We live in a world where strong visuals fill our brains through screens that surround us at all times. As such it becomes impossible to prevent the inception of an idea that may or may not have the potential to influence our psyche. In most cases visuals do leave a profound impact on how we perceive the world. These visuals have created a strong culture of exhibitionism where ‘how we look’ has taken the better of the ‘who we are’.

From other institutions, Film and Fashion industry is most superior in its contribution to visuals and perception building. For the same reason it has immense responsibility in bringing forth the right message across its wide-reaching audience. While it has created much space for the aspirations of a ‘new woman’, there is also a trend that has shrewdly hegemonized the perception of a ‘liberated woman’. A huge part of the industry is committed to establishing that nudity is tantamount to a woman’s expression of liberation. But coming from a giant profit-making industry, one can’t help but think that this idea is any less influenced by the values and forces that drive these industries to create markets for whatever they sell. Right when the issue of objectification of women in media started taking a central position in the mainstream discourse, a new interpretation that completely altered the narrative was promulgated by these industries. This involved reassuring women that revealing bodies on screen had nothing to do with commodification but was rather empowering in view of the several restrictions imposed on women in a sexist, male-dominated world. This was done in an attempt to safeguard the markets that thrived on the erotic and sexual depiction of a woman’s body. As Laura Mulvey has pointed out in the ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ that women’s appearances are “coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness”.

Feminism seems to have borrowed a lot of ideas from this very same school of thought that glorifies women’s sexuality. There is too much focus on revealing skin and bare bodies as a part of their cause. In the pop culture everytime a woman is seen wearing clothes and doing actions that explicitly project her sexuality she is said to be strong and bold. But is this strength justifiable when it is only stemming from how a man desires to see a woman i.e. a sexual object.

However, a blatant expression of this desire by a man will only come across as being chauvinistic, so it calls for a careful manipulation that makes this desire appear innocuous and unobjectionable. What better way than feminism embracing it?

Men simply want to rid themselves off the blame of orchestrating a culture where a woman’s worth is gauged by how much she caters to his sexual satisfaction. Psychology defines this through the concept of ‘projection’, where rather than taking ownership of an unacceptable motive you attempt to externalize the problem by attributing it to someone or something else. In other words, “Men don’t ask women to show their bodies, women do it in the name of choice, and comfort.”

It is of extreme importance for a capitalist mind to ensure that their sense of fashion becomes the exposition of feminism so that the credibility of their markets goes uncontested. In other words, capitalism is ‘co-opting’ feminism. And the success of this is reflected in the growing need of modern women to wear smaller and smaller clothes to assert their liberty. But this is only reinforcing the sexual inequality that has existed in this world for the longest time (for we don’t see men’s clothing reducing in size). Moreover, it allows for an unbalanced transaction that takes place between the woman’s body and the man’s eye, where the latter is the sole profiteer.

Under the garb of feminism, what actually seems to be operating is a synthesis of patriarchy, chauvinism, misogyny and capitalism.

Feminism has to survive the implicit paradoxes that have clouded the perception of real empowerment. The ‘how we look’ should be independent of the forces that quantify us. Our so called ‘choices’ should genuinely be our ‘choices’ and not be governed by the ‘invisible hand’ that is skillfully creating a culture of consent against our own sensibilities. Our freedom should not be regulated by someone else’s necessity but our own. Thrust should be on emancipating women through substantial and material empowerment that goes beyond their body.

Sanya Darapuri is a student


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One Comment

  1. Avatar S.R. Darapuri says:

    “Thrust should be on emancipating women through substantial and material empowerment that goes beyond their body.”
    It is very true. The real empowerment lies in substantial material and mental empowerment.