Gender Reversal YouTube Videos: Responses from India and France
Mary Catherine Lawler
As a visual pushback to responses of ridicule to outspoken feminists, two YouTube videos from India and France, respectively, portray day to day life by showing male actors experiencing social prejudices against women and female actors enjoying the privileges normally and invisibly bestowed upon men. Though at times it almost seems that the video is making fun of how women move, talk, and dress (see the nightclub scene in Man’s World or the daycare drop-off scene in Oppressed Majority), overall the stories do a decent job of throwing into relief problematic gender interactions and highlighting daily sexism.
To start, I will give a brief summary of both videos. Oppressed Majority (Majorité Opprimée English) deals with a day in the life of a man living in a woman’s world; he interacts with neighbors and friends, takes his child to daycare, is harassed both during the day and at night, and met with disdain from his high-profile business wife. Man’s World is a four-part series of videos much in the same vein; Kiran, a young man, is frustrated with the “preferential treatment” given to women and after we see a typical privileged day in his life, he wishes for gender experiences to be reversed. They are indeed, but his attempt at a reverse wish fails, and he marries and has a child in a woman’s world.
Man’s World, Episode 3 / 2015
Oppressed Majority / 2014
Though on the whole on point, the French YouTube video betrays its stance as staunchly secular, in a scene in which the father (who lives in a feminist world) drops off his child at a daycare run by another man in a mock-hijab. He confronts his acquaintance, telling him that as men, they’re “not objects”, but his friend protests that “it’s the law” and “God will protect me”. This rather simplistic view of Islam is disappointing, but we understand the feminist point trying to be made, as this man’s wife had asked him to cover himself.
While the Indian YouTube series can at points be somewhat silly (we see Kiran getting his period and a pull-back shot of him screaming a drawn-out “Nooooo!”), the ending of the series is both the best and most difficult moment to stomach. After Kiran monologues to his newborn son, rejected by most of the women of the family, one of whom even offered to “take care of it” for her daughter, Kiran’s wife has a realization about the woman’s world in which the characters live. She makes chai, serving it to Kiran, which in the context is a progressive gesture, but to us as viewers who still live in a patriarchal environment, almost seems like a 180 back to the original world Kiran wished for.
Both videos assertively tease out daily problems faced by women such as workplace harassment, difficulty on public transit, sexism in interactions with the police, and overall safety concerns and discrimination within the family. More work is needed, however, to create a video response that doesn’t read as sometimes borderline mimicry or ridicule; sometimes the acting comes off as a straight man trying to play a gay man rather than a man living in a woman’s world. Perhaps this itself is a symptom of the man’s world in which we live and the stereotypes of gender and sexual orientation with which we operate.