What are women singing about themselves anyway?

by Iswariya

Context: A couple of weeks ago, Genderally Cinema ran this piece: https://genderallycinema.com/2016/03/09/six-tamil-heroine-introduction-songs-actually-about-the-heroine/ about Tamil movie songs that introduce female protagonists, and actually describe them and their feelings, vs being used as prop to further a cis-male focused story. One of our readers wrote in this excellent piece, she questions if women in Tamil cinema are really singing about themselves the way men do. 

I completely agree with your commentary on the positioning of women in cinema: “Often, they are characterized to sing about men, or about having to experience love or romance, and are often used as a prop for the male protagonist in the film”. I hardly get to see heroines playing roles of significance or roles that break the female stereotype in existence today.

However, to be honest, I am not very sure if the list of songs that have been put together here portray or cherish womanhood. In some sense it also falls prey to the stereotype of how lyricists pen down women in their poetry. Whilst songs such as ‘En Peru Padaiyappa’, ‘Naan adicha thaangamaate’ ‘My name is Billa’, and ‘Maari’ describe the power and strength of men and depict them as the superheroes with no force standing a chance against them, women are always characterized to see themselves as as a happy-go-lucky blissful girl who seems to care only about her day to day living or her unison with nature.

Jyothika in ‘Kushi’ is all about stopping the rain at her will; yes, she does compare herself to the wind with no wings (a.k.a limits) but in the movie, right after this song she is seen forced into marriage. “Konjum Mainaakale” from Kandukonden is an all-time favorite melody, sadly again the song talks only about the woman’s association with nature; where all Aishwarya Rai wants is to celebrate Diwali and to see through that her roses bloom right after she plants them. I am not saying that it is wrong as a premise, but all the song is conveying to me is women are soft, innocent, gullible day-dreamers who live in a world of fantasy where men can walk right into us and our lives.

With cinema creating a huge impact on people’s lives today, it is sad to see songs such as, ‘Adidaa Avala Othadaa Avala Vidra Avala Thevayae Illa’ and not the ones like ‘Uyire Uyire Vanthu Ennodu Kalanthuvidu’ capturing the audiences.

One cannot just blame the Indian entertainment industry, songs from the Western world also describe women as lost in love or waiting for love. But at least, there, I can name a few songs that promote female empowerment where women are shown as strong and independent beings, who have their own accomplishments. Just on top of my head: “Independent Women” from Destiny’s Child, “Confident” by Demi Lovato, “Warrior” by Kesha, “Roar” by Katy Perry, “Run the world (Girls)” by Beyoncé, “Girl on fire” by Alicia Keys and of course not to forget Pink!
I would like to sign-off with one last question with reference to a famous quote: “Behind every successful man there is a woman” , but where is your success story Girl?

 

Iswariya is a researcher; Chennaiite at heart, German by profession. Chocoholic and shopoholic.

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