I recently came across an Indian ad campaign that showed Indian goddesses recreated with bruises and distinct signs of abuse on their beautiful porcelain faces. It seemed like a valiant effort to bring attention to the inhumanity suffered by girls and women in the hands of rapists and plunderers. Although disturbing at first, a million thoughts came rushing to mind when I saw the idols of India’s most prolific religion, Hinduism, showing Goddesses that otherwise represented knowledge, wisdom, wealth, power, as shocking metaphors for the condition of a beautiful half of humanity, women. The pictures brought powerful emotions of shock, sadness, disbelief, anger, cynicism, hate, love, almost an oxymoron, one emotion cancelled others while new ones fought for attention and further thought.
Having grown up in Mumbai, India; I travelled relentlessly from age 13 to 21 in a bus to remote villages and towns in India. I saw India in it’s rural finest, and it’s urban ugliest. Now, a few decades later, the ugliness is splashed over facebook, the newspapers, media and every mode that will obsess over viewership rather than the issue of making a difference.
After the ad agencies’ 15 minutes of fame with shocking posters, what’s next? Show the male Gods as molesters? Show them as tyrants? Show them actually throwing and using the weapons against the Goddesses? You don’t need to!
Fact is, if you go to a temple in India with a male God, there are more men, while female Gods have female devotees. And there are exceptions, the Goddess of Wealth is favored by men who believe they are the bread earners and making the Goddess of wealth happy is key to their hard work bearing fruit.
So, now by showing abused Goddesses you are telling a girl or woman in India that the almighty Goddess who was “protecting” her is also an abused woman.
Nowhere in the mens’ psyche does a Goddess equate to a real live woman who cooks, cleans, raises his children or takes his abuse quietly because of the conditioning not just by men, but also the women in her family. The women in the home somehow “deserve” neglect, abuse and violence. If the husband or the man is the God, his wife cannot be a Goddess, she can only be a mere mortal who has to live a life of servitude for her God husband.
Honestly, if women in India cannot stand up for the women in their own homes, India has no where to go but into an abyss of shame, suffering and guilt over not stopping the rampant rapes that are copycat crimes encouraged by raucous item numbers in Bollywood films.
I read yesterday, that a village council in Northern India passed a judgement that a 6 year old rape victim would have to marry the son of the rapist. You will have to read this a few times to get it.. I had to read it a dozen times with my mind reeling with the thought that here was a 6 year old girl, a minor, would marry into the rapists family as a “punishment” to the rapist?? (it is illegal to marry off a minor girl in India, so an unconstitutional remedy for an heinous unconstitutional act). Anger does not half describe this madness! What is this Indian “culture” we talk about? Masochistic, sadistic, heinous better describes our social, religious, cultural landscape.
As for me, after agonizing over the plight of Indian’s girls and women and most of the women on this Planet, in my opinion, it is not upto men, but upto women to find the solution. Stop living up to the values of men that create the rules, religions about how women should behave. Women will not be abused Goddesses. The bruises in the Goddess pictures are the battle scars of millions of women who have fought for women’s rights in their homes, societies and countries. The wounds of women who have put their foot down and raged a war against suppression, ignorance and stood up for their own values and self-respect. They have fought the Gods who have enslaved them for centuries. It is not a question of piety, devotion or morality, it a question of equal rights for every sentient being on this Planet; Man, Woman or Child.