It all began with my reflection about two women and lots of objectification. Here’s some background:
As a part of my English course in high school, I read a book called “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera. I loved this book but if somebody asked me to summarize it, I probably would not be able to. That is because this book is about countless themes and topics and situations and conflicts intertwined in one. Of this list of countless items, there’s one scene that particularly stands out in my memory.
In his book, Kundera has a dichotomy of female protagonists: Sabina and Tereza. Sabina is brave while Tereza is shy. So, at the outset, these two women seem to have nothing in common. But if you’ve read Kundera, you know that these two have one thing in common: their lover Tomas.
Tomas is this very “smart” player: he makes them both believe that they are both the most important woman in his life by tactically separating his marriage with Tereza from his fornication with Sabina. So because of this tactical separation, the two women almost- fooled by Tomas’ “smartness”- never meet. But his tactics fall apart when the women finally do get to know one another.
One fine, not-so-sunny day, Tereza happens to meet Sabina in Sabina’s studio. This is where both women begin photographing each other. Surprisingly, their friendship very quickly reaches extreme levels of comfort and they (almost shockingly) start taking nude photos of one another. To quote Kundera on the women’s reactions, “after clicking the shutter two-three times, the two women- almost frightened by the enchantment- burst out laughing.” Yes, the two women were simultaneously frightened and enchanted by the presence of one-another’s naked self!
This scene has stuck to me ever since I read the book. That’s because this scene reveals so much about behavioral patters of lots of women.
To put things in black and white: the same man manipulates both women. Then, when they finally meet, instead of uniting against this man, they indulge in stripping each other down to their birthday clothes and taking photographs. To top it with a cherry, they fear and enjoy this process of stripping naked and clicking photographs.
When I think about this situation in black and white, I draw parallels between the two women’s behavior and general female behavior as of 2014. Tomas seems to be the metaphor for media, and Tereza and Sabina constitute the different kinds of women in our society- all from shy to bold. We Terezas and Sabinas are all blinded by our love for whatever Tomas- the media- has to say. Then no matter whatever injustice or misdoing Tomas indulges in, we forgive him and go back to giving him all our love and affection. And when we finally realize what Tomas has been doing all this while, instead of uniting against Tomas, we play with the bare essentials of each other’s existence. Then we go back to being miserable or incomplete.
Psychologically speaking, we women (and I’m not referring to every woman out there because of course there are hundreds and thousands of exceptions) indulge in subconscious self-victimization. Self-victimization is basically when one imagines being victimized to seek attention or justify abuse or whatever one may. In this specific case, when we Sabinas and Terezas of the world unite in self-victimization by first proclaiming that what the media does is wrong (such as portraying unbelievably gorgeous and unrealistically skinny), thereby justifying his abuse. Then, when we do get together in the absence of media, we play with one another’s bare essentials (such as by complaining about one another’s appearances), we subconsciously head to seeking attention.
The persecutor is the one who pressures us into feeling victimized. So in Tereza’s and Sabina’s case the persecutor is Tomas and in the general case of the female world, it is the media. The rescuer is the one who helps the victim overcome self-victimization. Now, all we need is a rescuer.
But we don’t have to look far because the answer is within ourselves, intrinsically woven with our veins. This might be a generalization but I have experienced at first and second hand that so many women first complain about being shown glossy photoshoped images of their ideal selves and then go on to judge one another (even without realization!) on our appearances. We must stop. And when we do, we will find the rescuer within ourselves.
By: Namrata Haribal