races. This is true for gender as well. For example, if a child sees that being virtuous and rejecting every notion of sexual interest by the innate nature of it is what a woman is supposed to do, that is what he/she is going to learn. Young girls will learn to inculcate these qualities, and boys will look for them in girls. Another example would be the lack of variety in superheroes. Most superheroes are male, and the female ones are generally an extension of the already existing. The female heroes that come to me from the top of my head are Catwoman and Wonderwoman. These women share the characteristics of being wise, intelligent and composed, while the male superheroes have a variety of characteristics, even being goofy. These are then the characteristics I assign myself, even though it is actually perfectly acceptable to be goofy and silly. This lack of variety is extremely evident in Indian cinema as I already mentioned.
You can look at the clothing sections for children, and the girls’ clothing is predominantly pink, red and purple, and the boys’ clothing is blue, green and yellow. There is a major difference not just in terms of clothing, but also in terms of toys. Building sets, car sets, train sets, even Legos are still marketed as boys’ toys, and dolls, baking ovens are still girls’ toys. And then we wonder why there are still less women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
Gender behavior will guide us about what traits are admirable and what aren’t. I have anecdotal evidence too. A girl, someone who is intelligent and academically potent, told me that she did not believe that “girls were dumb” until she was narrated an incident by a male friend about a girl who did not know simple mobile phone operations. Or that when a male friend ordered green apple vodka, everyone else said it was a “girl’s drink”. Which brings me to my most important evidence; the play that I watched in college.
The play was a musical one, riddled with the idea of a guy in college trying to find a girlfriend for himself. It included the supposition that the Teaching Assistants pay more attention to the female students during lab hours, and not enough to the male students. A line that also stayed with me was when a male TA asked a female student why she had put curly braces (in a piece of code), she replies with a cloying, “But curly braces are so cute!” The stereotype blew me away; and to people in denial, I’d ask if there was any chance a line like that would have been given to a male student. Eventually, the said TA did find a girl to go out with (one of the students he was partial with), and when he asks her to be his girlfriend explicitly, she rejects him (which has since been perceived to be such a bad thing). This does also fit in well with the entire idea of males being “friend-zoned” by girls, as if sex and a romantic relationship was an entitlement.
I will not go into the details but the end of the play saw the line (in Hindi), “Girls are like jeans, and friends are like underwear. Even if the jeans come off, the underwear will save you from embarrassment.” The play made me angry; mostly because it made me feel alienated. There were several girls in the audience, and there was nothing in the play that I could relate to. They even claimed by the line subtly that girls and friends have to be mutually exclusive groups; a notion that made me feel even worse because I would like to think I have the ability to be a decent friend.
I have been told I was reading too much into the play when I confronted a few people with my thoughts, and I cannot deny this. I am truly reading into the play, but I do not regret it. I would have not have a gender related problem with it had it only been about relationships and sex, even so from the male’s perspective, since then the issue would not be about gender stereotypes. But that is not currently the case. The main issue here is that there is a severe lack of voice from the side of the women, and I wish I had the creative excellence to do something about it. But I know that even if I could, it would barely be popular simply because it is not something the audience is used to seeing. If there would be a female student pining for a male in just the same way as the play showed, there would be no question of how accepted that kind of behavior will be. The solution can only come from people making these plays, to try and bring a uni-sexual voice into the entire conception.
Wo-man has always been an extension of man. To be a man is the default, to be a woman is a defect. Hence when a woman is asking for equal representation in arts and media, it is asking for something that doesn’t exist by default, something that needs to consciously be provided. To finally clarify my position further, I would quote Simone de Beauvoir in her book The Second Sex:
“In the midst of an abstract discussion, it is vexing to hear a man say: ‘You think thus and so because you are a woman’; but I know my only defense is to reply: ‘I think thus and so because it is true’ thereby removing my subjective self from the discussion. It would be out of question to reply: ‘And you think the contrary since you are man,’ for it is understood as a fact that being a man is no peculiarity. “
The only way to battle this is to create a medium where it is not necessary to ‘leave your brains aside’ to enjoy a show, and to be critical is not undesirable, but a habitual reaction.
Before I begin, the reader must note this advertisement:
Touching, huh? I will come back to how nothing about this advertisement is nice (apart from that wonderful, catchy song).
Majority of Dove’s advertising campaign has been regarding how most women do not think they are beautiful and how they are over-critical of themselves. Not just this, after much digging, I found another advertisement from the Real Beauty campaign (former), which was later compared to the Victoria Secret’s advertisement (latter).
For one, how on earth is this “real beauty” advertisement supposed to make women feel better? None of the women in the former ad has any skin issues, or are even skinny (yes, guess what? That is a natural body type too). It is these kinds of advertisements that has instilled the stupid idea in people’s heads, “real women have curves” (attach photo of Marilyn Monroe beside this quote). No, there is nothing like “real women”, stop antagonizing women who are just a result of society’s vision of what beauty is.
Basically, the thought behind the campaign is that all women are gorgeous and beautiful, and that all shapes and sizes are perfect, and that the media has brainwashed women into believing they are not beautiful. Let us look at some typical ideas of beauty that exist in society today. Depending on the populace history, these ideas are very different in different regions. For example, some 150 years ago, the now first-world countries used to find plump women attractive since this was a sign of wealth (and hence being able to afford good food where most populations could not). Currently this mindset is different, because almost everyone can afford junk food, but very few people can afford nutritious, healthy food or a workout. This has led to skinnier women being considered attractive. In India, a major chunk of the population is till malnourished, and hence heftier women are considered attractive. Of course, India has a range of socio-economic statuses and we now see in the media what the urban populations will find attractive.
Taking another example, we can look into why dark complexion is considered in a country like India. Being dark is perceived to mean that the person belongs to the working class, and has to work outside for a prolonged amount of time whereas fair complexion means being able to stay in the comforts of the home (hence the conclusion that the person is well-off). This was true for current first-world countries as well, but it has recently turned to finding tanned skin attractive, since this shows the economic ability for the person to be able to vacation some place that has a strong sun.
This are only some of the features that are considered attractive but to put things in an umbrella term, most features that are considered attractive are blemish-free skin, flat bellies, an average to large bust, small noses, full lips, long and full hair, et al. Of course, these depend from person to person, but this conclusion was drawn by me looking into how most women are portrayed in popular media, except Dove, since they want to showcase, and don’t forget, cater to “real women”.
Now that it has been established that the society does find certain features to be more attractive than the others, let me go into anecdotal responses to fairness cream advertisements and such. Whenever there is some very deliberate effort to advertise fair women are being more beautiful, a lot of people will stand up for the rest by saying something like “Even dark women are pretty” or some other reassurance like that. Yes, they mean well, and this is not an accusation to any of those people. But this is where I start with what I am genuinely concerned about. For some reason, it is necessary to be pretty if you are a woman. Dark women are not considered pretty? Let us say they are pretty to make them feel better about their skin colour. Let me digress here and say that the whole reason why these fairness creams are working is because dark skin isn’t considered attractive, and that is why they are advertised and still on the market and selling like hot cakes. That is actually what society believes. Not everyone might, but the majorities do, and there is not much that can be done about it. There is a lot of truth in the words of Anna Lappe, author and educator,
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
Humans are wired to like attractive people better, and there have always been attributes (physical and emotional) that have been considered attractive. People cannot really do much to change that unless it is a mass effort. And I do not think that is ever possible in such a scenario.
Coming back to my initial concern, what the key point of writing this is the mere fact that women have to be made to feel pretty to make them feel good about themselves. The advertisements that I posted above showed women and how all shapes and sizes are beautiful. It is unfathomable to ever see an advertisement like that about men, where you see various men, balding and pot-bellied, hairy and hairless, standing in underwear and telling us that all men are handsome. Why not, you ask? Because it is not a requirement expected of men. Let me put here another advertisement, again, by Dove, to enhance my point further:
TL;DW for the lazy: The advertisement basically consists of several women describing other women that they just saw to a sketch artist, while the sketch artist, well… sketches. When women were shown the sketches that were made with the description of their faces by other women, and sketches made by their own descriptions, one can clearly see that the former is supposed to ‘prettier’ proving that women themselves are over-critical of themselves.
What does this tell you about the campaign in itself? It tells me that as a woman, it is very important that I be considered good-looking by everyone else around me. One thing that I understand is that Dove is doing what most beauty product companies are not, making women feel prettier. But this is the wrong way of approaching the self-esteem that women, and a lot of men, have about how they look. Even if one advertisement tells a person to feel prettier, there are thousands more that will make them feel uglier. Especially women. And these women cannot change existing beauty standards, but what we can do is to realize that being pretty isn’t something that needs to be a necessity for women, just like the way with men.
Yes, healthy body image issues are issues that are very concerning, but I do not think the solution to that is calling every woman beautiful. This just isn’t feasible, just like every person being called intelligent or clever is not. The solution is to stop this obsession with physical appearance, and if that doesn’t happen (which it most likely won’t), then for people to say this: “I am ugly and I don’t give a rat’s ass about it. I am hygienic and living a happy, fulfilled life and that is all that matters to me.” This is similar to being able to admit that one is not very smart, which I see people admitting all the time. This is especially difficult for women because of society’s idea that women need to be able to groom themselves better, but there has to be a first step.
And now, I’d like to clarify why the advertisement that I opened with is not liked by me. Those little girls were not camera shy not because they thought they were beautiful, but because they gave these many number of fucks about how they looked like in a camera. And that is why one shouldn’t be afraid of the camera, not because someone is telling you that you actually look pretty. Because maybe when you wake up early in the morning, you so not look pretty. And guess what? That is all right.
Let me also ask you not to forget that Dove is using a marketing strategy and I am sure like most other corporations, they only care about how many purchasers they are acquiring by such advertisement tactics. Unilever is the company that owns Dove, and you know what else it owns? Axe, deodorant products. So is Dove still a company with a conscience? I leave the thinking to you. At least other companies are honest about what they do and do not find attractive. Let me leave this last image with you, which I found on a ‘feminist’ page that I am subscribed to, and I am going to leave you to ponder as to how wrong I could be about society’s expectation of women when it comes to being attractive.
Forgive me, well wishers of all the “real women”, but I don’t think a woman will like being described as an adjective that is also attributed to a fruit.
“Beauty and the Beast”, the animated musical, was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1991. The generation of women I belong to, and hopefully relate to, grew up watching movies conforming to standards of gender roles and relationships Disney [and other such production houses] have made, and Beauty and the Beast used to be one of favourite films as a younger girl. The premise of the film is quite simple; a prince, after a series of unfortunate events, has been turned into a hideous beast due to his unkindness to a witch, and will not be restored back to his beauty until someone falls in love with him. Belle, which means beauty, is a town-girl who yearns for a life outside of her own jaded and rut-like schedule. Due to events I am sure everyone knows and understands, she makes the choice of saving her father and being forced to spend her remaining life in the castle with Beast. The beast keeps her away from her family for his selfish reasons, is extremely temperamental and has thinly-veiled rage issues. When Belle refuses to eat with him, he lashes out and decides that she not be given dinner at all. He almost causes her injury when she enters a part of the castle that he had told her specifically not to enter.
On a completely unrelated note, Psychology today defines abuse in a very specific manner. Some of the major characteristics of a textbook abuser are entitlement and an angry temperament. The abuser will relocate the victim socially and geographically to isolate the victim and claim possession. This will lead to the lack of a support system for the victim and he/she will be rendered helpless. This eventually leads to the hiding rage issues emerge in the form of either emotional or physical abuse, or both.
This is not only familiar, but strikingly alike to the behaviour that Beast shows Belle time and again. Let me also explain that whilst the Beast is shown to have a softer side, a side that he does not initially reveal to Belle, it should be noted that Belle had not yet seen that side of him when she pities him and decides to go back with him after running away from the castle. The character sketch of the Beast and the dynamics of the relationship he shares with Belle are fundamentally two-folds:
He is a circumstantial hard-hearted monster who thrives on scaring others [evident from how scared the other residents of the house were of him], and does not understand basic human sentiments of fear and loss. This he hides by rage and anger, and lashes out on people closest to him. He is unforgiving and cruel; and the latter part of the movie shows him a changed man as Belle nurses him back to health and his desire to become a better human being.
The major issue of the film lies in the perspective of Belle, the quintessential Disney girl [of those times, obviously]. Someone who is as forgiving as a woman should be. She has only seen the side of the Beast that is harsh and cruel [and possible incapable of love]. But it only takes the love of a woman to change an abuser. This is precisely the kind of belief that is supposed to be eradicated from minds of innocent young women and men alike, who have been victims of abuse.
Beauty and the Beast reveals to us how romantic relationships are perceived to be, and the generation old gender issues that no person needs to conform to. A hard-hearted man need not exist, and need not need saving by love and by a nurturing, young woman. An abuser cannot be enabled, and it is a lesson that we must be teaching young girls everywhere what the signs of an abuser are and to seek help if they understand the consequences and dangers of being around a person like that. That said, Beauty and the Beast is an old film that barely any young girls watch anymore.
Ergo, I will talk about other influences of the contemporary art.
2005 saw the release of the first book of a four-book long series about a vampire-human love story, the Twilight series. Even though the Twilight demographic has been admitted to be the internet-savvy young teenage females, recent statistics have shown that this demographic also consists of middle-aged women and young men. I will specifically talk about the young teenage generation that this series has catered to. Bella Swan has admitted numerous times to being extremely clumsy and socially awkward. Edward Cullen is described as the perfect male; he is enigmatic and extremely stable and caring. He is somewhat jealous and possessive as well. These are probably the qualities that have made him so charming and attractive.
My concern here is the fan base that Edward Cullen has developed. He coerces Bella into doing what he wants her to do, and Bella passively lets him. Edward Cullen becomes attractive due to his aggression and stalking obsession for Bella which makes her fall more in love with him. Bella shows typical characteristics of a weak, flat character – passivity, low self-esteem, immaturity and romantic irrationality. Millions of young girls all over the world are now calling themselves fans of a male character who, even though cannot be called an abuser explicitly, shows subtle characteristics that should not be in any respectable man, or woman. He makes it clear to Bella that he wishes to “feed” on her, and that her blood is attractive to him. His temper issues and his dangerous persona are attributed to him being a vampire, ridding him of blame for his actions and thus, making him seems like the nice person that he may not be.
Fifty Shades of Grey, which has a much older demographic, also consists of a man who is obsessive and jealous. Christian Grey mentions more than once that he has not had any “real” feelings for any woman, and he is 27. Let me clarify here that a man claiming to a woman he is sexually interested in, that she is not “like other women” is neither attractive, nor well. The fact that he has a low opinion of women in general, should be a ringing warning to step back and wonder about the vigour of a relationship.
Male characters are increasingly testosterone oriented, and violence is a facet in entertainment that has surprised me. Young girls are growing up with convoluted ideas of idealization in men, and in themselves. A song like “You don’t know you’re beautiful” is disturbing simply because it shows attraction towards someone who has a low opinion of herself. Women who have a clear idea about their thoughts, actions and life purpose, their strengths and weaknesses are somehow perceived as being unattractive. This is exactly why a woman wanting sex, or sexual experiences, is shunned a ‘slut’, a word that has no male counterpart. How that asserts the stereotype is that, that dominance in a relationship is held by a man alone, whether by pushing the female counterpart down, or fuelling relationship stereotypes with false definitions of manliness or feminity. And the worst part is, that vigorous, able women fall for it.
If a person with low self esteem gets into an unhealthy relationship, something very disastrous could happen. He/she will want to validate themselves by trying to change someone who may never change. That is why it is necessary to have a healthy perception of marriage and relationships by the people surrounding the victim. A person who is in an abusive relationship lives constantly in denial and fear and refuses to relate to other people, and is stuck in being a part of something that they could lose their lives over. I cannot possible imagine the psychology of living such a life, hence I refuse to hold them culpable for not leaving the relationship. But, it is necessary that such a person has friends and family such that they need not think twice before leaving a spouse who has, even once, cause physical or mental injury.
I would rather that if I have a daughter someday, her idea of a relationship, any relationship, sexual or platonic, be governed by her ability to understand herself and not anyone else. Women need to understand the subtle differences between genuine care and concern, and excessive possessiveness and unreasonable jealousy, and the latter is never attractive. Maybe after that, we will try to restore balance to the society.