The trouble with the image of an empowered woman
According to the editors, the key theme analysed in this edited volume is the entanglement of issues related to gender, neoliberal policies and social structure.
A feminist scholar, Dr Chakraborty Paunksnis, argues that “mediated representation of an empowered Indian woman often reiterates postfeminist rhetoric of choice, freedom and empowerment”. Postfeminism, which she terms as “feminism of convenience”, shares a common ground with neoliberalism.
“The problem is that postfeminism’s exhortation to create an entrepreneurial self does not address the need for building a collective resistance to structural inequities,” says Dr Chakraborty Paunksnis.
The edited volume highlights this issue, and as Dr Chakraborty Paunksnis explains, it also “problematizes the notion of empowerment”. Owing to the complicated caste and class system that is prevalent in Indian society, certain liberties that have been made available because of the “proliferation of a neoliberal market in India, are more accessible to the educated, (mostly) urban, upper/ upper-middle class, upper -caste women than to women who are marginalized because of their low-caste/class status”.
“In this edited volume, we endeavoured to critique the ambiguous entanglement of feminist and postfeminist assertions that are widely visible in most of the contemporary cinematic and streaming contents in India. Often these contents deliver a misconstrued understanding of feminism as they uphold a market-oriented definition of women’s empowerment. Moreover, not only they refrain from commenting on the changes that we require at the structural level, they also, in many cases, reinforce the hetero-patriarchal ideology,” says Dr Chakraborty Paunksnis, a KTU researcher.
Issues with society “taking the back seat”
By looking at the issues caused by the ripple effect of neoliberal practices in Indian society, the two KTU researchers involved in this book project aimed to shed light on how neoliberal ideology is changing the social fabric globally. If, according to this ideology, society is to take a back seat, how should the problems that require systemic change be solved? If an individual is valued over society, will there be enough will to look at the societal issues?