Song(s) of Patriarchy


Anupama Chopra recently held a panel discussion to deliberate the sexism prevalent in the Indian music industry. To this purpose, she invited four fresh female singers as panellists- Neeti Mohan, Aditi Singh Sharma, Neha Bhasin and Jonita Gandhi. The discussion provided insight into the way sexism is executed in the music industry.

Arijit Singh, arguably the most successful singer of the current times, features multiple times on the list of the most popular songs. But when you count the number of female voices on that list, the number is dismal. Neha Bhasin astutely remarked, “The female songs that get nominated [for awards] are probably the only female songs of the year.” Jonita Gandhi added that the range of the female voice is not usually considered during the composition of the song. As a result, they end up singing in a very high or very low pitch, with pitches that are comfortable for their voices continuing to elude them. That composers do not bother to even consider the range of a female voice underlines the fact that there occur very few instances wherein they have to consult this information. Neeti Mohan added that in certain songs, female singers are given a couplet or two to sing. Which might reek faintly of leftovers.

Most songs in movies tend to be about the proclamation of love. Songs in which the male actors profess their love far exceed the ones in which women are allowed the same. This reflects that our society is much more comfortable with the man speaking up in matters of the heart. Culturally, the onus has always been on the man to express interest, initiate conversation, pay the bills, buy expensive presents and make grand declarations of love. We prefer the woman silent, eyes downcast, feeling shy and unworthy of the attention, protest when given compliments and presents, and be utterly overwhelmed and gratified for the love and attention she receives from the man. Agency suits men much better than it does women, in the eyes of our patriarchal society.

In most movies, when a heroine dares repel the hero’s advances, the hero invariably breaks into a ridiculous song and dance sequence. The most ludicrous promises are made through the course of the song, and it invariably ends with the lady in question falling in love with the hero. (I vote they do that because they just want the noise to stop!) But when a man deigns to sing and dance for a woman, it seems there is no greater prize she can ask for.

The panel presented only one side of the argument, with no male singer to present their views or experiences. This would have led to a more nuanced view of the situation. Veteran singers like Alka Yagnik and Shreya Ghoshal weren’t even mentioned, who have both carved a place in the industry due to their talent and work. But all the same, it is a wonder they did, given how little is thrown their way in general.

By Halak Pandya.


Halak is an undergraduate student pursuing literature. She aspires to be a writer. Halak also holds a Master Diploma in Bharatnatyam and a Black belt in Taekwondo. She describes herself as a luftmensch.

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