Eighteen-year-old Ruby wants to become a lawyer. She won’t let stereotypical representation of girls and women in Bollywood stop her achieving that dream.
Eighteen-year-old Ruby aspires to be a lawyer. A resolute competitor, her ambitions are undaunted by the immense challenges she and her family face as they struggle to make both ends meet. Ruby consistently tops her exams and is a vocal advocate of girls’ and women’s rights.
Ruby is dedicated to the fight for girls’ rights
She is one of our frontline youth activists in her community on the southern outskirts of Delhi. From championing safety in public spaces to challenging the way girls and women are portrayed in films, advertising and media, Ruby is determined to shake up public attitudes and systemic inequalities that define the daily lives of millions of girls and women in India.
“You watch any soap or film you’ll find that women are always shown as weak characters. They are depicted as feeble and powerless beings who can’t survive without the support system around them.
“Women are often relegated to play dance numbers in Bollywood films. They are just treated as objects of attraction,” she says.
The ‘male gaze’ in Bollywood
“On rare occasions when women do get powerful roles on screen, they are portrayed as how men see them not how women see themselves. It’s always men’s point of view and never women’s,” says Ruby.
“The rule is, if it’s about power it’s always a man. In India there are so many women in the army, but you never see a female soldier on screen. For filmmakers, ‘army’ means men’s army.
“If the character is of a politician, it’s always a man who plays the part. For women in politics it is assumed that the only way they reach corridors of power is by compromising their integrity. Films and TV continue to perpetuate these deeply disturbing stereotypes. The impact is huge if you think about the influence films and TV have on society. On screen and in real life, girls and women are devalued and it is accepted as normal. This has to change.”
Ruby refuses to give up on being a lawyer
“Take my case, I want to be lawyer, but I am reminded by others on a daily basis that I won’t last in the big tough world of judiciary dominated by men. I am repeatedly advised to give up. The profession is projected as a man’s world on screen – full of deceit and underhand dealings, and most parents hesitate to let their daughters become lawyers.
“I refuse to bow down. To me, anyone who is not independent, doesn’t have an identity. The only way for girls to gain an identity is to stand on their own two feet. I tell all my friends that family and society will stop you, but don’t let that hold you back. You live in a democracy and you have equal rights. Don’t suffer injustice and speak up for yourself.
“Films and TV can play a big role in changing people’s minds. The best thing they can do for a start is stop showing girls and women as objects of attraction. Stop showing us as weak and powerless.”
Girls and women are misrepresented in the media. They are very rarely portrayed as leaders, and even when they are in positions of leadership they are often objectified.
We want the media to stop misrepresenting girls and women, and instead fund them to write and tell their own stories. It’s time to #RewriteHerStory.