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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Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Emergence of men as the second sex

*Major spoilers ahead* to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Finn abandon their imposed responsibilities as men and flee. They are not protectors of “their” women anymore. They find it difficult to protect themselves and are often stranded and beleaguered. The movie starts with Finn wanting to flee the coup, unable to take the slaughter of innocents. Clearly insufficiently armed for a fight against the regime, Finn chooses to run. He also turns to a childlike charade of heroism when he is posed with the challenge of protecting his woman the first time. This is how he is represented, and it is a sign of things to come. The traditionally feminine characteristics of unyielding, stoic behaviour under imposed morally contradicting choices has been assigned to men. Finn chooses to flee again later, leaving behind his woman, as he finds his role in protecting himself more essential than protecting any other.
The women settle into the role of protectors, guardians and authority figures with ease. There are no real dilemmas as to where their loyalties are, but the men seem confused, and because of the childlike representation, attention seeking. This goes with the traditionally female argument that “all men are children”. The onus is still on men, but it is one of ridicule. Han Solo is represented as an older Finn, pursuing crazy endeavours, often self-sabotaging. Luke Skywalker is simply absent, for whatever higher purpose or for want of courage in facing the consequences of his actions. Rey, Maz and Leia build their fortresses and fight for all who will take their help. The enormous pressure of fighting against fellow men and the weight of being identified with the same gender as the oppressors seem to deeply unsettle every man.
The men in Star Wars: A Force Awakens are taking responsibilities for men previously represented in movies, not as individual characters. These are the sins of their forefathers and contemporaries who are represented as chauvinistic, heroic or anti-heroic because they are men. Their representation is not merely an apologetic caricature,  but a sign of gender oppression turning on itself. Either men are represented as reckless in their guilt-ridden escapes, or as simply evil oppressors. There is no action that seems redemptive for men; the women emerge as leaders with poise. The transition of men as the second sex with roles supporting women in their fight against tyranny and evil is strained, but it does happen.
While the men are abandoning their posts at the first sign of existential crisis, women are not over compensating, or even compensating. This is a role women have played for centuries. They are battle-hardened and self-assured about their ideas and skills. Their only doubts are regarding which course of action to take. Whereas the men are frozen in the face of action; undermined by their history of oppressive behaviour, doubtful of their stained identity as men genderally. They are pushed into possibly thinking that the only course of action is fleeing because they want to protect the women from themselves. This is just the beginning. The women are motherly, nourishing, supportive of this freezing and fleeing. This is natural for women, to accommodate for the men and fight the war.
Luke Skywalker is offered the lightsaber at the end of the movie. Will he overcome his existential crisis and second “his” women in the fight? The force has awakened,  we will find out how it transforms and endures.

Associated Links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars:_The_Force_Awakens
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bytDctZ2g6o

Image link:
http://cdn.slashgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/starwarstheforceawakens_teaser_trailer2_12.jpg

Contribution by: H. Prasanna