Gender Behaviors in “Battle of Algiers,” “Mother India” and “A Widow’s Voice”
“Battle of Algiers” and “Mother India” are two of the most widely acclaimed movies from two entirely different cinemas. These address the plight and struggles of women in society. Battle of Algiers is a 1966 war film, which dwells on the situations of women in a warring country. Mother of India shows the struggles of women in harsh economies, taking care of their families. “A Widow’s Voice” is a very popular literary text, which has the theme of widowhood, including the problems widows face. One thing that is common between both movies and the literary text is that they all offer a comprehensive insight into the gender behaviors in their respective contexts. This paper draws a comparison between the gender behaviors as depicted in Battle of Algiers, Mother India, and A Widow’s Voice.
Battle of Algiers, Mother India, and A Widow’s Voice are similar in their depiction of women’s strength. Battle of Algiers and Mother India commonly undermine the power of men while highlighting that of women while Mother India and A Widow’s Voice commonly feature domestic women’s sacrifices and men’s selfishness. In Battle of Algiers, both men and women have to modify their appearances in order to avenge the French army in one way or another. One sequence in the movie that particularly highlights this trend is when three National Liberation Front (NLF) women fighters; Djamila, Hassiba, and Zohra change their appearance to be able to leave the Casbah and attack the French colons by planting bombs (“Women and revolutionary” Web). Originally, they are wearing burqas. Their plan is to plant the bombs in the French colons’ space without making them realize where these women belong. In order to achieve this plan, they transform themselves into Western women to Europeanize themselves. They remove their burqas, cut their hair, and dye them, and wear Western outfits (Solo Web). One of the most important factors that increases women’s eligibility to become the fighters is the fact that the societal and cultural norms oblige men not to touch the women. The women fighters in Battle of Algiers took advantage of this norm and slipped through all the checkpoints, yet were not patted down (Johnson Web).
Mother India gains its significance from the contrasting roles and the accompanying societal perceptions that it associates with the same woman, Radha, who is the leading actress in the movie. As a mother, the woman is very respectable and holds a very high status in the society. However, as a woman other than being a mother, the men in the society treat her badly. For example, the moneylender, Sukhilala, forces her to marry him. In Mother India, men assume different roles whereas women play only the role of being mothers. All the girls who at one time, are shown suffering, ultimately get married and become mothers. One factor that Mother India particularly emphasizes is that mothers have utmost respect in the Indian society. So in order to earn respect in the society, every woman is supposed to get married, and take on motherhood. A single woman in the Indian society is exposed to a lot of risks and challenges in the society and everybody tends to take advantage of her insecurity (Djebar 180-182).
In A Widow’s Voice, the narrator describes how she lost her husband, three sons, and her brother in war, how she escaped the bombs to bury her brother’s corpse, and how the man in charge, Allal did not give her any favor in return of her sacrifices for him. One factor that is common between Battle of Algiers and Mother India is that they undermine the power of men while overemphasizing upon the power of women. For example, in Battle of Algiers, men dress like women to escape the torture of the French Army. Likewise, in Mother India, Shamu, Radha’s husband, gives up all hope and abandons his family. On the other hand, in Battle of Algiers, the women fighters’ bravery is evident from the successful achievement of their goal. In Mother India, Radha does not give up even when the storm and Sukhilala destroys her house. She not only fights for the community and the land but also sacrifices her own son Birju to save the daughter of the Sukhilala (“Mother India” Web). Her concern for Sukhilala’s daughter, despite Sukhilala being her enemy is what earns Radha the title of Mother India in the movie.
Another gender factor that is common between Mother India and A Widow’s Voice is how the men do not care, and deny women their rights despite the fact that women sacrifice everything to ensure that men enjoy their rights. For example, in Mother India, Radha, Sukhilala’s daughter, still treats him well despite all that he had done to her before. In A Widow’s Voice, the narrator asks Allal to offer her a house after the war because she had lost all her sons in the war while Allal was hiding in a cave, but Allal does not let her occupy one unless she pays for it.
One important aspect one can draw from Battle of Algiers, Mother India, and A Widow’s Voice is that women can go to any length in their attempt to protect the sanctity and integrity of their homeland. However, these women are the most affected during nationalist conflicts. The movies Mother India, and Battle of Algiers, as well as the literary text A Widow’s Voice, are all unbiased in their representation of women. They evoke sympathy in their audience toward the women fighters, and the common women in society who express their bravery, strength, and determination as a united force, yet still become victims of different adversities. Women are the threshold of society, without their love and support for their men and families, the society cannot achieve much, even in winning a war. “When a community’s politicized sense of its own identity becomes threaded through with pressures for its men to take up arms, for its women to loyally support brothers, husbands, sons, and lovers to become soldiers” (Evangelista 39).
In conclusion, drawing a comparison between these three works was quite challenging, as these have different themes, and are of different genres. However, with the approach employed, a clear comparison of gender behaviors in these works has been achieved. Generally, women have been portrayed as very important people in the society. Women take care of their families, which are the basic unit of the society. Women are shown as strong people who do not give up easily, and are ready to fight for a worthy cause. However, despite all these, the society, especially men, do not appreciate women the way they should. Cases of women rights violation unfold, as well as victimizations during national conflicts. These three works therefore indirectly call for the need for women empowerment in society, as well as their due appreciation, as these are core in society.
“Mother India.” 2012. nd. Web. 5 Nov. 2012. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050188/plotsummary>.
“Women and revolutionary violence in The Battle of Algiers and Inglourious Basterds.” 16 Sep.
2009. Web. 5 Nov. 2012. <http://feministing.com/2009/09/16/women-and-revolutionary-violence-in-the-battle-of-algiers-and-inglourious-basterds/>.
Djebar, Assia. “Fantasia, an Algerian Cavalcade.” Portsmouth, N.H: Heinemann, 1993.
Evangelista, Matthew. “Gender, Nationalism, and War: Conflict on the Movie Screen.” Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.
Johnson, Sheila. “The Battle of Algiers and Its Lessons.” Common Dreams. 7 Sep. 2003. Web. 5 Nov. 2012. <http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0907-07.htm>.
Solo, Carolyn. “The Battle of Algiers.” 3 April 2009. Web. 5 Nov. 2012. <http://gandt.blogs.brynmawr.edu/web-papers/web-papers-3/the-battle-of-algiers/>.
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