Felt up, Ogled at, Scorned: ‘Pink’ Is for the Woman Still Standing
By Urmi Bhattacheryya
At a party some years ago, I was felt up by a man without my consent. I was intoxicated and unconscious on a bed, and I felt hands, vague at first, then firmer, canvassing the contours of my body. Heavily inebriated, I felt myself wanting to cry out, but stayed stuck in a muted vortex, till it stopped. I didn’t manage to wake up till hours later — by which point, I had no idea who was responsible or what I could do about it anymore.
It was that part of me — that carefully cloistered, put-away-in-a-box part of me — that revelled in Pink.
A friend of a friend went on a Tinder date that ended in the worst way possible. She kissed her date, consented to come back to his place for a drink, did not consent to have sex, woke up with her underwear around her legs and the distinct, disorienting sense of having been stripped of clothes and agency. She was fed the nine-by-two “But you were into it” script and got up and walked home, letting the horrible feeling that she’d do absolutely nothing about it wash over her.
Pink made me think of her.
Of Underwear and Patriarchy
Why I preface a tale about Pink with a couple of disjointed first-person narratives is because that’s what Pink is: a stitching together of experiences that could have been/are mine. That could have been/are yours.
Because the idea of Pink is simple, really — it’s so simple, in fact, that it shouldn’t even merit a discussion, let alone a standalone movie (that also involved a contested letter-writing spiel) — women can do whatever the f*** they want. They can go to rock concerts wearing red lipstick and smoke at the neighbourhoodpanwaari’s with a boy they know well and a couple of others they’ve just met. They can consent to a drinkathon in a resort where they feel safe and in control of themselves and amp up the speakers and dance to music they like. They can, believe it or not, just as equitably, refuse to have sex with you as they please.
I remember the first shot in the movie that really cannoned into my psyche. It wasn’t the gore or the deliberately delayed titillation of not knowing what had happened to these three women, so obviously harmed in some insidious sexual way. It wasn’t the tautness of waiting or the rooting for the women to take up lance and mace.
It was the single shot of one of the three women drying underwear out in the verandah. In an infinitesimal moment of complete normalcy, that frame seemed to say, “Hey patriarch, here’s what we’re going to do throughout the movie, dangle stereotypes out to dry. Take it or leave it.”
I remember when a girlfriend once told me she’d been asked by her landlady not to fling lingerie out in the open for the men in the locality to see.
Pink reminded me of her.
The Art of No Compromise
Half a decade ago, when I was still in college, a classmate who’d come from Meghalaya, spoke constantly and consistently of the stares she’d receive in tank tops and shorts (far more than the average woman in tank tops and shorts). The note of bitterness never receded, even as she forced herself to acclimatise to a culture that hyphenated where she was from.
Pink is a story about her.
Pink is a story about all of these women, and about you and me. The woman who will still head to a party because she wants to and drink alcohol because she wants to, and assume with legitimate authority that she will not be felt up. The woman who will refuse to be disillusioned by the cautionary tales of online dating and meet a man for drinks, assuming with legitimate authority that when she says ‘no’, she will be listened to. The woman who will demand with legitimate authority that her hyphenated origins not be treated as an excuse to rape her.
On that legitimate authority there can be no compromise.