The attacks on girls and women every day are symptomatic of a deep malaise Where curriculum designers fear to tread, film directors take relaxed, bold strides. Few will consider ghosts and witchcraft as suitable topics for a textbook. Killing of women on the suspicion that they are practising witchcraft occasionally figures in the news. Such episodes may be on the decline, but witches and ghosts continue to shape the deeper layers of the collective social mind. The power of ‘Stree’ The idea that women have secret powers which they are prone to using for evil purposes, including revenge, is common enough to make the recent film Stree successful at the box office. It deals with witchcraft in a comic mode without trivialising it. It frames witchcraft in a modern idiom, using it to throw light on gender disparity and injustice. It is a remarkable achievement in that it entertains without demeaning the subject as a sign of backwardness. The core theme of Stree is the fear of women. Several men participate in the story, and they all come across as being scared of a woman who happens to be a ghost. This rare portrayal of male behaviour points towards the roots of misogyny. When secretly held fear is mixed with desire, it results in loathing. Fantasy of sexual conquest by brute force is often a logical product of this mixture of emotions. A new social reality Stree has come at a time when a sick ethos pervades many parts of India. This ethos is marked by the everydayness of rape. Over five years ago, after the so-named ‘Nirbhaya’ episode, criminal laws and procedures were revised, raising the hope of containing crimes against girls and women. That hope has receded even as rape has become routinised. Every morning, numerous incidents of rape are reported in newspapers. Many of these incidents involve young men getting together to rape a woman. The term ‘gang-rape’ is used for such incidents, the word ‘gang’ suggesting an organised, well-planned crime. This usage conceals the spontaneity and speed with which those who commit the crime came together when they spot a potential victim. The idea of noticing an opportunity to rape together reflects an awful reality. The police can hardly cope with this kind of commonplace social reality. The new commonplace status of rape, including collective rape, as a crime that can occur anywhere, any time, is what distinguishes the current cultural landscape. Conquest over a woman forms the central theme of this cultural condition. Even if the victim is a child, the sense of conquest over her remains relevant to understanding the new male perspective. Stree acquires its unique relevance from this larger, sinister milieu. It wraps the roots of misogyny in a ghost story. The story is located in Chanderi, the little town of Madhya Pradesh famous for its silk saris. A female ghost visits the population annually and abducts men, leaving their clothes behind. Inscriptions on doors asking the ghost to come ‘tomorrow’ and wearing women’s dress are among the tricks that the menfolk try for protection from the ghost. They are ultimately rescued when a young ladies’ tailor agrees to serve as a medium to confront the ghost. The woman who persuades and prepares him has studied witchcraft and aspires to gain the powers of the ghost.
Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/misogyny-in-a-modern-idiom/article25152227.ece