Films by Vaishnavi Sundar
Misogyny is rampant in this culture, and corporations capitalise on making women hate their bodies. Indeed all aspects of womanhood are commodified, hypersexualised, and squeezed into gender stereotypes. Being female comes at a cost. So it’s no wonder that young people growing up can feel horrible about themselves and their bodies, and further feel confused about what it means to be a woman in today’s world. Into this perfect storm steps queer theory, an ideology born in the 1990s, that tells people that all the confusing feelings they may experience about the world they live in can be fixed not by changing the world, but by changing themselves. The past decade has seen a steep rise in the number of young girls seeking to alter their bodies by undergoing life threatening, irreversible procedures. Dysphoric is a series that explores this concept of gender transition, told through the voices of clinicians, psychiatrists, sociologists, feminists, academics, detransitioners, and concerned citizens and parents. The series also discusses the permanent medical side-effects of hormones and surgeries, the propaganda of corporations that glorify thousands of stereotypical gender presentations coalesced as fashion, the surge in pronoun policing, censorship and the curtailment of speech, language hijacking that calls women “menstruators,” and the many other hurdles women face while trying to question this modern-day misogyny.
In 1992, Bhanwari Devi, an Indian social worker hailing from the Kumhar caste in rural Rajasthan, was gang-raped by upper caste men for having the temerity to intervene and stop the child-marriage of an infant. The subsequent acquittal of the accused in connivance with the State machinery outraged India and galvanized women’s activism that led to the Vishaka Guidelines, and subsequently, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act in 2013. In this feature-length documentary shot by an all-women crew, Director Vaishnavi Sundar juxtaposes the law on paper with the ground realities, through this first-of-its-kind log of stories and experiences of over two dozen Indian women; tales of sexual violence that they face—from opulent corporate offices, to construction sites, to manual scavenging—and their fight for justice against an obstinate patriarchal State. But What Was She Wearing? attempts to portray the impotence of this law and the impossible odds Indian women are up against in pursuit of justice.