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The world we live in has been scuffling with this sensitive subject for as long as we have recorded. Stereotypes are images held in our minds about certain racial or cultural groups, inconsiderate of whether the images held are true or false. Discrimination involves acting out with unfair treatment and directing the action towards the person or group. Discrimination runs against the foremost fundamental values of contemporary society. It is a threat to democracy, which is based on the thought of a society in which arbitrary hierarchies and preferences based on gender, ethnic origin, and wealth have been eliminated to achieve equality. And to cope with discrimination there is only a single narrative, ‘Savior from Outside.’ The forms of bigotry are varied, and different for each culture, every society, and each nation.

The movie Article 15 establishes that untouchability is, in fact, terrorism. And maybe it’s more dangerous because it’s a daily lived reality that dictates people’s jobs, living conditions, where they worship, how they eat, and much more. The protagonist, a cop, leads the investigative team to unravel the heinous crime in Laalgaon, a small town in India. He describes it as ‘the wild, wild west.’ He is a stand-in for urban, educated, upper-class Indians. He’s a caste-blind, St. Stephen-educated Brahmin, who is so Westernized that his girlfriend calls him a foreigner. In one of the film’s best scenes, he attempts to know the various divisions in his team and is told that even within the most suppressed, there’s a hierarchy. He explodes at the absurdity of it. The films throw light on the reality of rural and urban India in the 21st century where discrimination of caste is incredibly prevalent and the oppressed haven’t yet been uplifted with the assistance of law or society, despite the Constitutional measures. The scene where the main culprit reveals that the reason for raping the Dalit girls was because they had asked for a wage hike of merely Rs 2 per day, and being from the upper caste he punished them for doing so, shows the intensity of the crime against the Dalits who have been oppressed for centuries, is relevant even today. Like in many other films, the upper caste hero is the savior of the oppressed however, in Article 15 the dynamic characters like Nishad (the Robin hood of the Dalits) and Guara ( the elder sister of one of the girls) without whose help, the protagonist could have never succeeded, depict an unexplored narrative where the oppressed stand up and fight for their selves and don’t need a savior from outside.

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The parallels of this film can be seen in the essay ‘Finishing School’ by Maya Angelou who writes on Racial Discrimination, well knit in the story of the black girl Margaret who knows how to stand up for herself and fight. The background highlights the prevalence of Racism in the United States in the 20th Century and depicts the subtle reality of what black slaves have been through for decades. The black girl refuses to be named by the white lady for her convenience and she finds her identity through her struggle and is determined to hold her head high with dignity. These two powerful narratives give a different perspective from the usual stereotypical narrative of the oppressed and the victims. Both of these stories not only fight against the societal discrimination of caste and race but also strongly bring Feminist values to the forefront.

In the history of humankind, no society or nation has been immune to discrimination, either as victim or victimizer but Women all over the world for a very long time have been victims and survivors regardless of any other identity. As Laurie Penny wrote in the New Statesman, “While we all worry about the glass ceiling, there are millions of women standing in the basement—and the basement is flooding.” This glass ceiling is not just at work but also at home and in every single walk of life where women have been forced to serve the fragile masculine egos. The essay “Cinderella: A Tale that Promotes Sexist Values” by Pei-ti-Feng throws light on how such bedtime stories give little girls the wrong kind of role models and promote negative stereotypes instead of teaching values of equality and inspiring children to achieve goals and dreams and not wait for a ‘Prince Charming’ or compromise their own identity for anybody. Although in today’s society, women are no longer isolated at home and can make major decisions for themselves, the character of Cinderella continues to give girls the false idea that good (and attractive) women are weak and need to find someone to depend on to be happy.

On the other hand, the movie Pink revolves around three ‘modern’ girls who live away from their families and make all the decisions for themselves face severe oppression and harassment from society due to victim blaming. In her review, Anupama Chopra says, “Pink is a savage indictment of our sordid patriarchy that shackles women in stereotypes. Her character is determined by the clothes you wear, what time you come home, how much you smile at men, whether you drink, and, of course, your sexual history. Pink takes a sledgehammer to these archaic assumptions.” The courtroom drama between the 3 women and the 4 boys well led by the respective advocates questions every single sexist value that women go through in the 21st century. The scene where advocate Deepak Sehgal eloquently establishes that none of it matters — when a woman says no, it means no. One of the girls who is from North-East India faces a lot more harassment and discrimination only because of her place of birth.

The essay and the film complement the ideas of consent and patriarchal rules in many ways. They are a great conversation starter and also the need of the time. They challenge stereotypical gender norms and also help to bring across the need for change. Chimamanda Adichie in her book ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ writes, “The problem with Gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing what we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves if we didn’t weigh gender expectations.” And this is precisely what the essay and the film talk about.

The Ideologies of Racism, Classism, Feminism, etc are almost contemporary and have been reformed and remodeled according to the needs of the time and age. These ideologies have been driven by various cultural and societal norms. It matters everywhere in the world. And one would like to ask today that we should begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world for everyone, a world of happier men and women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our children differently, to promote equality and inclusivity.

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