Sunday, October 18, 2009

Its reigning men!

I was watching this Malayalam movie the other day. It showed, Suresh Gopi barging into a women’s ashram and demanding to see an inmate. The heroine of the movie who is the caretaker or manager of the ashram refuses citing rules and regulations. A perfectly normal response. What happened next was disgusting. Suresh Gopi tells her to “Shut your bloody mouth” and walks away. I was shocked!!! Does the film maker realize that this is not a standard response of a gentleman in anger? Or as my friend pointed out, this was considered the smart response in Kerala to women who speak up!! How many people must have watched this movie? How many people would it have influenced and encouraged to behave in a similar fashion with ladies? I suspect many!

Another rerun I saw showed a father in law telling a son in law after he had slapped his wife, that only now he (Son-in-law) had become a man and worthy of respect. There are several movies that I have seen in which physical abuse against women is justified and considered necessary “to keep her in check.” Even the new movies follow the same trend. In a movie that was released some ago, Prithviraj slaps Roma and justifies it by saying that she will anyway be beaten after the wedding so she can deduct this slap from the ones she will get then. And he says it so affectionately. The message of all these movies is clear. Women are to be controlled. And a slap or beating is always shown as the chosen method of control.

Last week I was on the last flight out from Kochi to Bangalore. I was in the last row of this Indian Airlines (now Indian) flight. Two rows ahead of me was a Malayalee youth who looked like he was on the way to Bangalore for a holiday. After take off, he lit a cigarette. A stewardess in her thirties or so, asked him politely to stub out the cigarette. In front of my horrified eyes, he told her to eff off! The lady was taken aback. Clearly she had not been addressed this way before. White faced she went off to complain to the Pilot. The guy grinned and looked around smugly. The grin froze when he saw me. He looked away quickly. He was pulled up at Bangalore and mildly reprimanded, given a lecture in manners and let off!

I have not lived in Kerala. But I know the Malayalam language and hence when I see these movies, I spot these abnormalities quickly. What is surprising is that when I point this out to my friends from Kerala, they say that it is the norm and very much the mind set of the 100% literate State. And what’s worse, women lead the pack that espouses strict control over women. The method most often used to goad men who do not hit their wives or treat them with respect is to call them ‘henpecked”! Women are to be seen not heard is apparently the state motto, I am told. It is no wonder that Kerala has the fastest growing divorce rate in India today!

p.s before anyone asks me, by Kerala standards, my Dad is the most henpecked man from the State. Go figure! :p

38 comments:

PHOTOGENIC DEVIL said...

THIS SUCKS MAN !! EVEN IN OUR HINDI ABUSES - UNTIL AND UNLESS THEY HAVE ABUSED FEMINITY IN SOME FORM THYE CNAT FIGURE THEIR MASCULINITY --- BOUT UR DAD - RESPECT

MY SON WLD GET ONE FROM ME THE DAY WHEN HE TOUCHES HIS WIFE- THAT IS WHENEVER I GET OUT OF COLLEGE AND GET MARRIED AND HAVE A KID ....

mathew said...

it is the typical bane of indian cinema to show woman as someone who has to be abused..i wish the filmmakers who have actually got the power to influence social thinking do something which brings a positive change in society rather than stick to old cliches...male maschoism is prelevant in all movies and all languages in our country..

Anonymous said...

Spot on! Have you seen the recent ad in which a girl runs away from home, only to return and her Dad clenching his fist as he controls himself from hitting her. Degrading..

Annemarie said...

Love you for writing this. Do read this - http://www.countercurrents.org/gender-jacob230604.htm

silverine said...

PG: Thats the spirit gal. The change must start with us gals.

Mathew: I am not talking of male masochism etc. here but the justification of beating women which is openly advocated by Malayalam cinema!

Anon: I remember!! See it percolates down to ads too. I saw a glimpse of a serial in which the FIL exhorts his son to kill his wife because she dared to speak up and he chases her with a knife in the night. Appalling!!

Annemarie: I have heard this from all my colleagues from Kerala!

Tresa said...

Annemarie, thanks for the article. I was looking for a study about this for a long time. I left Kerala when I was 19 and never went back to that ****** place ever.

Anonymous said...

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48738

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

These same imbecilic Indian movies(mallu(nowadays) or otherwise - they are all the same) have also been showing for decades now the hero fist fighting and defeating a 100 villains and saving his neighbourhood from the local goondas. Yet no man ever seems to take inspiration from that. So if they take inspiration from the girl beating or abusing but not from the fist fighting of criminals, it is merely a reflection of a principle that is already imbibed in those men.

A society may be judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable, be they the poor, the oppressed or its women.

p.s: I think Mathew meant 'machismo'

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

*I'd like to correct my earlier statement on the most vulnerable to replace 'the oppressed', whose vulnerability has, by definition, been exploited, with 'the disadvantaged' (be it physically, mentally or socially.)

G said...

Films like any other form of art, are both an expression of someone's vision of society and a possible model held up of how a society might be. So it is no surprise that Malayalam films reflect the state of the society.

Annemarie said...

@Tresa,

http://infochangeindia.org/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=6686

silverine said...

@some anons: This post is about the justification and advocacy of beating women in mallu movies. Please keep your comments to context. I am not going to publish any out of context comment.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Degrading and disgusting and should not be portrayed or encouraged as such. The script writer and the movie producer and director should have better sense. Where is that so called Censor board when you need them, these portrayals should have been axed. Sleeping at the wheel maybe.

Anonymous said...

p.s before anyone asks me, by Kerala standards, my Dad is the most henpecked man from the State. Go figure! :p
I would praise your mother for that, for being such a lovely lady.
I am with my life partner for last 6 + years, a wanna be henpecked mallu :), but my bad - she is hell bent to make me the other way. Let me make her read this post.
Ramesh

Annie said...

Movies or life, women abuse with tongue men retort with hand. Thet is there everywhere, mallu is not exception. When the life and situations are plotted some times to show the natural expressions, it becomes necessary for the directors to show such scenes. We need not imitate it like so many things that are not supposed to be adopted from movies or advertisements. As you said a change is inevitable but impossible until equality in physical strength is also established and women also retort with hand instead of tongue.

scorpiogenius said...

Hey, don't just tunnel in on us mallu-men dear Silverine! How 'bout your Kannadiga films? I've seen this happen in Tamil movies, which are even worse.

Unni said...

@Scorpiogenius - It is the filmakers who have tunneled in on you/us mallu men.

@Silverine - You are right. We never noticed it before. But me and the wife now remember those scenes tin Malayalam movies.

Mind Curry said...

excellent topic and very true..i have discussed this with a lot of my friends (and strangely, pretty much the same movies and scenes!)..you also mentioned in one of your comments the change must start with the gals..very pertinent point..i have seen mothers also promote such behavior among their sons and encouraging them to their wives are "kept at bay". so yes, the responsibility is collective and the change needs to be inculcated right from childhood.

mathew said...

@Karthik
thanks for correcting..i was under the impression both meant the same..until i looked up at the dictionary yday.;-P

Anonymous said...

I m malayalee woman in her mid twenties whose parents hv made her presence felt in all leading matrimonial portals....Since I ws bought up outside Kerala I wasnt quite aware of this perception....U just freaked me out abt my future with a mallu hubby...
I m gonna change my profile intro to " Looking for a eligible henpecked husband" if tht wt it takes..

YOSEE said...

surprising - and sad too - that education/literacy has not had any effect on ingrained paternalistic attitudes.

Unni said...

@Anonymous: Can you please tell me what is so degrading in the ad... I am sorry, but I really dont understand what you find degrading about that concept... Though I second Anjali's words in this post about how the general Indian male dominated society wants to treat their female compatriots, I feel that the emotion showed by the father in the afore mentioned ad was a very true and real emotion... The moment when a daughter/sister, or for that matter son/brother, leaves U breaking the trust you had on him/her, U will feel devastated... Its a feeling of betrayal of one's love and trust... Having undergone a similar situation, I can say that even if the person comes back, the first thing I would want to do is the same as shown in the ad.

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

@Ramesh, anonymous malayalee woman (AMW), and Anjali: Both Ramesh's and AMW's comments suggest henpecked is some sort of virtue. Is there a (positive) connotation to henpecked that i'm missing here? I only know the definition where henpecked means harassed by overbearing wives.

Soumya said...

Soo true. Its one thing I hate in Kerala. As a community mallus don't repect woman. I am a mallu and have lot of mallu friends who are really nice in person. But when they join a group, the whole story changes. They want to prove (I dont know to whom)their machismo by harassing woman. Its digusting. In Bangalore, if you go to Brigade road or MG road, the only people gaping open mouthed at girls and passing vulgar comments will be mallus. I feel its getting worse rather than getting better :(

cluelessness said...

@Karthik
With regards to henpecked, even though the dictionary suggests that it would mean a man having an overbearing wife, our society labels any man who considers his wife an equal partner and consults her on issues as henpecked.

In that sense, every level headed male is labeled as henpecked and relentlessly teased. And then there are some who see it for what it is and wear that badge proudly.

@Annie
It is true that you will find men and women of all kinds. Men who verbally abuse, women who physically abuse. What is the bothering trend is that abusive males are repeatedly depicted as heroes. The abuse is shown as some kind of manly virtue. When abusive female characters are cast in movies, they are usually the evil ones, not the glorified ones.

silverine said...

Unni: Correction.I was not talking of "general Indian male dominated society wants to treat their female compatriots". I was talking of Mallu men and society in particular. The ad Anon pointed out was perhaps the best example on this matter. Most people greet a prodigal with welcome arms. Only a control freak would fail to understand the importance of a person returning back. He would hit him because the controlled person dared to challenge his control and to reinforce the control.

Soumya: Nice to see another gal who does not wear blinkers! :)

cluelessness: Thank you gal! :)

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

@cluelessness: Thank you.

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

I know - I detest it when 'heroes' consider slamming women 'heroic'. And also - being the husband automatically gives them the right to abuse their wives.

If to be gentlemanly is considered henpecked, I wish all men were henpecked.

Roshan, Naveen and Ashwin said...

What we like about your blog is that you talk about real issues. When we focus on the real issues that we need to address to achieve social harmony, it results in time to action. The real problems of unemployment and violence against women shows the true image of our gods own country. And what is our response? To ignore the problems, and focus on trivia like the pronunciation of Trivandrum and Kochi/Trivandrum cat fights. It is no wonder your blog has grown into a niche-leading blog while others gather dust. Developing populist posts once in a while is one thing, but keeping your blog as a whole in demand is a sheer achievement! Hats off Anjali! :-)

hammy said...

Firstly, I'm sorry to disagree, but your dad HAS to lag behind my dad on the henpeckedness, and I'm quite proud of that. (Henpecked in the context that you have used, not the general notion as pointed by Karthik)

And it is largely a culture issue. Women in Kerala seem to be raised with that kind of a mentality - a resigned servitude which is bizzarely projected as a virtue of some sort. The husband's home is your home, your life comes second, turn the other cheek, life begins after marriage, keep your voice lower, do not talk in the company of men... Granted, these are not explicit instructions, but they are ALL present and applauded to varying degrees.

Wife beating is routinely brushed off as a in-house personal affair, and most women are explicitly instructed by their own parents to keep silent... suffer in silence, keeping up the great tradition of the 'Indian Naari', and this kind of silent acceptance continues up to the moment the bastard in the equation stabs her in a fit of rage or lights her up with kerosene for Diwali. Tradition is NOT always a good thing. There's a reason we call upward change 'progress'...

Women who are completely born and brought up in Kerala are typically so susceptible to this environment... While they accept their secondary status, at the same time, they buy IN to the illusion of equality... they truly believe that they are actually progressive and modern just because they're 'given permission' to go keep a part time job as long as the husband's daily routines aren't hampered. Most don't even realize that they've taken up a subservient position.

And the impact of movies in spreading this mental state is too great to ignore. Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those guys who say that violence in TV is the reason for violence everywhere. We DO have a good host of sensitive, sensible movies which DOES promote equal treatment and everything, but the number of these macho bullshit foul mouthed crap by far outweighs them, and today's youth is more likely to be influenced by the flashy hero who kicks the shit out of everyone who crosses his line than the pacifist orator who turns the other cheek.

But the real problem is that people consider these trends stylish. If movies continue to project plots like this, then it's going to be fashionable to beat your wife up every two weeks.

"Did you see the latest Prithviraj movie? The way he swooshed to the side and punched her teeth out... A backhand triple punch... that's so IN, man. I'm trying that tonight" - Taking your wife out for movies may lose the romantic charm it used to have ;)

The way that cretin behaved on board the flight was really disgusting, and I'm just sorry the airlines didn't pursue it further.

-"I'm sorry sir, we will not tolerate that sort of behavior. Kindly disembark the plane."
-"Wha??? Jeez, that's not fair"
-"We will have no further discussions about it. Please get out."
-"We're mid-flight, for cryin out loud. At least give me a parachute"
-"eff off"

(Continued in next comment. Yeah. Really long. Sorry... )

hammy said...

Continued from previous comment

And it doesn't help that religion and other organizations turn a blind eye to women's subjugation. Well, ok, so religion crafts its rules out of Neandrethal stories which are peppered with sexist mysoginist directives all over, and things HAVE improved better than that today. But seriously, that's not enough. While religion and social organizations protest serious abuses like wife beating, dowry murders, harassment, and the like, they still urge the women to suffer in silence when they can. Subtler forms of abuse, like not giving freedom to visit her friends and family, restricting her career ambitions, expecting her resigned submission to housework and child rearing, cuting off ties with her guy friends, namecalling and other... shall we say non-violent abuses... these are never really addressed, and I'm sorry, that simply won't do.

I lived most of my life in Kerala, and don't get me wrong - I like a lot of things about the place, but most women I knew back then... seemed like they were just rearing to go get married. Many of them had listed getting married to a good guy as an AMBITION. In fact, till I dropped in to Bangalore, I didn't even know we had women in India who are independent, career oriented, with ACTUAL goals in life... with an ACTUAL life...

But I still have hope. I keep in touch with some of my younger cousin's friends, and they are truly what I'd call progressive... I hope that it's a trend that shows there's hope for future generations yet. And only when girls like THAT come into play... who DEMAND they be treated truly equal, that things would change.

And the really weird thing is... if you come across someone who hasn't interacted with Keralites at all, they generally believe women are better off in Kerala, because it is a matriarchal society. Jeez.

(Interestingly, there's one thing that so far, I haven't found a supporter for... The movie My Fair Lady - I found the premise and plot to be quite sexist - Ultimately picturing that the woman couldn't survive withhout her man... And so far, on THIS count, I've been booed by even confirmed feminists... What's YOUR take on that? ;)

Anonymous said...

"...Suresh Gopi barging into a women’s ashram and demanding to see an inmate...Suresh Gopi tells her to “Shut your bloody mouth” and walks away."

i wonder what that accomplished, strictly from a perspective of plot coherence.. :-p

jackson

Sreedevi said...

http://www.boloji.com/wfs5/wfs518.htm

Anonymous said...

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main43.asp?filename=hub071109the_double.asp

RGB said...

Movies don't just advocate 'it's ok to shut-up or beat-up a woman who speaks up', but improves(!) your eff vocabulory...can't watch any movie with your kids, anymore! It's so full of it - gross humour, violence and chauvinism.

Jeseem said...

ahhh kerala guys.. the less said the better

Anoop G said...

only few decent guys like me and jeseem in mallu land...!!! ;)

http://poonaji.blogspot.com/2008/11/mallu-behaviour-volvo.html

Good Life said...

Its so true...i see you wrote this post two years back...me and hubby recently thought of watchin a malayalam movie, we went to forum, and there was only one movie running which was "King and the Commissioner"
We somehow sat through an hour, it was raining "bloody hell, shit,b*****d...finally we gave up and came back home!Two years..nothing has changed, in fact I have observed even Malayalam serials are similar, women are so badly dominated!!!
Why do educated women tolerate this...that is something I have not understood...well yes even my dad is henpecked in Kerala standards and I am so very proud of him!!:)