By Dhruv Aroa:
Today is a sad day in Indian journalism. Bombay Times, a supplemental newspaper that is delivered with the main Times of India newspaper in Mumbai, came plastered with the headline “Our Point of View”, and a question as subtext – “Was Deepika’s hypocrisy for publicity?”. Below this mind-numbing headline was another subtext that proudly announced “(Below are) Pictures of Deepika that she got shot voluntarily in real life” with pictures of Deepika Padukone posing for various fashion agencies, magazines, and so forth. This was, I can only guess, done to make some sort of a convoluted point that since Deepika voluntarily (the keyword that TOI so aptly pointed out) indulged in modelling, she is now “asking for it”. The most interesting (read: appalling) aspect of the pictures that have been published has to be the arrow pointing towards Deepika’s cleavage that serves as a friendly reminder to the reader that yes, Deepika Padukone does indeed have cleavage, and for those who may lose their way, the cleavage is located on her chest.
The article goes on to rant about how TOI considers itself to be anti-moral-policing, something against which irony has now lost all meaning. The problem that Times of India seems to have failed at addressing with this insightful piece is the idea of consent, the idea that Times of India does not actually get any say in what Deepika chooses to do with her own body, a concept that seems to have completely baffled the author, Ms. Priya Gupta. The Times of India’s response is not only hollow and insulting, but further instigates the patriarchal culture that we live in to shame women for their own bodies in the guise of them somehow asking for it because of what they choose to do in their own lives with their bodies. The most startling thing of all is the reason this debacle started: TOI’s original tweet carried the headline “OMG Deepika’s cleavage show!” — as if to say “can you believe they were visible?”. ThisÂ was what Deepika had a problem with, and her response to this, which was “Yes, I have breasts and a cleavage. You got a problem?”, only stated that she is not ashamed of the fact that her cleavage was visible, and TOI had no reason to sensationalize the fact.
TOI then raises the pertinent question of how Deepika has the audacity to question Times of India for using sensationalist tactics when she started off her career as a ‘calendar girl for a liquor brand’. At this point I am completely baffled about how anyone in Times of India thought that this was a valid statement to make in this context. What is being implied here, apart from the obvious plea to the moral police of joining the Times of India in shaming Deepika for having cleavage and having the audacity to drink/support/model for an alcoholic brand?
Girls drinking alcohol? Haaye Tauba!
It would be incorrect to end this without highlighting the problems with the “Bollywood culture” and absolving it of all of its problems, such as promoting a specific skin colour as acceptable, promoting the idea of a perfect body, and many, many more. These are all things that Deepika Padukone is herself a part of, and I do wish that she (and many others) who are in influential positions would not condone and practice these other things as well. However, there is a time and a place to pick up issues, and I personally believe that using the problems with the film industry as an excuse to justify what the Times of India has published would be doing a disservice to the causes that we are trying to highlight.
I would like to end this by addressing the following statement made by the Times of India in their article:
“Yes, the headline could have been better. But the world of online is very different from that of newspapers. It is chaotic and cluttered – and sensational headlines are far from uncommon.”
To claim that the world of online journalism somehow rationalises and justifies sensationalist headlines and your cluttered approach towards it is an insult to the various other non-mainstream media outlets that have been proving you wrong every step of the way by upholding the idea that sensationalism is not necessary and journalism is still alive and well. Please do not use your incompetency as a crutch to justify your archaic stance towards women, as well as journalism.
There is a way to report incidences and although I understand that the digital media world is extremely different from the print media world, there are still ethical ways of approaching journalism and what we have here is a shining example of what NOT to do. I am offended and quite frankly enraged that you would have such nonsensical ideas towards how women should behave and you would assume the support of the rest of us who utilize this wonderful medium to practice meaningful journalism simply because you are not qualified or rational enough to have actually relevant content on your social media channels.
Please raise your voice against Times of India’s sexism and demand accountability by signing the petition by Jhatkaa here.
To know more about what I think of this story, follow me on twitter at @thedhruvarora