Growing up in Indian culture, a deep-rooted fear of judgement was ingrained within us from a young age. Over the years, this fear of judgement further metamorphosed into shame, guilt, and an imminent societal pressure to be the ‘good girl’.
What even defines a ‘good girl’?
Someone who blindly goes by societal rules and norms, even if these rules are heavily flawed and highly patriarchal?
Someone who is constantly weighed down by her judgemental society’s opinions and family’s esteem first, before she even addresses her own basic human needs, be it physical, emotional, or mental?
The good girl must do what she is told, should never question, and must always ‘behave’ herself because her choices and actions determine her character. A choice deemed wrong by the society would turn out to be disrespectful to the family.
Her worth and value lies in her character.
If her innate needs, emotions, actions, and choices translate into harsh and shameful labels, will she ever stand a chance to be seen just as another human?
If all this was not weighing heavily enough, the cherry on top is the body consciousness instilled by socially constructed beauty ideals as well as lived experiences of strangers ogling her womanly body parts in her teens.
I have never quite understood why it is acceptable for a random man to sexualise a teen but not okay for a grown adult woman to speak openly about her innate desires.
Female desire has been criminalised for decades. We are slut shamed, quickly labelled as too easy and for some of us, the community even performs female genital mutilation to demonstrate control over our bodies, violating basic human rights.
Most people from previous generation grew up with the notion of criminalised behaviour and shame. A lot of shame. Therefore, they find it difficult to openly talk, rationalise and fully inform us.
Their thoughts are socially conditioned:
you are a slut if your body count is three or more, you leave a part of yourself every time you get intimate with someone, a girl walks different after it’s done, that girl reveals her body to attract boys, the boy won’t marry you if you get intimate before marriage.
The implantation of such socially conditioned thoughts into us have done more damage than we think. The fear of intimacy, our judgment radar for ourselves and others, questioning our morality, not communicating our needs, feeling guilty for having desire, feeling guilty for too much indulgence, and feeling shameful for exploring. There is no end to it until we normalise it. She is a sexual being and no, she is not asking for it!
Working on Criminalised was no easy task. Sruthi and I had our judgement radar on throughout the shoot – Is it too revealing? Is it too erotic? What would our parents think? What if people think we are trying too hard? How do girls look sexy doing this pose? Dude, relatives on Instagram! I am super conscious of my tits. Despite all these mental blocks, we tried our best to let go of inhibitions and push our boundaries. Honestly, this has been a liberating experience for both of us and I could not have had a better partner in crime for bringing this project to fruition. Do not forget to check out Sruthi Pujara (@tonal_tales on Instagram) and give her a follow for photojournalistic style of imagery. Stay tuned for more and enjoy Criminalised xx
Shine bright and be kind! 🙂
Sruthi & Aditi
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