How does your appearance construct your identity? Do our relationships bond subconsciously on a superficial level?
Acid attacks involve everlasting consequences through an attempt to control the woman’s future life. In men’s attempt to take ownership of these women; they infer predominance over them.
Ritu (21), Farah (34) and Dolly (15) are initiating against the development of dogmatism in the environment. They consider themselves as part of the new wave of feminism in India, which evolves at the Sheroes Hangout café. This space, set up by the “Stop Acid Attacks” campaign, functions as a haven and employs women who have survived heinous chemical burns.
They derive their identities now from that one instance which has changed the way they perceive life. The moment of disfiguration.
This is the point at which Ritu is unable or unwilling to recognize herself in the mirror.
Does Farah lose faith in herself as a human being and in the society that surrounds her?
Does Dolly feel so unappealing and undesirable toward other boys?
The society plays a role; it innately supports the physical and mental strength of the man. This environment can contribute to the isolation of such a disfigured woman, by offering her pity, consolation and entrapping her in the position of a ‘victim’.
Here remains the challenge for the women to overcome the social enigma that has been projected on them. This process of transformation leads to a phase of analyzing the surroundings and comparing it with the life, which existed before this heinous incident. There is a re-evaluation of male figures in their families and in their new surroundings, to create a new level of trust and acceptance toward themselves and others, and importantly become financially independent.
In ancient India, though patriarchal system was highly predominant, women enjoyed a position of respect and worship. As the time passed the condition of women underwent changes in all scopes of life and women lost their political rights of attending assemblies and became dependent on their male relatives.
From my mother I have inherited an incessant need to scrutinize and fight the stereotypical system of patriarchy in India. When my mother got married at the age of 21, due to her lack of higher education she was demeaned and ridiculed, and was treated as a second-class member in her own house. It took her over 30 years, and a supportive husband to finally reach a point in her life where she could achieve the highest level of professional and educational success she could have ever dreamed of. She is currently working in her dream job and is the sole bread earner in the family.
This is the story I grew up with, and this is the confidence I hold in perseverance and ambition. Ritu, Farah and Dolly are not so different. They also have a certain belief inside themselves that convinces them of the possibility to overcome their situation thatbrought them to work in this café. There is a desire to capture your own life and find purpose in it.
Being around them I gained qualities that I could have never acquired otherwise. These women create an atmosphere that leads to self-awareness and self-reflection; looking at Ritu, Farah and Dolly, the potential appears and not the victimization.