Skimming the surfaces of sexism isnít enough

Fourth, it also depicts a level of extreme sexual frustration ó combined with a perverted sense of machismo, where sex is closely connected with violence. It is only about self-gratification.

Fifth, there are some who feel that a certain class of men is deeply uncomfortable with women displaying their independence, receiving education and joining the workforce. The gangrape becomes a form of subduing the women, collectively, and establishing their male superiority.

The frightening fact is that many of these alienated young men have reached their twenties with a bizarre attitude towards women, and little affection towards them. It has been a daily indoctrination and not a sudden change-of-heart brought about by an item number. The latter might reinforce their set of beliefs, but it will not change it.

Many of these attitudes are interlinked. And as we are aware, 80-year-old women have been raped, and so have three-year-olds. We must endeavour to change family attitudes towards women, and not blindly move towards censorship. Right now, we live in a liberal and democratic society, in which our attempt must be to discuss and debate. We must fight to preserve our freedoms, which could be circumscribed by both the state and a self-appointed moral police.

Of course, we must simultaneously develop broad guidelines and an understanding of what would be helpful in building a positive image of women. For instance, in cinema, the choice of subjects where the constant valorisation of male identity, the celebration of male-bonding (in films like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Chahta Hai) might be reconsidered. They should obviously not be banned ó but the content of cinema needs to be evaluated over and over again.

Yet, far more dangerous than the item number is the increasing gratuitous violence in Indian films (including regional cinema) ó which definitely leads to a numbing of sensitivities. Sadly, the inhuman treatment of the 23-year-old and her friend on that bus seemed to be a "performance" staged by the men for each other, unmindful of the pain or suffering they had caused.

... contd.

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