Lata was a smart girl in our college. But she had a reputation of being ‘fast’ – all because she wore sleeveless blouses, had short hair and walked on high heels. This was 45 years ago, when I was studying in women’s college in Mysore. Surprisingly, this ‘image’ definition of woman has not changed much over the years. We cast ourselves into ‘types’, wholly determined by a very superficial yardstick like dress.
Take Hindi films. The heroine romps around with the hero, wearing off-shoulder dresses, rides pillion with him, her hair blown wild and walks barefoot with him on the beach, munching peanuts. Then comes the ‘suhag raat’ scene, where she suddenly turns coy and waits for the guy to lift the veil off her face. The next frame shows her wearing a traditional Bengali saree, her hair in a modest bun and her gait solemn and sedate.
So, we make two presumptions here – a bride has to be shy, no matter how many years she has known the guy, and a married woman must look and act sober! The metamorphosis is pretty easy on the screen but how is one to achieve this switchover at such short notice? The viewer has to swallow this new ‘image’ of the same woman, the only reason for the change being her marital status.
Then you have the ‘separated woman’ type. I remember Tanuja in a movie. She was portrayed as hard, businesslike woman with her hair in a tight bun, because she is separated from her hubby. When she comes to tell her friend about her reconciliation with him, she looks soft and appealing, her short hair kissing her cheeks and shoulders.
Look at the ads showing hep girls in T-shirts – sipping a soft drink or riding pillion on motorbikes. They are the swinging gals, going in for the good things of life. Enter the housewife urging you to buy washing power or Bournvita or Band Aid. She wears a bun, a mangalsutra and a bindi the size of a rupee coin. She conducts herself with decorum and looks ‘responsible’. Can’t a married woman or housewife look as mod as the soft drink glamour gal? Or for that matter, can’t a housewife also sip a soft drink instead of only going in for Bournvita? The advertiser no doubt creates an ‘image’ for his brand of product, but he is also propagating an ‘image’ of woman.
I’ve often been told that I don’t look like a grandmothetr. How does one go about ‘looking’ that way? “Put up your hair, put on some weight and be a little sober” is the advice my elderly aunts give me, to fit the ‘image’ of a grandmother! Again, grandmothers are shown wearing white, looking wrinkled and holy. But there are many grandmas who look more youthful than their daughters and are accused of ‘not being their age’.
A ‘forward’ girl is supposed to be one who smokes and wears outlandish clothes. The drably attired woman is dubbed an uninteresting entity. How false are our preconceived notions of women! I had a very ‘gharelu’ looking married woman in our office who was having a clandestine affair with her boss, while the so called ‘mod’ outcaste was a very conservative wife and mother!
It’s high time we judge women not by their coiffure or painted nails, but by what they really are! It it’s a mystery, it’s because ‘women are like dreams’ – they are never the way you think they are!