Pious Padmini and lustful Khilji: perpetuating the patriarchal stereotypes

Prakriti Victoria

Is there anything common between Padmini, the 14th century Rajput princess and the 3.5 billion women who live on Earth today? Yes! We all continue to live in fear. Fear of being violated. Fear that we may have to perform Jauhar ourselves to avoid the ignominy that comes with surviving a rape. The fear that rejecting a marriage proposal of a lovesick man could leave us disfigured by a revenge acid attack. The fear that we will be forced to marry the person who violated us. Padmini had performed Jauhar, a custom of self immolation, to avoid capture, enslavement and rape by the enemy, on anticipation of her husband’s defeat in a battle against the Muslim ruler Ala-ud-din Khilji.

Perpetuating the stereotype

The story of Padmini teaches us that being a ‘pativrata’ is the highest duty of a woman. Padmini is a paragon of virtue because she lives for her husband and is ready to give her life for him. She is brave because she makes the ultimate sacrifice of death for her defeated husband.
Portraying Padmini as the symbol of victory of Rajput honor against Muslim conquest reinforces the traditional view that sees women as the property of men with their value measured by their sexual purity.
Characterization of Khilji as a lustful Muslim tyrant based on a story the veracity of which is doubted engenders hatred in an already polarized world of today.

Reflection of reality

The supposed romantic dream sequence between Ala-ud-din Khilji and Padmini is construed as being a disgraceful and humiliating rite for the Rajputs who cannot “protect” their women. Padmini’s body becomes a medium of men’s expression, the means through which one group of men say what they want to say to another. The assault on the movie set is a stark revelation of the prevalent mindset of our society that views a woman’s body as embodying the community as a whole. Any act (be it in somebody else’s unconscious mind that manifests as a dream in an art film) that defiles or desecrates the sexual ‘purity’ of a ‘virtuous’ woman is thought to bring shame to the entire family and community. A woman is then killed in an act of honor killing or is forced to take her own life to protect the honor of her kinfolk.

Need for change

Cinema constructs and represents the image of women. There is a dire need for feminist movies which represent women as subjects of their own desires and not as mere objects who comply with the prevalent patriarchal norms. Little girls and boys should not be given the message that women are a part of their husbands with no independent existence or goals of their own.

The Mako Mori test asks whether a film has “at least one female character who gets her own narrative arc that is not about supporting a man’s story.” For those of us who desire to see the representation of women improve, choosing which films to watch and support can be a political act.
Spend your movie-going budget in ways that support tales of women empowerment.

 

 

 

  • Manny

    Nicely written and well explained. Reminds me of Mary who is portrayed as virgin Mary. Does it make her less virtuous if she wasn’t a virgin? Fighting these kinds of patriarchal stereotypes will take many many years till men get some brains and get civilised.

  • K SHESHU BABU

    Very few films depict the independent thoughts of women. Even historical films have ‘ make bias’. There is a need for presenting women struggling against male hegemony courageously and asserting themselves as strong and independent characters

  • Vishal Raj

    what is the fucking purpose of this article anyways.. ?I mean this triggers me.. it really does.. so what is that which the writer suggesting here that yazidi girls who are burned torture and raped by their captors and violators have no recourse but to accept it as their fate.. ? To be grateful that they have been enslaved and raped by the ISIS..?

    Jihadi armies, and it has been proven time and again and if anyone wants to call me out sanghi intolerant bastards they are free to do so.. but they were, as a historical fact, extra brutal with non muslim prisoners of war, .. when your identity is being used to torture and rape you, and by dishonouring your modesty, dishonouring and humiliating your community by extension, who shouldnt your suicide be made into an act of valor and glory for your community.. ?

    You should first go and study why Jauhar started..

    It started because the belligerent armies were not ready to play by the rules and were not your typical enemies in the sense that they wanted to forge alliance with you and hence kept to their promise of keeping you safe.. when terms of peace used to reach, and when the kings surrendered, the families of the royalty were butered and dishonoured and raped and humiliated and hence slowly hindus and not just rajputs came to the conclusion that these people wont abide by their own words

  • Narayan Ramasubramanian

    Total waste of my time. The writer is exaggerating facts and has no clue about self inflicted honor killing and repressive behaviour

  • Udai Rai

    Prakriti Victoria,

    i totally concur with your accurate analysis of our Male Chauvinistic mentality prevailing in most of our males.

    We men have enjoyed this superiority complex over our women kind, since the inception of human kind.

    Its an archaic mindset that originates from the period when humans used to live in caves.

    Back then we were savages, uncivilised n crude.
    In those ancient period, the one characteristic most essential for human survival was raw brute strength n power, that could hunt animals for food, n defend families against threats.
    And the male physical prowess fitted the bill.

    Thus,
    the savage males developed
    a bossy attitude n felt superior over the females back then,
    n that same attitude has been carried down till these day.

    With the passage of time,
    a social n collective impression got imbibed into our mind
    due to the tradition n culture that prevails around us.

    Such treatment subconsciously moulded how we imagine n perceive the social stature of our womenkind in society.

    This preconceived notion is passed down through ancestral practise as an acceptable tradition.

    Infact, even our women kind unwittingly resigned their role to this notion,
    further aided by their reluctance to challenge this primal tradition.

    This belief has been inculcated into the Impressionable minds of our young ones who surmise it as law of nature.
    Which, it’s NOT!!

    But,
    we must take into consideration
    for how long this belief system has been prevailing within the human psyche.
    That most probably originated soon after the hypothetical man
    Y-chromosomal Adam,
    who is estimated to have lived in East Africa about 2 lacs years ago along with the hypothetical woman Mitochondrial Eve.

    Its been almost 2lac years since archaic Homo sapiens (Latin: “wise man”) evolved into
    this anatomically modern humans,
    Subspecies of Homo Sapiens called Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

    Until now
    Women folks has been restricted to traditional principal role of wife and mother.
    But off late,
    women in India are gradually breaking the shackles from their moral and economic subjugation to men.

    Women in India were given voting rights in 1935, that is 10 years before French women and 11 years before Italian women.

    Another important step in this regard was of a legislative nature when, in 1956, the Hindu Divorce Act came into being,
    providing for divorce without the interference of any religious or social institution.
    This was the first legislation of its type in the world.
    From 1971, even abortion was legalised under certain special conditions.

    The Indian Constitution provided for social, economic and political justice to every citizen and equality of opportunity in public employment.

    Thus, women were given equal rights to adequate means of livelihood and «equal pay for equal work» with men.
    All careers were opened to women in India.

    They started outnumbering men in educational services, and a spate of women joined the lower income groups as well as highly paid groups.
    Women became engineers, pilots, lawyers, politicians,
    vice-chancellors of universities, etc.

    A lot has still to be done, particularly in rural areas, where the literacy rate among women in India is very low.

    Therefor,
    a deeprooted primal mentality ingrained in men for 2 lacs years,
    can’t just be expected to get ridden in just 60 years.

    Its tough to let go off such primacy
    men held dear since inception,
    u know.
    but it will happen eventually as the literacy rates grow up n good sense sinks in with a tinge of modesty.

    After all
    we are Homo Sapiens Sapiens
    (Latin: “wise man”)

    “This is a man’s world
    This is a man’s world

    But it would be nothing!!
    Nothing!!!
    without a woman or a gal!!”