Aamir Debuts on TV With Focus on Female Foeticide
Aamir Khan's much talked about TV serial Satyamev Jayate debuted with an episode on:
Female Foeticide. Large-scale killing of girls before birth has led to a serious gender imbalance in the Indian population, and severe social problems as a result
Shohini Ghosh in Kafila: Dil Se Nahin Dimaag Se Dekho – Thoughts on Satyamev Jayate Episode 1:
There are innumerable instances where, for a number of complicated reasons, women are complicit in choosing SSA which then muddies the demarcation between oppressive villains (husband/in-laws) and oppressed victims (wives). The reasons why a woman will opt for SSA can range from her own son-preference to a desire to survive safely in a hostile household. How women should be discouraged from sex-selective practices without jeopardizing her right to take decisions about her life and body, have long agonized Feminists. An important lesson that Feminist Activism has taught us is that the inevitable fallout of empowering women to take their own decisions may well result in her choosing a path that many of us would regard as anti-feminist or regressive.
“Pro-choice” Feminists (as Abortion Rights Activists call themselves) have always privileged the personhood of the mother over that of the foetus which they argue is a `potential person’ and not an “actual person”. The “Pro-life” Lobby (as right-wing, anti-abortionists call themselves) does just the reverse. By using terms like the “unborn child” and the “death of the girl child”, they privilege the personhood of the child over that of the mother. Similarly, the term “female foeticide” carries connotations of both personhood and murder through its association with words like homicide, matricide and regicide.
Pro-choice Feminists caution that the personhood of women should not be defined only through their role as wives and mothers and have their identities subsumed by the idea of women-as-wombs. In his `Kurukshetra thesis’ and his excessively romanticized tribute to the mother at the start of the show, AK does precisely that. When he makes a dramatic statement like “Puri Bharatmata betiyon ke khoon se rang chuka hai’ (The whole of Mother India has been drenched in the blood of her daughters) he bestows personhood on the foetus. The rhetoric veers dangerously close to that of the Pro-Lifers. (The nationalist and gendered description of India as “Bharatmata” is no less problematic but that is a separate discussion.)
Let’s suppress the cynicism for some time. We should be glad that Khan has a giant marketing brain, an uncanny understanding of his audience and a keen sense of the space he has carved out in the popular and media imagination. This is the first time that a big star has used all his charm and intelligence to attack issues about which we as a nation should be hanging our heads in shame. And we should be thankful for Khan’s obsessive determination to succeed in all he does.
Will all this make any difference? Do you have a better idea?
How isolated does one have to be from the country one is living in to not have a clue about how widespread a problem this is? It was even funnier when rich people expressed shock at other rich people following this practice. “YOU MEAN EDUCATED PEOPLE ALSO DON’T WANT GIRLS?” I doubt if the upper caste farmer in Punjab who is crushed with debt and needs more male hands to help till the land will give a shit about the show, but that it hit some people on Twitter like a ton of bricks was very amusing.
What happens however, when Aamir talks about an issue that is conflicted? What when an Aamir Khan talks about caste based discrimination across religions and takes a side? What if Aamir says he is pro-reservation in educational institutions? What if Aamir Khan is against nuclear energy? What if Aamir Khan supports the ban on beef? These are all hypothetical questions – and we will likely not have these answered simply because it is a television show and Aamir cannot afford to get into so much trouble. But how will we as people react? Will we again give him the same wholehearted support we do so now when it offends our own sensibilities?
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