The past couple of months, seen from the eyes of an Indian woman, would be quite intriguing. Three different stories of three different women have pushed us back to the same old question – is our society deeply sexist and even misogynist on occasions?
While the question is old, and so is the answer, often in affirmative, what sticks out this time is that even those who are loudest to cry “sexism” and “misogyny” are no different from those whom they are accusing.
The first story revolves around a woman celebrity who was bullied for her political opinions; the second story is about a Godwoman who decided to wear skimpy clothes; and the third is about an ordinary girl who chose to live some moments of intimate privacy in a hotel room.
What remained common, but most disturbing, in all these stories was the character assassination of the women, complimented by vulgar attacks on all these women – some by moral police, some by trolls, and some by people who, under the masks of intellect, ridiculed trolls and moral police for attacking women while doing the same in other case.
A few weeks back, Shruti Seth was bullied by Twitterati after she intentionally tried to attack PM Modi’s ‘selfie with daughter’ campaign by linking unrelated events as Yoga day and water-logging in Mumbai. The initial criticism of this needless attack on PM’s campaign soon turned into massive mud-slinging and absurd vulgar attacks. As stated by her, she was attacked for her ‘Muslim’ husband, her 11 month-old-daughter, and her non-existent, dwindling, no-good career as an actor. Besides this, she was also tagged and assaulted with jokes loaded with sexual innuendos.
Such attacks are not new or exclusive to fan base of any particular party or political ideology. With the advent of social media, every political camp has created many lowly trolls who exploit his/her influential capabilities to launch such vulgar attacks. For example, this tweet by an AAP troll created lots of filth in the past:
Serious question. Is it normal for women BJP supporters to “open their legs” for Modi? Why do they seem to see this as a regular thing?
— Wildcard Vidyut (@Vidyut) November 1, 2014
The story of Shruti Seth is more appealing because she had some valid concerns, and still she was incongruently attacked on the lines of religion, sex and choices. A respite in this whole episode was that she got good support, not only from the media, but also from the social media. People stood for her, spoke for her and fought for her.
The next story didn’t attract such support. On the surface, it may appear that a fraud background would have been the primary reason for the lack of agitation against attacks on Radhe Maa, but the undercurrents would deny this simplistic reason.
Had the fundamental frameworks of equality, dignity and liberty remained same for Sukhvinder Kaur (Radhe Maa) and Shruti Seth, social media, media and Op-ed writers would have raised similar protests, not mild discussions, against the attacks on Sukhvinder Kaur for her costumes and sexuality.
Social Media was full of Radhe Maal jokes, but unlike the case of Shruti Seth, none of the newspapers covered this female objectification in a patriarchal society. Hardly any “intellectual” defended her rights to choose her clothes or proximity with some political camp (they said Shruti Seth is free to back a party she supports). In fact, she was made a tool into the ongoing political battle.
— Farah khan (@farah17khan) August 7, 2015
Sukhvinder Kaur (Radhe Maa) may be a fraud, but the selective moral pedestal taken by intelligentsia raises doubts on their arguments. She was attacked only after pictures of her wearing skimpy clothes were shared on social media. It was plain and simple voyeurism, not any activism or rationalism.
The third and the most unfortunate story is about the girl who neither intended to participate in political or social discourses nor tried to cheat anyone. The girl who was detained, humiliated and questioned by Mumbai police during a hotel raid initiated against complaints of “public indecency” was a victim of cumulative social nonsense.
While the world is liberating individuals from social shackles, we are stuck in moral policing and outdated laws that can be easily manipulated. Forget Tier-2 or Tier-3 cities, even the hotels and societies in cities like Delhi and Mumbai are clung around moral sermons. Sadly, instead of finding solutions, people are busy pointing fingers at each other, taking moral high grounds.
I may not have the exact solutions, but I would also not deny solutions are not possible. Sail back to the 90’s when girls were not allowed to wear jeans or drive bikes, when girls consuming cigarettes or alcohol were seen with disdain, and when wives spent all their lives waiting for approvals of their husbands. We have certainly evolved. However, we need to evolve faster than the current rate, and for that we need to grow awareness.
The horrific gang-rape incidence in Delhi pushed people to avoid making rape jokes. People, at least the sane ones, have stopped using words like rape and gang-rape in normal public discussions in casual manners.
These three incidents have showed that in the process of getting even with our political or ideological opponents, we indulge in sexist and misogynistic behavior. Similar to the “eye for eye logic”, we can at least pledge to refrain from “sexual verbal attacks for sexual verbal attacks” and help ourselves into evolving better.