Friday, May 3, 2013

MARD for redefining gender?

There is an expression in Telugu´Karana  Janmuralu’ one who is born for a cause. I think, Nirbhaya is one. The brutal violence that she faced, her suffering, courage and death has shaken us out of our stupor and forced us to shake out of our apathy. A number of people have come forward to support the campaign against gender based violence and news papers have been consistently highlighting incidents of violence against women which would otherwise be relegated to some small corner in the inside pages. While this is making reading the news paper a harrowing experience, it is keeping us focused on the issue.

The most important fall out of this is the churning that has been brought about in the film fraternity with Bollywood stars coming out to support the cause in a big way. Farhan Akhtar’s MARD (men against rape and domestic violence) is a laudable effort. And, the discussion on item songs for once is being initiated by the film fraternity itself with candid expression of opinions on male gaze and objectification of women’s body. The thin line between freedom to express and celebrate sexuality and sensuality as against yielding to male gaze and objectification is being acknowledged. It was pleasure watching Shabana Azmi and Zoya Akhtar speaking on various channels/fora on the issue with seriousness and insight.

Just see the impact of MARD. It is being promoted by sports stars in IPL. Media is lapping it up; there are promotional events, icons from film industry lending their support and the social media buzzing.

But my concern is only with the packaging of the issue. The word “MARD”is highly gendered unlike purush or Aadmi. Whenever, we refer to men in a positive light we often use these words, Maryada Purushottam for deity Ram, aadmi achcha hai, aadmi ho ya janwar etc. We do not use MARD. We use Mard in contexts which are violent, aggressive, war like situations. It is actually used as a counter to the feminine stereo type. We say “mard hai to kar ke dikha”, “kya mard hai yaar, biwi ko control kar nahi sakta” etc.  The emotions evoked by MARD are those of power, authority, control and violence particularly against women.

The twirling moustache indicates once again pride, arrogance and control. A MARD is expected to protect a woman because she is his property and if he is mard enough he should not let anyone attack his property. So he insists that she need not work because he earns enough, she should not provoke others to attack her by going alone or going out in the nights, she should not challenge the boundaries set for her by getting involved in relationships beyond what is dictated by the Mard in her family. 

A Mard with or without twirling moustache would feel compromised if he cannot control the woman’s freedom and sexuality. He is not Mard enough, if for the sake of family honour he is not able to eliminate her, if the situation demands. A Mard is a demi God, no woman dare resist or reject him to pursue her own dreams and aspirations. If she does, he is ready with the most potent weapons, a bottle of acid, a can of kerosene or a sharp knife to disfigure her for life and of course his MARDANGI to rape and humiliate her for life. Umpteen films have been successful solely based on this theme of Mardangi - violation of women, macho response, revenge and retribution.

Will Farhan’s MARD be able to change the cultural and gender definitions of Mardangi/Masculinity? We will have to wait and watch.   


  1. It aims to break the stereotype.If the issue is carried on with such vigour, the day shall not be far when the definition of MARD will change. We should not let the fire die off in our hearts, coz if the fire dies we will be back to square one. Unless our society, specially the MEN would change their outlook towards women, the society will not progress.

  2. Initiative by Farhan Akhtar is hope to bring the change in mindset of society toward women's. If people would focus on message being conveyed through campaign "MARD" the stereotype meaning of word may change for future to " Men Against Rape and Domestic Violence".

  3. I am glad to know that you both see "MaRD" in a positive way. I still feel the very image of a man twirling his moustache indicates a position of power, dominance and arrogance which are anathema for a society based on gender equality and justice.... It somehow reinforces the patriarchal attitudes inspire of the liberal agenda of the campaign.