Films are more impactful than we notice. We pick nuances and ideas from characters and storylines, which makes it important to be sensitive about how they’re portrayed. When it comes to women, Bollywood has mostly been misogynist in its portrayal of female characters – where they’re treated like objects or not given substantial presence. Despite the changing times, there’s still a lot that goes unnoticed.
Casual sexism in portraying all women in the same light is one of the many ways in which it affects, how we see women in general. Bollywood shows all women as similar people, like its a recipe and not a person. These stereotypes have existed since forever, and even though things are changing, they still manage to exist.
Here are some things that Hindi cinema thinks, all women do:
1. Keep themselves on-fleak – as people who ALWAYS fit in the beauty standards.
Bollywood always romanticises ideas, even when they’re actually uncomfortable. This includes things like, a flying dupatta and kajal that never shifts. Most films show women as people who love to dress-up and are never not on-point. It’s as if pimples, tanning and a bad hair day are non-existent. For instance, Shanaya from Student Of The Year and other female characters, as a matter of fact, were shown as people who only cared about how they looked – which is a common portrayal in Hindi cinema.
2. Fight with other women, for men.
It seems to be a common notion that women cannot have meaningful friendships – which is of course misleading. But, to add more drama Bollywood keeps showing female characters who are insecure and possessive in relationships – specifically towards other women. Veronica from Cocktail and Safeena from Gully Boy are some examples.
3. Consider motherhood as the ultimate goal.
Motherhood is a journey for any woman, which is not always easy. However, Hindi cinema mostly portrays it as the ultimate goal for any female character. Raising or wanting to raise a child is shown more as a part of life, than a choice – which is not true for all women. Mimi, for example, not only normalized but also glorified the act of giving up on dreams for motherhood, even with its impactful message on adoption.
4. Get into relationships, only to get married.
As much as society wants to believe, women do not get into a relationship only to get married. Different stages of life come with different priorities – even when it comes to handling companionship. This means that relationships are more than just emotional commitment and shouldn’t come with the pressure of not being able to leave, when needed. But, films like Tamasha or Love Aaj Kal portrayed commitment as something final for women – even in their ways of being progressive.
5. Live for their families.
We are all surrounded by people who matter to us, and that makes care and affection a part of our relationships with them. But, that doesn’t mean that we do not have a life of our own. Women are portrayed as people who constantly rely on their relationships with partners, children or even parents in order to be happy. Tisca Chopra’s character Maya from Taare Zameen Par is an example, where the character led a life driven by her family, and her emotional space was only occupied by them.
6. Rely on men for major life decisions.
Most Bollywood films show men as people in-charge, even when it comes to the lives of the women in their lives. From choosing to do a job or practicing an art in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi to getting married in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania – women are shown taking permission or relying on men for decisions that concern them. While taking support isn’t in any way wrong, showing weak female characters who cannot take charge in lives is both innapropriate and toxic.
7. Enjoy doing house chores.
Doing house chores when living alone or as a hobby, in case of things like cooking, come with a choice. However, not everyone ‘loves’ managing an entire family – specifically when it isn’t rewarded. It is commonly portrayed that women ‘enjoy’ chores related to the house, however men are hardly shown doing any of it – let alone ‘enjoying’ it. Sridevi’s character from English Vinglish or Kajol’s Anjali from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham are examples.
8. Love the colour pink.
This is a very common and basic portrayal that stereotypes women. Liking a certain colour or wanting to do make-up is a choice, which doesn’t define people – not even women. However, when it comes to Hindi films, women are portrayed as characters who are obsessed with clothes, make-up and for some reason, the colour pink. Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Ruchika from Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 are just few examples.
‘Not all women’, just saying.