Feet, what do I need them for, if I have wings to fly? — Mexican artist Frida Kahlo
Women form 48.76 % of the total population in Pakistan. Hence, women’s empowerment is crucial to the development of a healthy society — economically, socially and politically.
A conservative society where men would harass wives, daughters, mothers in the name of honour and where women were subservient and docile, treated as objects rather than humans is gradually being replaced by a more accommodating, tolerant mindset in both genders.
Patriarchy is being redefined. But this is not always the case. With better education, it is assumed that incidents of rape, domestic violence and karo-kari would decline. However, every other day the newspapers come up with a blaring headline that leaves the reader shattered and fearful.
Why is this happening, and who is responsible for this heinous crime? The question is potent!
Looking in retrospect, the Noor Mukadam case speaks volumes about the helplessness of a female in the wake of male superiority. Zahir Jaffer was from a well-to-do family. He was educated. So then what went wrong and where? To put it in a nutshell, rape and murder are an offense that only men who are frustrated sexually and suffer from an inferiority complex would commit. Imposing their power on the weaker sex is proof of their ‘masculinity’.
Education does help in breeding an egalitarian society, but it is not an assurance of bringing up ‘good’ men! Sexual frustration and harassment is common amongst men, not only in Pakistan, but all across the globe. And whereas before it was a taboo to discuss such issues, now with the freedom of expression, women are taking to the streets and asking for their rights and justice to prevail.
Regarding this scenario, the recent remake of Cinderella in 2021 by Kay Cannon brushes upon women empowerment in a beautiful and effervescent manner. Like in the original Walt Disney Classics, where Cinderella plays the victim, Camilla as Cinderella in the recent version is not helpless. She has agency. Cinderella is a strong, resilient and determined girl who thinks big! She wants to be a successful dressmaker. She wants to live her life, and she wants to live her dream. And nothing will make her deviate from the pathway to realise her goals. She wants to be a celebrity. She wants her name to be on everyone’s lips, but in the small, old-fashioned town she lives in, girls are not allowed the freedom to choose a career for themselves.
The film reinforces the notion of women’s empowerment. Whilst the Prince is madly in love with this fearless and bold girl and wants her hand in marriage, Cinderella has a bigger agenda! She aims for the stars and hence becomes the voice of all the surrounding women who, because of the patriarchal society, suppress their ambition for the ultimate truth i.e. marriage.
Cinderella does, at the end, marry the Prince but not at the cost of her passion. She wants to set an example for other women to follow. She wants to contribute to the society in a positive and constructive manner and for that she is willing to forgo a life of ease and luxury.
The film is not the only effort of recent times to address the power of women. The global Me Too movement as well as the Aurat March organised in Pakistan are all monumental efforts towards changing the society’s outlook about women.
The Me Too movement provides a platform for empowering women, especially women who are ‘weak’.
The Me Too movement urged women to come out of their complacency and speak up about their ‘bad’ experiences with men!
With evolution and change, no doubt the outlook has changed, but it’s not true for everyone. What happens inside is a story no one can unlock. What appears on the surface may not be true and for this reason, the Aurat March and the Me Too movement are important. It brings into play modern women supporting the cause of poor women. Educating them in their rights is what matters.