By Prarthana Mitra
The iconic image of Hollywood actress Kristen Stewart taking her heels off on the Cannes red carpet may not seem too revolutionary, but against the backdrop of the festival’s draconian rule that mandates women to wear heels, it is a crucial symbolic gesture screaming #TimesUp.
— Andy (@Andy01312701) June 12, 2018
Say no to absurd dress codes
At a time when even the women’s footwear industry is undergoing a massive shift, as more working women in the corporate sector are abandoning uncomfortable (and unhealthy) stilettos for casual sneakers, Cannes’ dictum sounds frankly medieval, especially for the self-proclaimed champion of progressive visual arts.
More women are opting to dress down and dress for themselves, and sneaker companies are cashing in on this radical movement in fashion. In 2017, sales of high heels declined by 11% in the US while women’s sneaker sales were up 37% in the same period. “Our data demonstrates that athleisure is certainly a prevailing trend as women seek out more casual, comfortable footwear,” says Erin Wallace, brand director at ThredUp, a platform which noticed a spike in heel purges and flats purchase after the #MeToo movement.
Celebrities endorsing the cause also helps because women who have been taught to emulate certain images and types via media, are now internalising a healthier set of codes. It is quite reassuring to see the systems that perpetuated such misogynistic expectations and coined standards about what a woman can do or look like, are now adapting themselves to the break in the glass ceiling.
Remembering the women in combat
Another major breakthrough, especially for the large and largely underground community of feminist and/or female gamers, is the inclusion of women characters in an upcoming edition of the immensely popular Battlefield game. EA Sports received unnecessary backlash for diversifying the gaming space. Objections arose on the basis of a historically inaccurate assumption that women did not have play an active part in the Second World War.
Seriously, guys? *Eye roll*
Kudos to EA chief creative officer Patrick Söderlund who defended the company’s decision in an interview with Gamasutra, saying, “We stand up for the cause, because I think those people who don’t understand it, well, you have two choices: either accept it or don’t buy the game.” This is #everyonesbattlefield,” said general manager Oskar Gabrielson, in response to the grimace-worthy #notmybattlefield doing the rounds on social media.
— Push Square (@pushsquare) June 13, 2018
Battlefield V’s decision to prominently feature women in combat as part of its World War II setting has clearly triggered the online gaming community, which has always been dominated by a toxic masculinity and exclusion of women in the sub-culture, even though the space is more gender-diverse than ever now. Oppression by omission still persists, and extends to female characters in the game, as well as to female players outside it. Representation in media of female experiences and narratives will go a long way in correcting some of the inherent misogyny.
Driving towards an empowered future
Another space sorely remiss of women professionals is the transport sector. Although car booking and rental services in first world countries have introduced separate car fleets driven by women for women, driving continues to be a privilege and a dream for women in several Asian countries where the driver’s license is issued only to men.
Busting the myth about women being bad drivers, Sara Bahai has overcome threats, physical abuse and social stigma, to become Afghanistan’s only female cab driver, a country that feels uncomfortable with the idea of women behind the wheel. Today she owns a successful business in her district and inspires women to never back down on fundamental rights.
Afghanistan capital Kabul is one of the few places in the country where women drive without fear of persecution. But Jawad Haidari, director of one of Kabul’s more prominent driving schools, says that only a small percent of women who graduate from his school go on to procure driver’s licenses.
According to Huffington Post, women drivers in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, must be strategic about which roads they choose to drive on. If they drive in the crowded parts of the city, they are more likely to encounter aggressive men who might try to chase them. Driving on less crowded streets does not guarantee safety either, as empty roads often leave women open to attack.
As women are creating a brave new world for and by themselves—reminding the sisterhood that they can be anything, do anything they put their minds to—the contribution of crucial allies in helming such a change will not be forgotten.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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