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.

 

Independence day thoughts

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Disclaimer: This may turn into a rant soon, so fair warning to all patriots and nationalists.

Alright. I, like any other average school going Indian kid, has been thoroughly spoon fed the greatness of our nation since childhood. I have, like everyone else, thoughtlessly mouthed our bizarrely worded pledge (…all Indians are my brothers and sisters..). I have also seen enough “Paki bashing“, through media and movies, which of course is supposed to give us some sense of superiority (or something). Or had my Facebook news feed full of images proclaiming superiority of our nation. None of this has made me feel anything. I don’t deny that it inevitably becomes a part of my identity, but I never have I been able to grasp the concept of how I have to be somehow proud of being born in a country through pure random chance.  Also, I get a good chuckle when some enlightened ‘peaceful‘ Indian comes in everywhere from the movies to the internets, and point out the people who fight in the name of religious superiority to remind that “we are all proud Indians and we should stay united..” (insert random ‘proud Indian’ statements here) – the irony of using one divisive ideology to combat another never ceases to amaze me.

nationalismoct[1]Of course, that might all be narrow minded, cynical me who don’t just “get it”. What worries me, is when all this propaganda and nationalism breeds intolerance. A good example last year was actress and model Gehna Vasisht getting attacked for wearing a bikini with Indian flag – and not one source have I found to date condemning physical violence against her. All I saw were how she was doing this for cheap publicity stunt – perhaps she was. But does that really matter? Is it such a hard thing to understand that violence against women is wrong regardless of her supposed intentions or your beliefs?  And at the time, I happened to see an FB page sharing the same, congratulating her attackers for beating her black and blue. And the number of likes and shares that received was unbelievable. When a shred of cloth trumps basic human rights, then maybe it’s time to re-examine your core beliefs and moral stance.

So it would seem that Independence day is another great day for us to brush the issues of misogyny, homophobia, oppression against non believers and minorities, casteism etc which still remains to chain us. aside and be proud of our inherent national superiority. Maybe I am generalizing. Maybe I am being cynical. But I have seen nothing much to that effect. I’m desperately hoping that I’m very, very wrong, but sadly that hasn’t been the case (aside a few exceptions like this). At least maybe it’s worth re-examining if that which supposedly unites you divides you more than anything. Maybe it’s not just the colonial forces we need to be free from, as we are still chained by the aforementioned issues. When we begin to address those, then maybe I’ll cheer you along with the whole ‘Proud Indian’ chants and whatnot.

What am I doing, ruining your good national holiday. Happy Independence Day everyone!