More Tabloid Misogyny from TOI

Deepika Padukone, Times of India, Objectification

How low could one of the worst popular tabloid newspapers in India go? Well  apparently a lot more lower than we had imagined. I don’t think I have to mention the whole incident again, you can read a summary of events here (and here’s a good piece on victim blaming and misogyny in light of recent events, viz. Deepika-TOI incident and victim blaming and harassment against Suzette Jordan).

It’s one thing to engage in complete violation of privacy, objectification and dehumanization of women through tabloid journalism, it’s worse when you ask a woman to “take it as a compliment 😉 ” when she explicitly said that it’s dehumanizing and objectifying, but it’s a whole new level of douchebaggery when you follow it up with horrendous trite like this.

It’s basically entirely built on implicit slut shaming, and then rationalizing their shitty story. First they go on to rationalize their headline saying how sensationalized headlines aren’t uncommon (which was literally “OMG, Deepika Padukone’s Clevage show”) and then they dissect photoshoots Deepika had voluntarily taken part in, in an extremely crass and distasteful manner.

I think supposedly “one of the largest media houses in the world” would have people with half a brain to figure out the obvious, that she chose to voluntarily pose for those pictures, she felt comfortable about those. That’s her choice. We don’t even have to get into the murkier area of modelling industry/Bollywood etc. promoting objectification. This is clear as a crystal, and I’d have thought even if they were on a cocktail of heroin, meth and cocaine, they still would’ve been able to join the dots here.

But oh no – you, instead, poked into her real life, violated her privacy, and posted picture of her breasts in utterly dehumanizing way. The difference is as huge as harassing a woman and paying her a compliment. The original “article” was not only dehumanizing, but when it was pointed out to you multiple times, you still keep rationalizing this, and pile more misogynistic bullshit on top of that instead of, at the very least, offering a wholehearted apology and retraction. In fact, this new article explaining “their side” is so explicitly misogynistic, that the initial article pales in comparison.

But hey, by all means when a woman tells you how you feel dehumanized, you blame and shame her further and call her an attention whore (“Was deepika’s hypocrisy for publicity?” – nice touch).

Well done TOI, you’ve officially downgraded yourself further from the already horrendous TOIlet journalism you champion.

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Motherhood and Benevolent Misogyny

 

Unpaid Housework

“These days, sexism is a bit like Meryl Streep, in a new film: sometimes you don’t recognise it straightaway. You can be up to 20 minutes in, enjoying all the dinosaurs and the spacefights and the homesick Confederate soldiers, before you go, “Oh my God — under the wig! THAT’S MERYL.” – Caitlin Moran

Although I’m no huge fan of Moran, the quote is bang on when it comes to benevolent misogyny. It’s still same old shit, just sugarcoated well enough for people to swallow en masse. In fact, sometimes it makes me wonder if it’s more toxic than your garden variety misogyny for the same reason.

A video by Sharman Joshi was shared by The Logical IndianI intend to rant a bit about this page later, but they are, in my opinion, very faux liberal and now and then posts misogynistic/anti feminist drivel. You can see a sample of their latest of their misogynistic bullshit (although again, wrapped in all the apparent “good intentions” in the world) here:

Anyway, coming to video:

And as the comments suggest, conceptually, it seems to be a rip off of this highly problematic advert. However when this gets “indianized” and has been released as some sort of PSA – well that sucks real bad.

The video is basically Sharman asking his colleagues/workmates how they feel about someone working day in and day out, tirelessly, ghade ghade garmi mein (standing all day in extremely hot conditions). And then when they get tired of his “riddle” and asks him, whether his “dad will work for free” – and then he goes: “..my dad won’t, but my mom does”. Then it goes all sappy and everyone realizes how awesome mothers are and motherhood is and it’s all boo-fucking-hoo.

The part where he says that his dad won’t, that – that precisely is the problem. This is where such normalization of such “struggles”  through imposing such notions of “motherhood” comes in. As in the implication of how these “struggles” of housework is somehow part and parcel of “motherhood”, what better way to reinforce gender roles? “Mere papa nahi karte” – the problem is very much that, how about we focus on that instead?

To be clear, I’m not intending to generalize or imply that no women choose housework. However India especially does have a HUGE problem with disproportionate number of women doing all the housework and hardly many men. This disproportionate nature of women doing all the housework should make it painfully obvious these are not just women ‘choosing’ to do housework, but rather something they’re burdened with.

What irritated me more was the fact that how the description even goes on to say “I have often seen that people do something for their mothers on Mother’s Day and then forget about it” – well what did YOU have in mind while making the video (aside from hits)?

And no, shedding faux tears and telling her “I love you Mom” doesn’t make it all magically go away. As the comments on the FB posts suggest, it just plays right into the mindset that these are all “natural part of motherhood”. And that makes it a crappy “PSA” video, afterall.

Viral Campaigns Gone Wrong

Viral video campaigns india

You know what gets my goat? The trend of a bunch of videos masquerading as “progressive” ending up screwing things so bad, that you want to tear your hair out. Especially those about sensitive topics like rape without much thought being put behind them.


The video above was passed on as some sort of a “social experiment” – while I feel if anything it’s an extremely poorly thought out “experiment”. The only thing that’s worth emphasizing in this video is if they could establish that none of the people who left called the cops. However in the given hypothetical, it’s extremely dangerous to thoughtlessly intervene – not just for them, but it could put the victim’s life at risk too. So one could understand why someone wouldn’t directly intervene in such a situation.

No excuse to not call the cops again, but that doesn’t seem to be their point when they ask: “Who was the real culprit? The beast inside the car or those who just walked off?” (to spell it out, it IS the “beast” regardless) Since it says “someone called the cops” – what if it was one of those who “shamelessly” fled the scene? They should have clarified these important aspects if one was to take this remotely seriously. And it was just a poor way to demonstrate the public apathy towards rape victims , which indeed is a problem.

And behold, it gets worse.

Let’s ignore the crass title for a second here (“Will you marry a raped girl?” – seriously?) – the video, while again, highlights the extremely misogynistic mindset of people at the beginning, goes on to state how they’ve found some “heroes” too. There’s nothing “heroic” about being a decent human being and not a misogynistic ass. While it’s a good change considering general perception towards rape victims in our society, posing it as somehow “heroic” is very problematic and perpetrates the existing notion that they’re doing some sort of “sacrifice” by marrying a rape victim. I don’t know if I can even give credit to them here for being “well intentioned”.

And finally this is the latest video that falls prey to the same thoughtlessness (although admittedly to a much lesser degree than the previous one) albeit having good potential is this video that’s gone viral oflate:


The video comes so close to properly acknowledging male privilege and ends up being borderline patronizing, essentialist, objectifying, despite the good intentions. No, women are not all “beautiful” or “sexy” – and they don’t have to be. They are NOT a monolith. They’re as complex and diverse as men are – that’s the message we should be conveying, instead of being extremely patronizing.

And while India is one of the worst place for women to be in, Saudi Arabia is NOT a safe place for women – it’s a far worse misogynistic dole than ours. There’s some perception among people that because of the harsh (and barbaric) punishments in Saudi Arabia it’s somehow “safer” for women. No it isn’t.  Rape is horribly underreported in Saudi Arabia and statistics on rape isn’t available for comparison.  

This video is perhaps most disappointing as it seeks to make a strong and relevant point and loses track big time.

So am I saying that these campaigns are useless? No, and at the same time I’m someone who thinks that projects like these are a good medium to nudge people in the right direction – it’s a good starting point. Which is why I so wish that they would put some thought into these things instead of thoughtlessly making problematic token videos that caters to the more progressive demographic (this being a fine example of how to do it right).

End of rant.

When Fanaticism and Misogyny Intersect

Sharapova Sachin

I am an ardent Cricket fan. I have greatest respect for Sachin Tendulkar, who is truly one of the legends of the game. But I have never been fond of the cult like fanatics who froth at mouth at the slightest semblance of criticism. This is hardly limited to Sachin of course, any popular star – Rajnikanth, SRK – choose your pick. These people just brainlessly attack anyone who doesn’t remotely agree with their perspective. I get the being passionate aspect of it, for sure but losing all perspective and frothing at their mouths? Not so much.

It should hardly be a surprise why Maria Sharapova, who is a Tennis star and Russian, wouldn’t know Sachin – especially since cricket is hardly a popular sport in Russia (or globally, as compared to Football etc.). But oh no, she is just not allowed to not know Sachin, because fuck logic.

A lot of innocuously funny (albeit childish) remarks may be dismissed as innocent trolling, but this was just the tip of the iceberg. Her page was flooded with misogynist comments and is still being done so. I’m borrowing this assimilated screenshot by India Commenting FB page:

Sharapova Misogyny

(for non hindi speakers: randi=whore)

These are not even a fair indicator of the a minor percentile of the misogynist crap that’s being dumped there. I just can’t be bothered to screencap these douchebaggery – basically the more “innocent” comments are the ones which spams Sachin’s achievements over and over again and the ones which claims that she’s just lying. Then there’s direct death threats, slut shaming etc. If you really have the time and patience, go through it here in the comments section.

And people continued slut shaming, calling her “bitch”, a “porn star” etc. on twitter – in and outside the by now popular #whoissharapova hashtag which I have no intention of linking here.

When exactly did being a fan become equivalent to a brainless moron? Or more importantly, a misogynist douchebag? How exactly are you putting your legend you worship so dearly in a good light by doing all this? Zombies on their slower days are capable more rational thought than these bunch.

This whole incident sums up everything that’s wrong with our society – mob like mentality and misogyny. And the intersection of both was very hard and shameful to watch for me as an Indian and an ardent cricket fan myself.

Seriously, sort your shit out people. I don’t care how much you worship any sports star, it’s not okay to dehumanize someone under any pretext, much less for the blasphemous crime of not knowing a sports star regardless of how much of a legend he may be. Just think about that for a second and calm the fuck down. Thank you.

On Preity Zinta, Misogyny and Intersectionality

Preity Zinta

Recently, Preity Zinta lodged a formal complaint against her ex Ness Wadia, for alleging intimidation during the IPL. You can read the full content of her official complaint here.

Now it’s very brave of a woman to come forward and do this in India, considering proportion of the misogyny and how inevitably worse it gets in proportion when you’re a celebrity who is in the spotlight. And to put things in context, she’s also someone who refused to retract from her testimony in 2003 Bharat Shah Case while major figureheads in Bollywood “chickened out”.

Later on she posted this status asking people and media to stop humiliating her over this :

Every human being has a limit to how much they can take ; some of us foolishly call it strength and try to look ahead focusing on the positives of work and life. All these years i have never said anything about him in the media but now i have no choice.

I humbly request the media and my supporters to pls focus on the issue and the incident that happened in Wankade and not turn this and me into a TV soap. This is not easy for me and my intention is not to harm anyone but simply to protect myself and to stand up for myself. I don’t want any sympathy from anyone but i will sincerely appreciate it if people do not try to take away my dignity in the process of my fight for respect at my workplace. I think after all these years i deserve it and I’m not asking for too much.

Now unsurprisingly, many people characterized this as “celebrity drama” (because what’s more fun for a woman here than reporting harassment right?) and rest, as evident from the comment section (lead by “Masculinists”) are engaging in blatant misogynistic douchebaggery calling her a “gold digger” and accusing her of lying. Business as usual.

Most of this backlash seems to be born out of the usual, garden variety misogyny, which comes with the notion that since it has to be her simply “whining” about it, because her ex harassing her is nothing but a woman making a “big deal” out of a spat between her ex. But female celebrities being at the worse end of it in many ways because people can’t stand the thought of a successful woman, being able to stand up for herself and not putting up with this shit.

However there’s another section of people who shame her for lodging a complaint because “little girls are raped and hanged for nothing”:

 

Now this is a whole different type of douchebaggery. There were a bunch of comments on Preity Zinta’s original status which said more or less the same (which seems to be cleaned up now) – i.e. how she should stop making a “big deal” of harassment while worse things are happening in the country.

The worst thing about these comments are, ironically, how they smack of classism – i.e. turning rape of underprivileged women/children to our own desi version of “starving children in Africa have it worse” meme. While class (along with caste etc.), no doubt, plays a huge role in discrimination against women (and intersectionality is hence important) using this to put a woman down is not only terribly misogynistic, but also incredibly classist. Discrimination faced by underprivileged women are not some sort of leverage for you to trivialize misogyny.

What this case reflects is how, even for a female celebrity with class privilege, has put up with this terrible level of misogyny for merely filing a formal complaint against harassment. And the same people who create an environment where misogyny is desensitized wonder where all these “monsters” who commit these “brutal rapes” come from.

 

The problem with Burka Avenger

I was glad for once to see a female superhero being introduced in Pakistan. I am always a big believer that media can do their share in bringing in change to a culture, especially when it comes to children’s cartoons. I’m sure we all fondly remember the Disney films and various other cartoons that we grew up with. So when news about Burka Avenger came out, I  had my reservations about the choice of Burka as a costume like many, as in a very conservative society, especially when it is worn by a child, it could be problematic. I won’t get into that because that is not the topic of my post here, and here is a post that I mostly agree with regarding the choice of burka as a superhero costume.

Finally, I decided to watch Burka Avenger after a long time, as the series is uploaded on YouTube by the makers. Seeing that sites like Huffington Post had good thing to say about it and claimed that Disney could learn a thing or two from the portrayal of female character in Burka Avenger, one would expect it to be really good, right? Wrong. 

Can I haz moar pink?

Can I haz moar pink?

*Spoilers ahead, if you consider it that*

So the series starts with the prologue, of how an orphaned Jiya was raised by a ‘kind man’ who taught her ‘Takht Kabaddi’ which involves fighting with books and pens, and she uses her skills to fight tyranny and ignorance. She leads her ‘normal’ life as the teacher in a village school (and always wears a pink salwar with even pink chappals – god forbid she gets gets any less womanly, right?), and worries about ‘Baba Bandook’, the villain, preventing a girl’s school from getting opened (segregation much?), and rightly so. Him and Vadero Pajero, believes that women should have nothing to do with education and should just stay at home. Burka Avenger manages to throw books at his goons and save her kids from them meanwhile in a sub plot – and it’s boring. I mean, what’s the point? Yeah books and pens are probably supposed to be a metaphor (and in my opinion, it doesn’t work at all), but if you are supposed to land blows using them, what’s wrong with fighting goons like any other superheros? It’s not as if it’s non violent attack, it does hurt them, but no – a female superhero kicking ass would be too bad?

But that is the least of the problems with this atrocious show. This is where it all crashed down beyond redemption. Baba Bandook and his goons block kids from entering the school. Then this conversation takes place between kids and him – where he asks “Do these girls want to become modern? What will these girls do with education?” A girl just comes running into the scene screaming (Nahiiiiiiiiiiin, Bollywood ishtyle!) and says these gems that would just made my want to stick needles in my eyes.

burkaavengersexism

 

Yup, that’s the reason why girls should be educated, because they are mothers of tomorrow, and if mothers remain illiterate, the kids too will remain illiterate. Really? And the whole scene was so bad, with background maudlin background music and everything (think bad Bollywood movies from the 50’s) and the girl pleading in a very (fake) sad voice. And this was a child who was mouthing these dialoguesand they actually thought it was good to put in a children’s cartoon? Ugh.

Burka-Avenger-555x370[1]That’s not to say the whole thing is really bad, but even the good portions (that were the fight scenes in my opinion) were itself not so great, if you exclude the end credits – which was really cool.

Why this is so disappointing is because this was a good opportunity for them to push the envelope for all the media attention it got – and they completely grassed it. This could have been so much more. Production values when it comes to animation and such are really good for a Pakistani cartoon, and only if they had hired some good writers to make this at least a little better without. I shouldn’t have expected much better when the co-writer is apparently the guy who is behind this comic.

The whole point of me writing this brief critique is in some vain hope that the creators would notice this and at least try to stay away from reinforcing gender roles, ending up doing more harm than good.