Anyone who regularly visits the Times of India website will know it, as reputed as the newspaper is, reeks of sexism. You will find headlines, and articles, and constant slideshows about the ‘hottest’, some female personality’s ‘peek-a-boo’ moment, and basically making a big scene out of nothing, reducing women celebrities to just something sexy. It’s not just about Deepika’s cleavage article, but that was when people started taking notice.
As an eighteen year old girl who was born and raised in India, I know how our country works. While Deepika’s ‘reel vs. real’ comment may be a little far stretched, and not worded correctly, one must understand where she comes from. She is not obligated to have her body invaded by candid cameras at every event she attends just because she has voluntarily posed so for magazine covers, and yes, has been a calendar girl. All of these, and the candid cleavage pictures are the same thing, but there is a thin line between them that our media houses don’t seem to see – one is voluntarily, and the other is not.
The Times of India’s rebuttal open letter to Deepika asks, “Why the hypocrisy?” I was quite taken aback at the question. What do you mean why the hypocrisy? The article goes on to emphasis her entrance in the field by being a ‘calendar girl’ for a liquor brand. Yes, she has been a calendar girl, that was her choice. The keyword is always the same – consent. What is done with someone’s permission, is different from what is done without it. I don’t get why that is so hard to understand. Is a sex worker obligated to let some stranger in public grope her, just because she voluntarily allows someone to behind closed doors? Knowing our country, the answer will be yes. But no, no one is duty-bound to bend to your whims and fancies. This is not you pointing out at someone being hypocritical, but it is you slut shaming someone for what they chose to do in their career.
One would counter my stand saying ‘looking’, is not the same as ‘touching’. It isn’t, but that doesn’t mean these lust filled eyes are not uncomfortable enough. There are a countless number of times where my friends, and I have had firsthand experience of feeling uncomfortable by showing our arms alone. And there are even more countless number of times where we were preached at to dress ‘decently’, as if sleeveless clothes in 42 degree Celsius heat were not decent enough. This is the everyday life of an average female in this country, as much as we don’t want to admit it.
Arguing about what feminism stands for, calling someone hypocritical for choosing to uphold their rights, constantly prompting your daughters, sisters, girlfriends, and friends to ‘dress appropriately’, is not going to going to help. We must acknowledge at some point that this is not a woman’s issue, but a case for all of human society. The time that this country understands that this is not a case ‘westernisation’, but about respecting women, and their chosen careers, is when we move around in the path of equality.