EXIT STAGE, MAN
- IWB Post
- February 28, 2014
People tend to assume that “provocative” clothing makes one a larger target for sexual violence. This isn’t surprising, because when a myth is repeated over and over, it becomes so embedded in public consciousness that a lot of people tend to believe it without considering if they should. They just accept that the myth is the truth because they don’t know any better.
The endeavor made by Mallika Taneja, a theater actress, can never be overlooked. The stage is not less than a battlefield when she audaciously showcases the real image of a woman in the society. Many phases are seen on the stage including exposing her body in bra & underpants to fully covering it with baggy kurta & scarf for her head, with a helmet worn upon. These all appearances are shown in order to find out the solution which could escape a woman to get assaulted. However the bold act showed that a provoking paw can never be stopped by adapting any of dressing style.
In every act of her this protagonist encourages women to question the norms and notions that are handed down to us before we accept them. We must not blindly follow what we are told to do; we weaken our position and restrict ourselves to the realm of the accepted, which is often dictated by someone else.
What Mallika says about the relationship of a woman with her body is really very heart touching, she says:
Our relationship with our bodies keeps changing, hence our bodies keep changing. And this relationship can be a cause of the great anguish if we are not comfortable with them. It is difficult to achieve this comfort since we are constantly bombarded with synthetic images of what a perfect body should be like… and we are made to believe that this is the benchmark of the beauty that all of us must strive towards. What we forget is that these images are manufactured in order to promote some other interests altogether. Each body is unique and beautiful in its own way. There is no body that does not have wrinkles or blemishes or some other form of twist or bend that we don’t like. In my opinion, each blemish, wrinkle, twist and fold tells a story. And these stories are what makes us who we are. And even though I struggle myself to accept these things, we must remind ourselves – there is no absolute beauty. We are all unique and beautiful in our own way.
Of course the change is always to make the society adapt the current norms but it is not always easy. It takes the whole era to adapt. Consequently the criticism she faces as an actor is not new to such artists. In reference to this she adds:
I deal with criticism and critics like any actor should. I don’t think my gender comes into play in this area. I think it’s important to listen to criticism and learn from it so that it can play a constructive role in our lives. However, if someone makes a sexist remark in the name of criticism, I do feel it’s important to let that person know that that is not appreciated.
Let’s talk about one more woman who tries to reform the society rules by her daring acting. Kalyani Mulay, 25, essays the whole journey of a woman’s body from birth to adolescence to womanhood in ‘Unseen’, the play directed by Vishnupad Barve. Dressing in white with a pair of shorts, she puts herself through the many quotidian rituals of womanhood: menstruation, depilation & dressing up.
Realizing girl’s issues closely, she accepts the narrow-mindedness of the society which as usual raises questions about her dressing, way of talking & body language. She also admits how a girl is ticked off among the guests to change the clothes when entered in shorts. The society never allows her to be positive and comfortable in whatever she wears or does. All the problems which she faces inspire her to give life to her performances on stage.
Believing in unbridled and energetic use of body, Neelam Mansingh Chowdhary has made a remarkable blunt in her act ‘The Licence’, based on Saadat Hassan Manto’s story. Neelam has played a role of the protagonist widow of a tangawalla, who becomes a novelty in the town by continuing her husband’s business. In the act she is pinned down by the police right at the time when her business is at peak. They say in lieu of tangawalli license they can provide her the license to sit in the bazaar and sell her body. Highly shocked by these words she then erases all signs of her femininity and starts dressing, walking, sitting and talking like her dead husband.
Neelam says: “There is no room of shyness in our work”. To depict rape, the actor uses a large, wet cloth to slap herself between the legs, pulls it out and then wipes the floor with it. There has to this sense of violation of the body. The intention is not to shock but the physical act just flows with the language of the play. She adds that last two years have seen the worst kind against women which gives her acts an excessive energy and leads to exaggeration on stage.
The Nirbhaya & Shakti Mills cases have inclined these actors to run a campaign in which they teach people to respect women by using their bodies. For a woman being comfortable & confident in whatever she wears is what can be ‘Resistant’ to these malign thoughts but ultimately the antagonistic perception needs to be treated as soon as it can be.
Now this is time for you to ask yourself – “In what relationship I am with my body”?