Are our ‘heroes’ endorsing stalking, violence against women?

All of us know of the horrifying murder of Infosys techie Swathi, and the immense manhunt that followed to nab the killer. The 24-year-old was allegedly hacked to death by Ramkumar, an engineering graduate from Tirunelveli. According to police reports, he was stalking her for over a month in pursuit of love.

Sounds filmy, doesn’t it? Because it is. It is exactly the stuff some Tamil films are made of. Going by the number of films, it seems like the dream storyline of several commercial-filmmakers.

Right from the times of Rajinikanth to Kamal Haasan to the modern youth icons Dhanush and Simbhu, films and heroes have glorified stalking. The concept of stalking has become so synonymous with romance that we can’t even tell them apart anymore.

13689543_1058254340889752_1664540993_n.jpgKamal, the most celebrated romantic hero of south Indian cinema, has stalked his fair share of beautiful heroines in films. In ‘Singara Velan’, he went to the extent of modifying a childhood picture of his “lady love” to find out what she looked like in the present. He then found her, stalked her despite her disinterest, and just couldn’t take no for an answer. He ultimately managed to woo Khushbu — with lewd lyrics.

13694135_1058254357556417_2073388786_o.jpgSuperstar Rajini is no exception. His stalking of Soundarya in ‘Padayappa’ to ask for her hand in marriage is seen as mild persuasion. The comic “vaanga pazhagalam” dialogue from ‘Sivaji’, where he stalked heroine Shriya Saran’s family, was not only irritating, but creepy. He found out where the family lived, went to their house, and ultimately got Shriya to agree to marry him with his persistence.

Vikram followed suit. In ‘Sethu’, he was seen harassing a shy, helpless girl, going to the extent of kidnapping and threatening her and forcing her into “loving” him.

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Thanks to Dhanush’s ‘Kolaveri di’, the latest trend is the ‘soup boys’, as the rejected men are officially called now. The song is about a ‘fair girl’ with a ‘black heart’ rejecting him, and “spoiling” his life. The film ‘3’ in which the song was featured, is about Dhanush falling in love with Shruti Haasan. He followed her after school hours, joined the same tuition centre as her and even followed her home.

Worse was ‘Adidaa avala’, a cult hit of sorts among the youth, from the film ‘Mayakkam Enna’. The film’s lyrics are a ‘clarion call’, so to speak, to physically abuse and kill a woman who rejects a man. Once again, it’s our youth icon Dhanush who does it for us.

13713417_1058254347556418_2024148692_n.jpgHow can we forget Simbu’s hot pursuit of Trisha in the top hit ‘Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaya’. They lived in the same building and were neighbours. Our hero fell in love with the girl-next-door and couldn’t stop following her wherever she went. I’d be creeped out if I had a neighbour who walked behind me all the time.

13689494_1058254354223084_417110198_n.jpgEven the ever-so-charming Madhavan has had a faux pas. In his debut ‘Minnale’, he went as far as posing as the man whom the girl’s parents had found as a match for her. In his much adored flick ‘Alaipayudhe’, though there were no violent threats involved like in many other films, Madhavan followed the heroine, Shalini, on her train journeys every day to and from college, and ultimately got her to fall for him.

Oh, is our dreamy Surya any different? In ‘Vaaranam Aayiram’, he set a new benchmark in stalking by following his dream girl all the way to US — with blessings from his own father. Does this mean parents encourage it too? The father character too had stalked the mother, Simran. Seems like “romantic” stalking transcends generations.

Ultimately, the male lead is always the aspirational character who turns the odds against him to prove to the female lead who called him ‘porukki’ (rogue) for following her, regret her decision. All’s well that ends well when the heroine finally gives a nod to the relationship and they live happily ever after.

But is it really a happy ending for us who carry pepper sprays, Swiss knives, and a look of panic on our faces?

As I walk home from the station everyday, I’m repeatedly looking over my shoulder

It was another night after a long day’s work. The bus was late and I reached Nungambakkam railway station at 9.20 pm — the time I usually walk home from my destination railway station. Concerned calls from my family come every single night ever since that fateful day poor 24-year-old Swathi was hacked to death on the very same platform that I board my home-bound train every day.

Ramkumar was stalking her, the reports said. Shudders ran through my spine the moment I read that particular statement. Why, you ask? The memories of being stalked as a school girl rushed back to haunt me. Those days of riding a bicycle home and being carefree were daunted by senior boys who bicycled behind me.

“Don’t you understand? He loves you,” a friend of his told me once. I never understood. I was all of 15 anyway. “What does love have to do with following me around,” I mused, until I realised how scary the whole situation was. Was I supposed to swoon over the fact that an unknown person, who not only studied in the same school but knew where I lived, could cause me physical harm, or worse yet make me the reason he committed suicide? I remember being scared, and the distinctive feeling of making my friend (lest he get the idea I’m interested in him) look over our shoulder every corner we turned.

Why I’m a feminist

Who is a feminist?

Women who hate men? A male basher? I don’t know what other crazy definitions there are out there. But I do know that feminism is not any of those.

So, let’s get our basics right. Feminism is when you want gender equality. Gender equality between male, female, and transgender. I know you’ll argue that the ideology started off as pro-women. But, even then, it sought only equality.

Coming to my point…is feminism really such a bad word? If it indeed is thought of as a bad word, doesn’t it prove that we’re still living in such a patriarchal world?

My parents never gave me any less importance because I’m a girl, or my brother any more importance because he’s a boy. I never got an extra roti because I’m a GIRL, and neither did he because he’s a BOY. I did not grow up with any gender discrimination. My parents never had to differentiate between their son and daughter. I had a healthy environment where I had the liberty to do what I wanted. So, why do I need feminism? Why do I need to fight for gender equality when I have it already?!

It’s not just about oneself, is it? Don’t we have the responsibility of fighting for those who are unseen, and unheard? Don’t we have to voice the problems of the marginalised and less fortunate? Well, to me, that’s what feminism is.

There’s always an exception to every rule. Not all men are bad, and not all women are good. I should be safe to say that there’s equality there!

When there’s a larger than life celebration of women’s day, I’d definitely question the absence of a men’s day; and vice-versa. If there were days for men and women, but none for transgenders, I’m pretty darn sure I’d question that too.

I’m a feminist. And a proud one at that! Because, to me, it’s never about what I have or don’t. I’m lucky enough to have parents who don’t discriminate. I’m blessed with amazing friends(male and female) who don’t treat me any more or any less because I’m a girl. I’m lucky enough to work alongside my bosses who don’t discriminate me based on my gender. But, I’m just lucky. There are thousands who aren’t as lucky and blessed as I am. I take it upon myself to fight for them because it’s my responsibility to do so.

I need feminism because it’s not always about me.