Misogyny shows up in several different ways. One of which is how we view women at different stages of their lives; how we view older women. Because not only are we judged for being single, married, dating, we’re also judged for growing older and how we choose to grow older! 

And something that is a clear indicator of how older women are perceived in a patriarchal society, is how they’re represented in our films. 

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Which is why we thought of compiling all the times Bollywood gave us poor representations of older women. Here, take a look:

1. The forever single woman. 

Back in 2008, not only did Dostana provide us with terrible LGBTQIA representation, it also gave us a disappointing, head-shaking caricature of an older, unmarried woman who was overly concerned with and quite conservative about young, single women having male flat mates.

It seemed as though the film makers were implying that Ms. Melwani’s (Sushmita Mukherjee) aversion to single women having that sort of freedom was a reflection of the bitterness that came with how her life had turned out. And it’s sad how we can even imagine a female character like that! It’s proof of misogyny. 

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2. The cougar. 

Then in 2003, we saw Jaswinder Kapoor or Jazz (Lillete Dubey) in Kal Ho Naa Ho. Again, it was almost offensive how desperate they made her out to be. 

She was either hyper focused on the wrinkles on her face or on garnering attention from men. It’s as if her only goal in life was to get hitched before she became “too old.” I mean, is that all what they think attractive, older women are concerned about? 

3. The sad, defeated and widowed mother. 

When Rakhee Gulzar played Durga Singh in Karan Arjun, she created a pathway for many other female actors who went on to play the role of the disempowered mother. 

Durga Singh was a stark reminder that women did not have the space to play characters who were as interesting as their male counterparts or colleagues. They had to settle for the older, ablaa naari, who needed men to save her. 

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4. The one who is hesitant of diving into a relationship again.

Don’t get us wrong, we loved seeing Sid (Akshaye Khanna) and Tara Jaiswal (Dimple Kapadia) together. But why is it that divorced or widowed women are generally shown to be hesitant of moving on after a relationship that hasn’t worked out. 

It’s commonplace to see male characters move on and fall in love again after a marriage ends but female characters have to be extra loyal, extra wary of getting sexually or romantically involved with other men. It’s as if female characters have to be holier than thou to be likeable!

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5. The evil mother-in-law

There was a time in Bollywood when as soon as female actors turned 30 or 35 they were all set to start playing mothers or mothers-in-law. Much like Aruna Irani as Laxmi Devi in Beta. 

So female actors above 35 either played the role of a helpless mom, or an evil MIL. And there is no way she could have been an empowered mother or MIL who had zero interest in being an agent of the patriarchy. So unfortunate!

6. The jealous sister-in-law 

In 2002, Ananya Khare played Kumud in Devdas. Although she wasn’t that much older than Devdas or Paro. We’ve seen this trope many times before; the older, second-in-line to be the matriarch of the family, sister-in-law. 

Who is mostly, a little too invested in policing the women of the family. It usually has to do with an insecurity around losing her position and power in a family system. And in the real world, this is about how women have been conditioned to see each other as competition. But we’re clearly done with seeing seeing women hurt each other, even in movies. It’s time we start seeing SILs who support and stand up for their brother’s girlfriend/wife. 

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7. The conservative matriarch who polices how other women in the family exist. 

Lajjo Kapur (Sushma Seth) was the ultimate controlling AF matriarch of the Kapur family. She was the harshest critic for the women in her family, and the best cheerleader for her grandson Shiv. See the difference? 

And over the last few years, we’ve seen several female characters like this. The older women who think that policing the women in their family is how you uphold the honor of your family! Let’s hope we start seeing more matriarchs who are supportive and encourage other family members to understand gender equality in movies now. 

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Maybe these characters are based on the harsh reality we live in. But I personally feel that exaggerating and normalizing their toxicity towards other women or their own empowerment should be spoken on with sensitivity and tact.