Why does Bollywood shy away from showing male abuse?
Though we got to see a shade of it in Darlings, but why is Indian cinema shy of showing male abuse? Does it have something to do with the ‘macho’ image we have created for men in our society?
There is always such a hue and cry about the objectification of women in films and social media, but there is not a whimper about this stone cold, strong stoic image we have created of men. Historically, lot of it stems from way the warrior and martial races have been projected and perceived. Their compulsion was to ensure that with so many wars being fought, fresh blood kept joining the ranks, aspiring to be counted as one amongst the few. For those who didn’t belonging to such ‘coveted/aspirational’ classes, there was always the folklore, film, comic book hero who rose from nothing and challenged the might of the system.
The Indian male therefore is all about being a born combatant whose pre-programmed to remain unaffected by any life event, negative or otherwise. Mumbai based advocate Mohit Bakshi says,, “Novels, films and advertising have made the hot blooded, brooding albeit silent male the epitome of manliness and thus the desire of every woman.”
Most men grow up on phrases like ‘Be a man’, ‘Real men don’t show emotion’, ‘Don’t cry like a girl’ etc. This has further muzzled the emotional expressiveness of men. With this as a background, imagine a man reporting abuse that too at the hands of your parent, spouse, domestic partner or boss. It is a sure fire ticket to ridicule amongst peers and an absolute personal and professional hara-kiri. The solution, stay quiet and continue suffering.
But the question is why have films and web shows still not gathered the courage to show abuse on men in marriages even with OTT being a hugely democratic platform? Mostly, because with films and web series largely being produced by big media entities, their focus is profit through entertainment. Most real issues are not entertaining, there are gut wrenching and thus garner very limited viewership despite impressing juries the world over and winning critical acclaim.
There is however hope, Netflix being first off the block with giving the go ahead to Indian documentary film makers to tell stories which awaken the social consciousness amongst other things. “The issue of abuse of men in Indian marriages is not a new one, it does not get talked about or researched because it is not likely to win you elections, get you likes and followers, place you as a crusader of men’s rights, infact the contrary may happen where the media paints you as a woman hater and then all the pseudo feminists would be up in arms.” No one wants that do they?
Bakshi narrates that if you have seen the very popular web content on channels like Alt Balaji, ULLU, Kooku etc. These lewd, raunchy and sexually explicit Indian made web shows weave stories and plots around all kinds of sexual abuse upon men from S&M to being forced into threesomes and or blackmailed into sex by women often much older than them. These shows garner millions of views.
Says psychotherapist Padma Rewari, “The gender discrimination which always talks of men cannot cry is hesitatant to report of being emotionally or physically harassed because of societal norms and pressures. Gas lighting can happen in all sexes but the prominent cases that come out are only women in numbers. Men are worried about consequences whereby they feel that their vulnerability will come out in open which is not a comfortable situation for them.”
Now should we call it entertainment or should we call it out as a gross misuse of freedom of speech and expression and a slap in the face of ever law that has been made to prevent sexual harassment of both genders. Ironically, the Indian Statistical institutions researching crime, social and otherwise are largely mum over the statistics of male abuse in the Indian context. For them it’s a vicious cycle of how do we account for what is not reported. The social pundits are quick to jump in and say that abuse of men is a very rare phenomenon and so has no researches or research grants attached to it or attracted by it. To this the media and feminist brigade will add and say that male abuse is a figment of your imagination, an attempt by the chauvinists to take the focus away from the atrocities against women.
In short, you will find it extremely tough to cull out any figures of male abuse inspite of being a country of over two billion people. Statistics, facts and figures pertaining to women’s abuse are aplenty. Bakshi says from legal point of view, a very negligible or perhaps none that men report on domestic violence that go through in marriages be it verbal, mental and physical. It is saddening to see the absolute lack of gender equality in laws.
Take for example Chapter XVI of the Indian Penal Code,1860, under the sub heading Sexual Offences you will find Sections 375 to Section 377 (now repealed). A plain reading of these will show you who absolutely and utterly biased the laws are. These sections speak nothing of male sexual abuse at the hands of other males or a woman. Interestingly, a sexual violation of woman is called Rape while that of a man is called Sodomy. Both have entirely different legal ramifications but why must it be so. Let’s simplify this, look at eve teasing covered under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code,1860. Let us get together and search for the section on Adam Teasing shall we? It will be a long search to say the least, at the end of which you will come away, empty handed.
In the year 2013, the Justice Verma Committee recommended the Criminal Law (amendment) ordinance which made all crimes against women be it assault or sexual penetration to be regarded as gender neutral. The Govt of the day passed the said ordinance but rolled it back under intense lobbying and pressure from feminist groups.
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