Image Source: Abhivyakti
Our body is our temple, says the reticent human within me. But I never knew when I started seeking the eye balls of the people around me. When my own temple became a public sight to be viewed, enjoyed and commented on. A minuscule thing like one’s own body hair does become a sight of disgust to people at a certain point of time when a girl has just started embracing her womanhood that she is poked to go through the painful beauty process of ‘waxing’. But the curious earthling in me wants to know as to what are the parameters and the set standards of beauty?
Human body has not always been an object of vigilance and surveillance but when it did, letting your hair grow wild and free became a ‘menace’, a problem which challenged the foundations of the notions of “beauty”. With these unanswered questions and limitless debate on what beauty really is, Abhivyakti, The Theatre Society of Maitreyi College organized a meet called ‘Hair and There’ at Akshara Theatre on the 19th of November’16, which enlightened and educated some of us about the realities of our society and a need for freedom of our own minds, bodies and souls.
(Abhivyakti, presenting an extract from Uncivilized Daughters, their annual production for the year 2015-2016.)
This theatre society gathered inspiration from the worldwide movement of ‘No Shave November’ which in actuality is in reference to the prostate cancer and testicular cancer in men and also depression. But here, the girls took a courageous step forward to create an awareness of their own regarding the thoughts about ‘no shave, no shame’ in women. Their campaign was meted out with a lot of criticism and insult on the social media but nevertheless they did not waver from their motive and rather made this campaign a success. Several poets, writers, teachers and students as speakers were invited to be a part of this silent protest against their right to expression, their right to ‘Abhivyakti’.
Ms. Amrita Ajay, a professor at Delhi University, pointed out a very interesting fact about clicking selfies. Selfie in itself is a form of a certain kind of identity construction and a move towards self-transformation. She also says that nowadays the ‘No Shave November’ movement in men has rather become a trend to grow beards for the sake of fashion. This fashion is definitely ‘not accidental’ and questions the form of traditional masculinity. Also it is intriguing that this worldwide movement is a Western white men movement whereas us, the third world women when took up this initiative were called as ‘radical’. But the real question is that is our form of protest really radical? Does it not turn out to be a form of resistance and self-articulation?
Where one speaker brought about the idea of women being a threat to the societal norms, Ms. Sabika Abbas Naqvi, a post-graduate student, talked about the patriarchal idea of excluding the body hair from the “gaze” altogether, leaving the female no more a human but a commodity. A commodity which is made desirable for men, a body image being created here to be in the clutches of the commercial industry and thus becoming victims of another kind of patriarchy! In contrast to this, Ms. Pooja Prasad, an ex-Abhivyaktian, said how a woman is seen as a criminal who has dared to express herself through her body. She questions a man’s acceptance of almost everything but a woman’s body hair.
(Ms. Pooja Prasad reciting her poem)
The discussion was not only restricted to women and their bodies but was also reflected towards a woman’s place in the society today. Ms. Nidhi Goswami and Ms. Chanya Jaitly, both the ex-Abhivyaktians, mentioned how politics has an important role to play in not considering women as companions when it comes to nationalism and brotherhood but only as a part of society whose duty is to run the household and raise a family, till today. History plays extremely important evidence to the current situation at hand. Historical paintings, statues and literature have never failed to present woman, as clean and shaven figures. With guest speakers, Sourabh Sharma and Kanika Sharma (guests from WordBred) and Naina Kataria, who talked about how feminism is not only vocal but also a hush-hush affair, bring out the idea of how “bold” a woman is who challenges this brand of womanhood wherein the idea to love oneself is now considered as a luxury.
One of the eldest members of this discussion was Ms. Shubha, a woman who not only works for the emacipation of rural women but is also a renowed poetess, who belongs from Rohtak and is known for her creativity, sincerity and greatness, contributed to this campaign through her poem ‘Aadamkhor’ (inspired by Saadat Hassan Manto’s story: Khol Do) which was enacted by ex-Abhivyaktians Ms. Sukriti, Ms. Rashi Sharma and their team. She also extended her vote of thanks to Abhivyakti for making a move towards this urgent “issue” at hand.
This silent protest was closed with a song and also small play enactments were presented in between to keep the audience rooted and glued to their places and also to leave an indelible mark on them to review and replay the whole event in their minds and give it a deeper thought.
*** ‘Hair and There’ campaign did not intend to steal away the attention from the real cause of ‘No Shave November’ but it was only an attempt to seek out to the masses through the reality of today and the important question at hand.