UN Women’s HeForShe Campaign Goes Patriarchal

With a new envision of gender equality, UN Women’s HeForShe campaign wishes to change the usual state of feminist movements which are attended and supported only by women by seeking to “put men at the center of activism and dialogue to end persistent inequalities faced by women and girls around the world”.

One thing that stands out in the entire campaign, right from its name is the positioning of women at the passive end of the spectrum. You have to be a male to join the movement. Only the men attending the conference were extended a formal invitation.

Agreed, true equality can never be achieved without the participation and change coming from men, but the elimination of women from the conversation is also not a prudent step. The whole concept of self-policing and self-objectifying by women which also propagates the patriarchal culture is not taken care of anywhere in the campaign.

The reason given to join the campaign, directing at men, says,

“Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation.”

It’s like saying you have to be an animal to support animal rights’ movement. Though the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson does mention that men are also affected by gender inequality, it is safe to say, that most of the time, it favourably affects the men. The HeForShe campaign puts all focus on men to change the state of gender inequality in the world without pushing the women to empower themselves. The UN campaign aims to enroll 100,000 men in the fight for gender equality, while the women are expected to sit and watch the numbers rise in the next 12 months.

As the website says,

“Now it’s time to unify our efforts. HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other of humanity, for the entirety of humanity.”

Let’s rather unify our efforts by bringing the WHOLE of humanity in support of one-half, for the entirety of humanity. #WeForShe

Otherwise the male-colonisation of a woman’s mind might continue even after the removal of subjugation, if women are not taught to usurp the patriarchal force themselves. The efforts of a struggling community is utmost and cannot be neglected.

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Bollywood’s Queen And Other Coming-of-Age Stories About Women

Bollywood portrays, consciously or unconsciously what is evident in the society. And in turn, continues the trend, with society being formed by what is shown in cinema.

Best thing about the latest releases? None of the female protagonists are shy, coy and helpless. Queen, Gulaab Gang, Hasee Toh Phasee, Dedh Ishqiya all have strong female characters.

Imtiaz Ali called Queen a coming-of-age movie. Another such bollywood flick is Highway with a girl figuring herself out as she travels with her kidnapper right before her marriage. Indian Cinema hardly gave its audience any other buildungsroman with girl protagonists. From Dil Chahta Hai, Three Idiots, Udaan and Life of Pie to even British and American movies like Slumdog Millionaire, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Forest Gump, do you notice a disturbing, recurring difference in the stories between those of a male protagonist and those of a female?

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The boy coming-of-age movies begin when the boy is a child, teen, or in college and still has life to explore. For the movies like Queen, and English Vinglish, it is evident that had it not been for the utmost breaking-point moment, these protagonists would NEVER have grown up and ‘came of age’. Rani was ready and happy to get married to a boy who would try all his might to let her remain passive in her emotional, psychological and intellectual growth, and for sure—she would have settled in the role quite comfortably.

A Bollywood movie with a strong empowered character would be Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, with Naina having the choice of travelling the world, or staying in India. That is what actual empowerment is. It is not the situation a person is in, which makes him or her helpless or empowered; but the option given of choosing one’s situation is.

Good thing about Gulaab Gang, the 2014 movie is that the concept is not purely a work of fiction. And though a gang of only girls, they fight not only for women, but for the whole village, and even against issues like corruption and politics, which might be headed by another woman itself. Now that’s true liberation, where the concept of a woman fighting the battles of even a man does not come off as a surprise, and shows that the society is mature enough to accept the change.

Have a look at foreign coming-of-age movies with girl protagonists, like Big Girl, Juno, The sisterhood of Travelling Pants, Bend It Like Bekham – even they have natural occurrences and opportunities that make the protagonists grow morally and psychologically while they are in their tweens, or teens; much before they are already typically ‘grown up’ and ready to marry.

In Queen, Rani ‘thanks’ the boy who left her a day before her marriage, for letting her realise her potential and giving her a chance to explore herself as she travels alone (which she would have never done had she been ‘happily’ married). At that moment, when the boy is thanked-for for being an arsehole, the movie loses its feminist approach and becomes a movie that painfully shows the societal reality. Why should the boy be thanked? Why should he, in an ironic way, hold the reign of empowering her, by ditching her?

What could have been more empowering and liberating was if she herself had realised the shallowness of Vijay’s love when he refused her to take up a job, or got mad at her while she tried to learn how to drive a car. Why Indian Bollywood women characters need the ‘last straw on the horse’s back’ situation to realise what’s as plain as nose on the face? And why does it always have to be a boy who pins that last nail on the coffin?

Nevertheless, it’s a step ahead than movies like Raanjhanaa which seem like they are portraying the society of the 60s.

This post was first published on Women’s Web.