The World Before Her (2012) reveals the cultural contradictions inherent within a ‘modernizing’ society steeped in traditional discriminatory treatment of women. This doc brings us to India – the largest democracy in the world – where age-old patriarchal attitudes persist despite the application of Western modernity and female ’empowerment’.
We are introduced to two groups of young women living in completely different worlds. One group is competing for the title of “Miss India” and the other consists of obedient Hindu women at a militant fundamentalist camp who would kill and die for their beliefs. While the ‘packaging’ of these two groups of women may appear so incredibly diverse, the parallel drawn between them highlights similar traditionally-imposed victimization.
Objectification of women and the quality of obedience are emphasized in scenes that can best be described – for those of us unused to such treatment – as ludicrous. Heart-wrenching empathy is what we feel for these girls, and an understanding that in terms of gender equality and human rights, India has a long way to go. Even with the oppressive dowry system, which is now illegal but still widely practiced, we discover that some oppressive cultural traditions are not easily relinquished.
We have the vision and determination of the daring female director Nisha Pahuja to thank for allowing us the privilege of ‘experiencing’ the world of the militant girls, since it was the first time any cameras were allowed into the fundamentalist camp.
Director: Nisha Pahuja
Memorable quote: “We keep talking about equality of the sexes. But think about this – can you really hide your natural weakness or character, as a woman?” – A speech given to the Hindu militant fundamentalist camp by one of the female leaders.
‘See it to believe it’ moment: The bikini-clad pageant girls walk down a runway on a beach wearing white bags over their heads – talk about female objectification!
Heart-wrenching moment: A father’s shameless description of his brutal abuse of his daughter to make her more “obedient”.
Go to The World Before Her official site to find out more information and how to get involved.
Read the Dry-humping, Two India’s and An Outrageous Cover-up review.