Engaging Conversations over films on Gender, Patriarchy and Masculinity – Sarah Husain

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When a group of more than 150 youth come together for a film festival, constructive, healthy thoughts are bound to take shape. However, these thoughts don’t rise in thin air, there are organizations like MAVA who with their strategic intervention plans create a base for these ideas.

MAVA, all through it’s years of functioning, has focused on working with young men on a preventive level, this makes the men realize how they play a vital role in reducing the violence in the society and how toxic the idea of ‘masculinity’ can be. When we put ourselves and others in boxes, we build a wall against freedom and creativity.

MAVA with it’s travelling film festival ‘Samabhav’ (Equanimity) is reaching far and wide, one city at a time. The festival reached Delhi University’s Miranda House college on the 30th and 31st of October, 2017 for a two day festival in collaboration with Kirori Mal college, Miranda House and the High Commission of Canada.

A number of movies were shown at the festival, and each movie was followed by a round of discussion around the topic so as to stir the thoughts of the viewers. The students shared their own personal experiences related to Masculinity-any experiences included the behavior of men not being able to accept their partner’s No, Men trying to hit the gym only to fit into the framework of what a real man should look like, etc. Other interesting experiences shared were that of stalking in the name of love, gender roles assignment at birth, the discrimination faced at home between siblings, etc etc.

Some students also realized how they in their homes got a privileged background, but they were not aware of it until the saw the movies which reflected lives of other people.

One of the many movies I liked was the ‘Broken Image’, which shows how a photo-journalist is torn between his professional duty and humanity. It beautifully captures the dark side of our professional life, which says ‘work is worship’ even if it means witnessing a situation that could be avoided if we intervene. Not just the story, I loved how the small details in the movie have been incorporated to show the real story. Nowadays, it is common to see people filming videos when a mishap happens rather than helping the ones in need.

Another movie that I liked was ‘Majma’, it’s a movie made on two men who sell their products (sex tonics) on the street, unlike general street hawkers their way of working is slightly different. They tell stories, call out to people, when people come, they are performing(Majma) around them.

The movie subtly shows the lack of sex education in the Country, the over emphasis on the size of one’s body parts that is filled in the minds of people, how the men think of women etc.

One of man in the movie owns an ‘Aakhaada’, which is a ring to play and practice Indian wrestling (Kushti), he is in his 70s and is shown to be physically fit and active, so much so that he can be seen constantly boasting about it while criticizing other men or boys who don’t make muscles, saying that such men aren’t real men and also they may not have the stamina to last in bed.

The other man sells medicines for sexual problems near Delhi’s Jama Masjid area, he is seen gathering a crowd and shouting his lungs out while talking about his product. All the scenes here show the lack of sex education in the man and how he spreads the same information to others so as to sell his product. There are emotional scenes in the movie that allow the person to vent out his emotions, the person shared how he was forced by his father to take his business forward even when he didn’t want to, and similar was the case of his own son who wanted to change his like of profession. It is shown in a subtle manner how men are raised to be bread winners, sometimes they sacrifice their personal choices for the common good of the family. The film revolves around fear, stress, anxiety on ‘performance’ whether in terms of sexuality or even in terms of physical powers or standing up to the twists of fate.

The collaboration with experts for the discussion post-screening of movies was an idea I really appreciate. This meant that healthy conversations could be constructed on topics of gender and sexuality with the help of expert suggestions and feedback.

Patriarchy and gender based violence are so instilled in our lives through social conditioning that many a times we don’t even notice how it is impacting our lives and the lives of those around us. Until we see the lives of others as an example and try to look at things we don’t usually pay attention to. Only when we see the pattern of our conditioning, can we bring about a change in our lives.

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