There are a hundred ways in which inferior status of women in our society is manifested in our consciousness like for example songs. Today, I am going to write about songs. If you have gone through the page about me you would know that I like, no, I love music. There isn’t a day which goes by when I don’t listen to songs. I love songs, all types of them , even the crass ones. I am not partial. I love english, hindi, urdu and songs in other languages that I don’t understand because music speaks to me. I may not know the language but I know the music.
While music in transcendental, songs are not. Songs are made up of lyrics and music and where there is lyrics there is language. The various discourses on language have unearthed the intricate connection between language and culture. Language reflects the cultural binaries and allows the ‘dominant’ groups to maintain their control over the ‘inferior’ groups. No wonder many languages over the world perpetuate patriarchal ideologies.
Every language has gender specific words which do not merely serve to point out the difference but also to segregate. So while a muscular man may be called ‘Macho’ there is no such word for a woman and a muscular woman is just ‘manly’. Incredible physical power is associated with man and charm,coyness, delicateness is associated with men. Songs in any culture are tools that highlight these ideologies even more.
In this article I will discuss hindi songs and more specifically Bollywood songs which form a large part of indian music scene. Since I can remember, Bollywood songs have shown women as a creature made of glass, worthy of worship for her beauty, as delicate as a bird’s feather and good only for staying in house. Bollywood songs have since time immemorial perpetuated the idea that a woman is supposed to be pursued even if she is remotely interested. For example in the song “haseena maan jayegi” , the lyrics go like “kab tak roothegi, cheekhegi, chillayegi, dil kehta hai ik din haseena maan jayegi” which translated in english roughly means “till when she will stay angry, yell or scream, my heart says one day the beautiful girl will say yes”. It’s nothing but pure stalking and establishes the pursuer or the hero as a neurotic stalker who can’t take no and is sure that one day the girl will say yes. Another apt example is from a more recent movie R…Rajkumar, in the song “Mat Maari” character played by Sonakshi Sinha is seen abusing her stalker Shahid Kapoor who doesn’t seem to understand a bit the girl is saying and goes on to blame her for the state he is in.
These quintessential “wooing” songs have some typical words and phrases like “mehzabeen” (means beloved or beautiful like moon), “sharmili” (means shy), “phoolon si” (means delicate like flower) and more. The swoon worthy old melodies have established women as delicate, fragrant, coy and powerless.
There are certain songs which lay bare the binaries more explicitly like one of Honey Singh’s song Love Dose. There’s a rap sequence where the singer says “hai ghar, hai paisa, hai gaadi, do jodi me ladki bhejo ladki hui hamari”. Through these lines the singer tells his lover’s father that he has house, money and car and the father shouldn’t need to worry much about his daughter’s well-being with him. Through these lines he lays bare an apparent truth of our society where a father marrying off his daughter cares only about the financial status of his would-be son-in-law. It doesn’t matter if the boy has similar interests with the girl or not or if they see eye to eye with each other on certain issues.
I won’t talk about the rappers that have suddenly grown on Indian music scene like mushrooms because every time I hear them rap my blood boils. There rap is filled with lyrics that not just degrade woman but subject them to a new low.
In Bollywood songs women have suffered subjugation in the form of romantic lyrics which do not offer women to do much because the epithets attached to them don’t allow so. With time these lyrics have become more direct in not just subjugating but sexualizing women. We do not have much examples of songs that give women a space of her own and allows her to bloom as per her own choice.