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Calling Out 5 Movies Which Present Sexism So Subtly That People Hardly Notice It

Posted: February 17, 2020

Often, the subtle sexism that movies normalise, is difficult to catch, and this further affects mindsets. This needs to be called out.

Apart from serving as a source of entertainment and providing us with valuable information at the same time, movies also promote several evils which we tend to overlook.

Movies often project sexualization and objectification of women as normal. Apart from this, movies also present sexism so subtly that people hardly notice it.

Over time people have accepted certain things as normal and hence, do not think of them as sexist. Here are a few movies which I believe fit in this category.

Manmarziyaan (2018)

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Despite being one of the most recommended love stories for youngsters to watch, people often fail to notice the highly sexist and patriarchal undertones the movie portrays.

The fact that Rumy (Taapsee Pannu) loves Vicky (Vicky Kaushal) but fails to get married to him because he lacks a good job shows the amount of importance people attach to men being well settled and ignore the accomplishments of a woman.

Rumy herself was once a hockey player and then a seller of accessories required for the sport. Hence, she is capable enough of managing her own expenses and doesn’t actually need the money of her husband. However, this is not how the society tends to look at women. They are often seen as a man’s ‘responsibility’ and that is one of the major reasons why men are pressurised to get high paid jobs. Despite Vicky’s irresponsible attitude, his love for Rumy cannot be doubted.

Rumy’s decision to get married to and ultimately stay with Robbie (Abhishek Bacchan), a banker, even after getting a divorce has been praised widely. This has been considered to be a wise decision on the part of the girl. Though Vicky finally gets a job and tries to transform himself into a ‘responsible husband material’, Rumy’s love for him has already faded away and she ultimately decides to stay with the one who is in a ‘better financial position’. Although one can definitely transfer one’s feelings from one person to another, I personally believe Vicky loved Rumy more than Robbie ever could, and she would have probably been happier with him.

Bewakoofiyan (2014)

Director: Nupur Asthana

Whenever it comes to the marriage of their daughter, brown parents usually tend to look for a man who earns well and preferably “more than” their daughter does. This is something I have always failed to understand. On the one hand, they love to see their daughters succeed and on the other hand, wish to get them married to someone who is “more successful” than them.

This is exactly what the character of V. K. Sehgal (Rishi Kapoor) portrays. He rejects Mohit Chadda (Ayushman Khurana), the man his daughter Mayera (Sonam Kapoor) desires to marry, on the ground that his salary is lesser than that of his daughter. The situation worsens when Mohit loses his job and both he and Mayera make efforts to keep the truth hidden from Mr. Sehgal. As expected, he becomes furious on learning the truth.

Mayera’s declining her Dubai transfer (which she had earlier accepted) and staying back with Mohit does provide a happy ending to the movie but at the same time it highlights the existence of sexism and patriarchy in the Indian society. Women are often misled into believing that their career is not their priority. That their main focus should be the well being of their home and family. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Mayera chooses her lover over her career.

In addition to other factors which go on to justify the title of the movie, this, according to me is the most important one. In my opinion, what she did wasn’t really a wise decision on her part. Maintaining a proper balance between love and career is something youngsters are yet to learn.

Sultan (2016)

Director: Ali Abbas Zafar

It is ironical that Sultan (Salman Khan) who had no idea regarding wrestling stole the show and Aarfa (Anushka Sharma), the one because of whom he got into wrestling hardly receives any recognition. It was only after Aarfa, a wrestler herself, acquaints Sultan with the fact that she would only marry a man well versed in wrestling that Sultan begins to prepare himself as an eligible match for her.

Aarfa’s pregnancy affects her career adversely and she gives up her dream to win a gold medal for India in the Olympics. However, Sultan continues to gather the praise of people. His desire to have a son instead of a daughter highlights the misogyny he harbours within himself. He dreams of raising his child as a wrestler and thinks that only a son was suitable for the task. He tends to forget the fact that Aarfa herself is a wrestler and it is she for whom he became one.

Sultan’s refusal to stay with Aarfa during her delivery because he had to perform in the Olympics portrays his selfish nature. Aarfa didn’t hesitate to sacrifice her dream on account of her pregnancy but the same can’t be seen in Sultan.

However, the reversal of Sultan’s character after the death of his newborn son deserves applause. He succeeds in gaining the love and sympathy of the viewers when they learn that he wishes to start a blood bank in order to help the ones in need. Towards the end of the movie, he is seen training his daughter to become a wrestler. This shows the changes his character has undergone. However, the subtle sexism and misogyny reflected in the movie cannot be ignored.

Pyaar ka Punchnama (2011)

Director: Luv Ranjan

Despite being considered to be one of the most entertaining movies ever made in Bollywood, Pyaar ka Panchnama has highly sexist instances which people fail to notice.

It should be noted that all female characters in the movie have been portrayed as evil and are shown to be exploiting the males mentally, emotionally and financially. The women are seen to be interfering in the lives of their male counterparts despite their not being in favour of it.

Rajat (Kartik Aaryan) goes on to give a speech on why his relationship with Neha (Nushrat Bharucha) isn’t working well. The reasons he puts forth are highly sexist and misogynist. This is because Neha has been portrayed to be exploiting Rajat. Nishant (Divyendu Sharma), although a man with no malice, displays his perverted nature through his dialogues and is told by his friends that he needs a girlfriend since he is frustrated. This clearly shows the treatment of females as objects by men.

Charu (Ishita Raj Sharma) is shown to use Nishant to fulfill her selfish motives. She exploits him financially and also makes him do a good part of her work. Apart from this, she also uses him for emotional support when things don’t work out well between her and her partner. Rhea (Sonalli Sehgal) is presented as a woman cheating on her present partner Vikrant (Raayo S Bhakirta), with her previous partner. These instances seem to be created with the aim to create a negative image of women in the minds of the viewers.

At the end of the movie, the women are seen to be having new partners which again creates an impression of women not taking relationships seriously. Whereas, the incidents portrayed in the movie might take place in real life, such generalisation of men being perverts and women being self centred doesn’t appear to be necessary.

Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety (2018)

Director: Luv Ranjan

Besides projecting women as gold diggers, pretentious and dominants, the movie is full of sexist remarks which people often overlook.

Pihu (Ishita Raj Sharma) is presented as a dominating character who tries to control the life of her partner, Titu (Sunny Nijar). On learning that his best friend Titu has decided to get married after a period of six months since his break up with Pihu, Sonu (Kartik Aaryan) suggests that a rebound takes place through sexual intercourse and not through marriage. This shows his treatment of women as mere objects of sexual gratification for men.

Sweety (Nusrat Bharucha) is presented as a woman who puts up a pretentious nature in order to earn the love and trust of Titu and his family. Also, Sonu’s doubts regarding Sweety’s loving and caring nature highlights the internal misogyny that he harbours. His doubts actually prove to be true when Sweety reveals her true self to him. Thus the movie supports the generalised notion of women putting up pretensions in order to conceal their actual motives.

Also, Titu’s mother remarking that Sweety is too slim to give birth to a child shows how it is usually taken for granted that a woman’s ultimate objective is to become a mother and that she needs to be in “proper health” for it. This again shows the sexist nature of people.

It is also seen that she desires to know as to how many “male friends” Sweety has on her social media handle. Nothing can be more disrespectful for a woman than being judged on the number of males she knows and interacts with.

Sonu’s treatment of Pihu as a pawn in order to prevent Titu from getting married to Sweety is yet another instance of him treating a woman as an object. Though Pihu’s earlier behaviour towards Titu is unacceptable, Sonu’s treatment of Pihu too deserves to be ridiculed.

Towards the end of the movie, Sweety comments, “Dosti aur ladki mein hamesha ladki jeetti hai.” This sentence reveals how women present themselves as breakers of strong bonds of friendship because they believe they can easily drive a man astray. Thus, it can be said that it is not only men but also women who give rise to sexism since no one points out how certain things are not actually normal but sexist and misogynist.

First published here.

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