Some nights ago we hit the IDFA online TV archive of films and saw two documentaries back to back. We kind of picked the films at random, but the result was a beautiful juxtaposition that posed very interesting questions about tradition, religion and various freedoms for women in their respective societies.
The first is a story of a couple of Indian sisters who dance in quite rancid discos to provide the family with an income. Their uncle is ashamed of their work and tries to stop them, but doesn’t actually provide them with the needs to survive. Ironically, the dancing they do becomes forbidden, because it “corrupts the moral fiber of the youth”, but if they don’t dance their only option is to get married and be locked in the house.
Watch Delhi – Mumbai – Delhi here: http://www.idfa.nl/nl/tags/project.aspx?id=A6F0B347-E4AD-42A5-984C-F7F10FD581B9&tab=-
The second film we saw is the story of a Syrian Muslim mother who tries to combine tradition, religion, raising her children with her desire to work. For her work is not just something to do, it’s a way to develop as a person and be a productive member of society, even though her mother tries to convince her raising her children should be her only mission and concern in life.
Dolls, a Woman from Damascus / http://www.idfa.nl/nl/tags/project.aspx?id=03723143-F3A3-4F9B-BC09-E45E7DE6EC00&tab=-
In their own ways the films shake up our idea of the feminist struggle in developing countries. The girls in the first film are Sikh, a religion that sought to introduce gender equality in India, yet the lives of the girls seems light years removed from this ideal. The Syrian film raises all red flags of anyone concerned about the plight of women in Muslim societies. Yet, it is unmistakably a story of a lone woman’s feminist struggle.
It’s stories like these that add urgency to that quaint term, feminism. Derided as old fashioned by so many young women in the west. It’s a relevant in for men and women in India, Syria and all other countries in the world. Thinking and reading about it allows us to deal with complicated stories like that of Alia al Mahdy, the Egyptian activist who posed nude on her Facebook, fled her country and now has apparently joined Femen:
For more context and opinions also read these articles: