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5 Television Moments That Empowered Me On A Personal Level

We need to bring change in our personal lives as we question and fight the system for equality. Here are 5 instances where I felt validated about things people don’t often talk about

I believe that we need to bring in change in our personal lives as we question and fight the system for equality. Here are 5 instances where I felt validated about things people don’t often talk about – such little things.

Many feminist shows are mushrooming on various platforms today. While some deal with the subject matter in a way that serves the public conscious, some put the viewers in a dilemma. A few times, some shows that are falsely marketed as feminist because the story is centred on a heroine rather than a hero.

While there is a definite shift, it is still very experimental. I believe it is okay to get feminism(s) wrong because it’s still an evolving ideology. There should be a space to make mistakes and learn from it to be better. A denial to learn, or not listening to various voices, is highly problematic.

The idea is to engage with the viewers rather than passively entertain them to sleep. While many shows and films have created a space in the public discourse, I am often taken by small instances in these shows.

These small instances are nuances of the narrative that deal with shame and guilt – oftentimes not easy for anyone to accept even on a personal level. We are, after all, conditioned to criticize ourselves in plenty.

Private Practice – Season 4, Episode 13 – ‘Blind Love’ (2011)

This is a Grey’s Anatomy spin-off with Addison Montgomery as the protagonist. She moves to L.A. to join a private practice with her friends. In this episode, Dr. Charlotte King says to her rapist –

“If I wanted you dead, you’d be gone by now. I spent all this time building you up in my head as some big bad monster. The truth is, you’re nothing. Nothing but a sad pathetic little man who has to beat and rape women to make himself feel big. You got no power over me. I am not afraid of you. But I do pity you. And I forgive you.”

Charlotte King is perhaps one of the fiercest characters I have seen on TV, someone who can surprise the heck out of her viewers. The plotline of the season deals with Charlotte King being raped, taking her time to report the crime, and identifying the rapist.

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It is done with utter sensitivity, bringing together the outsider’s perspective along with that of the survivor. This particular dialogue stands out for me because it shows Charlotte taking back her power – her transition from being a victim to being a survivor.

People tend to associate anger and resentment with crime. The narrative often follows a story towards justice. There’s rarely a dialogue on the survivor’s healing. Charlotte King forgiving the rapist was a moment of empowerment for me.

Hatred and anger drains me. I cannot hold on to it, and yet letting it go feels like a form of self-betrayal. As if, I am saying, it’s okay when nothing about sexual abuse is ever okay. Forgiveness here becomes a part of healing, a part of letting go of the identity as a victim. Finding it in a story on screen was truly empowering – forgiveness doesn’t mean it’s okay, it’s taking your power back from the incident.

Fleabag – Season 2, Episode 4 – ‘Episode 4’ (2019)

‘I sometimes worry that I wouldn’t be such a feminist if I had bigger tits.’

The placement of this dialogue adds to the humor of Fleabag. It is set during a silent prayer session in which people speak only when they feel deeply moved by something. However comic, it had me thinking, why am I a feminist?

The standard answer is gender equality and inclusivity. But, why do I want such equality? Would I have been a feminist if I were not shamed for having dark and spotted skin along with a body that has no curves? Probably not!

The moment was a reality check. Even if it isn’t difficult to admit, it raises the question – how many women with conventionally accepted bodies are feminists? Would they venture into these debates or just bask in the glory of patriarchal validation of their physical existence?

This one dialogue had me accepting that had I been fair, I might not have felt the need to question the society that approved my skin color. But, then, I might have because fairness cannot buy 100% patriarchal satisfaction. Can it?

Grey’s Anatomy – Season 15, Episode 19 – ‘Silent All These Years’ (2019)

The long-running medical drama focused on rape survivors in this episode, giving absolutely no screen space for therapists. It has two parallel storylines. The first one deals with Dr. Jo Karev going in search of her birth parents only to find out that the woman who gave birth to her was raped.

Unable to deal with it, she abandoned the baby. It is interesting that despite the mother-daughter reunion, the episode doesn’t play on maternal instincts and remorse. It shows that the woman still cannot accept her daughter because she reminds him of the man who raped her, considering the physical resemblances.

This is further reiterated in the second plotline in the episode in which Jo Wilson treats a rape survivor. While the episode is remarkable for showing a rape kit in detail, a particular moment stood out for me. It was the moment when the survivor was supposed to go out of the room into the operating theatre.

She tells Jo that she cannot go out there because she sees the face of the rapist in every man. It hit me on so many levels because this distrust is not talked about when a person is violated. It no longer matters who’s good or bad. The initial impact of such violence is fear and distrust, how do you have faith that the next man you see won’t rape you?

I was extremely grateful to Grey’s for addressing this issue which led to the epic scene in perhaps the whole of television. Dr. Jo Karev lined the corridor with women on both sides for the survivor to feel safe. There was no attempt to make her see that ‘not all men’ are harmful. There was an acknowledgment of her state, of her fears.

Moreover, Dr Andrew DeLuca held the door outside to make sure no man enters the corridor. I like to believe his role is basically a representation of the role of men in cases of violence against women.

Made in Heaven – Season 1, Episode 7 – ‘A Royal Affair’ (2019)

Karan: Do you realize on how many levels this is wrong? You’re a woman for god’s sake!
Tara: Which is why I will not judge her!

I often wish we lived in a world where the first reaction to sexual abuse was to report the abuser. I wish we didn’t have to consider a hundred factors before doing so.

In this episode, a working-class woman Pooja is molested by the head of a royal family. We are told by Karan that she is ready to file a complaint despite her fears.

The daughter-in-law to-be of the royal family offers monetary compensation to Pooja, telling her that she’ll never be able to earn 2lakhs in her life. Pooja demands 5lakhs, and the matter is sorted. The class difference here overpowers ‘doing the right thing.’

But, one might ask, what is the right thing?

Pooja chooses to buy comfort for her family at the expense of her molester walking free. It is at this moment that an enraged Karan snaps at Tara, who says that it’s not her choice to make, it’s Pooja’s.

Tara is aware that the road to justice and equality is intersectional. It cannot be linear, with one solution to every problem. While reporting the molester is an attempt to uproot rape culture, it is also true that not every woman is equipped emotionally and economically to deal with the judicial process.

It is easy to be an outsider who says, report the crime. It’s not easy for the survivor to do it. Every woman knows someone who’s been raped or abused or molested and not reported it. Every woman understands it, with compassion and empathy.

Thappad (2020)

I have absolutely no idea how and why I came to believe that love is forever. I grew up with such ideas of true love, that not following it felt like a betrayal. It’s particularly difficult to accept that love is not the be-all and end-all, if we are talking about being in relationships. Love is not enough for two people to live together for the rest of their lives.

Thappad is widely applauded for the stand it takes against domestic violence. It was indeed kind of shocking to see that a woman files a case for a slap, while her lawyer isn’t able to walk out of a marriage where she’s raped.

I was in awe of the movie when the protagonist says that she was a housewife by choice. It is often assumed that all housewives are oppressed in the absence of an agency to choose.

Here, she knew what she was signing up for. And, when she wasn’t okay with it, she exercised her choice to walk out of it. I was particularly taken by the moment in which the protagonist tells her husband that she is no longer in love with it.

That moment was so freeing. To have a representation of falling out of love amidst all the narratives of true love lasting forever against all odds in the society. It was a moment of forgiving the self for not following the narrative of true love that I believed in.

No one should have to lose themselves to be with someone. That moment in the movie didn’t feel like a question of the love that was present in the bygone days between the husband and the wife. It felt like an acknowledgment of the present where it no longer exists.

It didn’t happen in one moment. A lack of respect led to it.

These scenes from the TV series and movies have stayed with me. Are there any little moments of liberation and validation that have stayed with you?

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About the Author

Akankshya Abismruta

Feminist. Writer. Questions everything. Scribbles everywhere. read more...

8 Posts | 28,562 Views

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