By Sonakshi Samtani:
If you thought that Salman-Shahrukh patch up and the royal baby stories were the lowest that journalism could reach, well you got it wrong. Apparently, The Times of India, the world’s largest selling English-language daily, finds it very appropriate to publish full fledged articles titled ‘7 things you didn’t know about women’s breasts’ or the very recent ‘Funny, Weird facts about women’. The latter being called ‘the worst thing ever’ by the Huffington Post, garnering criticisms both from the readers and news agencies worldwide.
Mr. Biben Laikhuram, the author of these disasters they call articles, is a Delhi University graduate and his areas of interest range from women’s breasts, their virginity or the ‘sex positions they would die for’. Interestingly, the editorial policy of TOI seems starkly incongruous to their recently launched ‘I Lead India’ initiative, which calls upon the youth to take the initiative and stand up for issues like women’s security, gender equality, traffic management etc. Mr Biben’s articles, however, impose and assert the same skewed gender stereotypes that India, as a country, needs to get rid of. The set of ‘featured stories’ on the TOI website, have remained unchanged for over a year and a half now, all three of which claim to help women get a flat tummy or a tiny waist.
One of the articles on their website, again by the same author, tells us ‘the great things about being a virgin woman’, supported by the notions of morality and how men love it when their partner is ‘untouched’ and ‘pure’ before marriage. However, all of these articles have been removed from the TOI website due to the controversy surrounding his latest piece.
Trashy articles like these are published with eye-catching headlines so as to keep the readership strong. It reflects the pathetic social mindset which deems it fine to objectify women and publish plagiarized content, so as to keep the circulation going. Yes, most of Laikhuram’s work is partly or entirely plagiarized, and is copied from various blogs on the internet. This raises serious concerns over the content millions of people read every day. This state of journalism in India answers many questions we ask about the differential treatment of women in the society. If the masses are subjected to such pieces on an ever day basis, we see the reason as to why the efforts to propagate gender equality are taking so long to show fruitful results.
While the recent JNU incident left the student and teacher community shocked, Dainik Bhaskar, an Indian Hindi daily, goes ahead to publish the story with headlines reading “…the girlfriend even had sex with the guy and then started mocking him”. The correspondent himself comes to a conclusion that the girl had slept with the boy, even though there were no such records found, and irresponsibly goes on to project an off-center perspective of the issue. Given the patriarchal outlook of the masses in the country, an average person would read the article presuming that the girl, having compromised her so called ‘morals’, was at fault. Moreover, for those thousands who skim through the headlines to get their dose of daily news, a headline is enough to do the damage and the understanding of the actual issue would remain distorted.
Spiro T. Agnew, the 39th vice-president of the USA once said “Some newspapers are fit only to line in the bottom of bird cages”. With ever increasing articles about weight management, beauty and opinion pieces that are utterly demeaning and project irrelevant gender stereotypes, most of the leading news papers and channels are bringing news dissemination to all new lows.
For a country struggling to attain gender equality and safety for women, gender insensitive journalism and mass media would divest the efforts from reaching the masses. It is imperative for these mass media agents to reflect upon their ethics, exercise social responsibility and work towards creating a more sensitized environment instead of indulging in irresponsible commercialization of news and facilitating a regress.
Link to the actual article, weird, funny facts about women, from where it was copied
Link to “Great things about being a dimwit”, an article thrashing Biben Laikhuram’s original on women and virginity