By Abhishek Jha:
Even as our Prime Minister launched the #SelfieWithDaughter campaign this week, there was no respite for women or feminists in India, the sexism erupting like a persistent boil every now and then. From sexist cartoons in leading magazines to misogynist comments by actors, from virulent diatribes on an artist to violent attacks on an RTI activist, the aam Indian had a tough time watching those striving for a more equal and just world. Women in India continued to face the heat of sexism. But their fight must go on, because all this just happened in a week.
Outlook’s Sexist Cartoon: In a surprising gossip article, subsequently removed, Outlook magazine described Smita Sabharwal, an IAS officer posted in Telangana and who works as a close aide of the state’s chief minister, as “eye-candy”. The magazine also published a cartoon depicting her as a model walking on a ramp while politicians stand ogling and photographing. “What really hurt is that magazine like Outlook, which is supposed to be an opinion maker…they stoop such levels of yellow journalism,” the officer told NDTV. She has sought legal action against the magazine. Outlook, meanwhile, has published an apology stating that, “the said piece was part of satire carried in the magazine in the usual course, was not intended to be derisive or derogatory, and was meant to be received in a lighter vein. That said, being conscious of sensitivities, Outlook has taken down the satirical piece entirely. Outlook expresses regret if any offence has been taken.”
#SelfieWithDaughter: In another major internet fiasco, the Prime Minister’s #SelfieWithDaughter campaign, which asked parents to post pictures of themselves with their daughter, turned sour when actor Alok Nath responded to activist Kavita Krishnan’s criticism of the Prime Minister with “jail the bitch“. Those purportedly defending the Prime Minister were even more misogynistic in attacking Krishnan and even threatened her with rape.
“On the contrary I am quite pleased that the active section of Modi’s Twitter supporters, spent their time and energy displaying their deep-seated ideological tendency to be violent to women, rather than posturing as feminists with sweet #SelfieWithDaughter and photographs. After all, isn’t it true that RSS and BJP supporters have, in fact done to women what they have threatened to do to me?” Krishan later wrote in response to the vitriolic tweets.
#SelfieWithFeminist: In response to the “hollowness” of #SelfieWithDaughter, The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman launched an alternative Facebook campaign called #SelfieWithFeminist. “If YOU are against this gender based oppression; the abuse and hatred towards online users simply because they are women; this extreme and ugly tirade against their morality, appearance and sexuality only because they chose to disagree with an opinion – then YOU should support this,” a post says.
Beaten And Harassed For Filing An RTI: Urmi Rupa Paul, who works for a University Press, narrated this week a personal ordeal where she was harassed for filing an RTI. She was fighting to protect a wetland belonging to the University of Burdwan. On 21st June, she was asked to meet with her Ward Councillor who asked her to withdraw the RTI if she wished to continue living in the locality. Urmi and her father were beaten up by a mob with the councillor. ‘They chased us home and tried to break in while continuously making indecent gestures at us and shouting “let the girl out and let us do an ‘RTI’ of the girl”,‘ she narrated in a frightening account of the incident.
Monica Dogra’s ‘Shiver’: Artist Monica Dogra, who is part of the Electro-rock band Shaa’ir and Func and played Shai in Dhobi Ghat, was ridiculed online for asking Rs 50 lakh to crowdfund her “high art project” Shiver. While some criticised Dogra’s project for her lack of understanding in matters pertaining to the condition or struggle of the LGBT community in India, a scathing diatribe bordering on slander was written in an opinion piece on daily-O. “She sticks bindis all over her body, talks staccato into the mic with an American accent, and makes her bare midriff writhe and shift like she’s been possessed by multiple non-alcoholic spirits on stage,” the daily-O piece said. Monica Dogra has now responded to the criticism in an interview.
That’s India’s selfie with women, compressed to accommodate all the viral stuff. We hope that with this selfie will come some self-reflection. Thank you!