Why Should I be a Damsel in Distress

…and that’s how the prince saved the princess and then they lived happily ever after…. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of hearing this ‘damsel in distress’ trope. Whether you talk about Andromeda who was saved by Perseus or Sita who was rescued by Rama, the story continues through our fairy tales (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty etc.) to movies of today where Spiderman is still saving MJ falling from some tall building as is the hero in most of the Bollywood movies.

Evolution of the Disney Princess. Picture Credit: https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/10/25/disney-princesses-deconstructed/

Most girls and boys across the world have grown listening to various versions of the princess who needed saving, the ‘abla naari’ (helpless woman), the sister that needs to be protected and so on. Most of the movies, TV shows, stories, comics reinforce these gender roles and heavily influence young boys’ and girls’ gender expectations later in life.

There is much that is wrong with this never-ending narrative of ‘damsel in distress’. It not only establishes females as a group that needs to be taken care of, it puts in question the competency of the female gender and often times ‘protection’ becomes a prison for women and a tool for men to control women.

Girl after girl grows up wrapped in the idea of being delicate, needy, frail and dependent – waiting for the knight in shining armour to come and rescue her from her all troubles and take her to some wonderful fairy land. I always found it absurd in movies – usually the last fight sequence after the heroine has been rescued and the hero is fighting 5-10 villains at the same – why the heroine continues to stand behind the entire scene – either shocked senseless or screaming and crying – but never having the sense to lend a hand by hitting one or two goons or at least calling the police. So, she is not only defenseless, but also has no brains and no presence of mind.

In 2017, end of December, there was a huge fire at one of the roof top restaurants in Bombay. Most of the victims were women – they had all hidden in some bathroom and were eventually trapped and died. Most men on the other hand escaped. To this date, I wonder with horror, whether women who hid there, were waiting to be rescued by someone. Why didn’t they try to get out on their own? (of the 14 people who died, 11 were women and 2 were men who went back in to save their aunt)

While girls grow up waiting for their knight, most boys grow up with a puffed-up sense of protecting their mothers, sisters, partners, daughters from their fellow males. “she is my sister, dare you touch her”; “I like this girl and have my dibs on her – you stay away” to controlling women and how they live their lives – there is a wide range of examples of how damaging this belief is.

Societies control their women in the name of protecting them. Protecting what? Their honor. Protecting from what? Predatory men.  When I was living in my college hostel, we were allowed to stay out only till 7 p.m. – after that the gates would shut. 7.00 p.m.!!! Imagine! Of course after 7.00 p.m. there was a high likelihood that we would get kidnapped or raped – or even worse might be willingly making out with our boyfriends in some park.

If society is so bothered about women’s ‘honor’ – why not lock up all the men as soon as it turns dark? Aren’t they ones doing something criminal – why didn’t any boys hostel direct their boys to stop stepping out of their hostels after 7?

Well at least we were lucky to have been ‘allowed’ to live in a city, away from our own homes. Otherwise, there are scores of girls who are never sent to higher education of their choice. Why? Because the parents don’t want to let their daughter out of their sight till she is married. So that they can hand over the virginal girl to her husband and be done with the job of protecting her honor. Phew!

But you know even these girls are luckier than those who are not even allowed to show their faces in public. Because you know…..what if the roving male eye settles on her face????

The distance from protection to control is not far – so girls please wake up from your dreams, be independent, you are capable of protecting yourselves and are your own knight.

This post is part of the #blogchatterA2Z campaign.

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