Friday, November 8, 2013


Nisha Pahuja's The World Before Her (2011) is a remarkable documentary on the diverging and contentious reactions to female advancement in India, as seen through the lenses of the Miss India World beauty pageant and a couple of the contestants, and a strident believer whose work in support of Hindu nationalist extremism at the same time undercuts her desire for control of her life (and the irony as well of Hindu girls being harangued to follow the traditional paths while teaching them to fight). The strain of radical conservatism is not unlike that found in the Taliban or the Tea Party. I was shocked to hear that 750,000 female fetuses are aborted yearly, and unknown numbers of female newborns are killed. You cringe as a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old girl spouts religious hatred. You feel anger at the adults who actively warp their minds against others. You are appalled as a father describes the intentional branding with a hot poker of his daughter as punishment for lying, of his bragging of physical abuse meted out. I wish more women could physically stop their tormentors, that many male-dominated societies would shatter.

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