Lesson from the Times: Is sexism the new cleavage?


The Times of India’s Deepika Padukone act is just a mere dot in a line that continues to be extendedLesson-from-104

It is perhaps no coincidence that at a time when Deepika Padukone’s cleavage and her ‘calendar girl’ legacy has been a matter of debate, some of Hollywood’s leading ladies were subjected to similar humiliation by hackers leaking their nude photographs.

While Deepika’s fight was against one of the most powerful media houses in the country, in the West, the affected women had the media by their side. But in both cases, it was the audience, the consumer of the titillating content, the hash-tag activists and masked and anonymous self-styled social and moral commentators who were deeply divided over the issue. A large section of people in this country pounced on The Times of India (rather, the influential managing editor Priya Gupta of Bombay Times), lauding Deepika for standing up for all women who object to being commoditised. There were others who shrugged – what’s the big deal?

The tone of the objectionable rebuttal from Bombay Times reinforced certain stereotypes – have you been a pin-up girl? Have you posed in bikinis and hot pants? Have you willingly showed off your body? Then what is your problem if we strip your so-called dignity and violate your body on the front page of a widely circulated supplement with an arrow pointing at your cleavage? Some called her a hypocrite, a publicity hound and even suggested that a top paid Bollywood star (Deepika’s pole dancing song and dance number from her upcoming film released just in time) should not complain if the media disrobes her without her consent.

Lesson-from-105The same goes for reality TV and sextape star Kim Kardashian who was told that someone has made a fortune out of posting her nude videos online. But she was also told that she had no right to complain when someone does it for her, without her consent. But the operative word here is ‘consent.’

Bollywood does not really have much of a defence. Ever since Akshay Kumar serenaded Raveena Tandon as “cheez badi hai mast”, the wildly popular song from one of the tackiest eras of the film industry, it has been mostly downhill. Things are a tad different now. Save for the trashy phrase “item girl” and “item songs” that draw big bucks and some of the biggest actors who willingly become a party to the abuse.

Strange as it may sound, even Emma Watson, who earned the wrath of hackers for taking up the issue of sexism at a UN convention, would know what we are talking about here.

There is a thin line between glamour and sleaze, of a woman who willingly and confidently uses her body to create a certain professional image and that of the media resorting to body-shaming her.Lesson-from1

Bombay Times had for days put former porn star Sunny Leone on its front pages, where reams were spent on her ‘fake orgasms’ and ‘kissing scenes’. The same publication had also carried another mis-timed feature on ‘Bollywood’s favourite rapists’. Subtlety, nuanced writing or journalistic discretion is clearly not its forte. Especially since most filmmakers spend mega bucks to get featured in the publication.

Deepika’s outrage must have also stemmed from the fact that she, like all the other stars in the industry, is a medianet client, who had put in monies to be presented in a certain light.

But that does not take away from the sexist nature of the attack which had even the world media trash the publication. Even as I write this, senior editors from UK and US are criticising The Times of India for yet another attack on women – a photo gallery that resorts to the most hackneyed trick in the Internet trade to garner hits.

‘Hot women with ugly legs’, it says, while going on to dissect yet another part of a woman’s anatomy. This time, even Angelina Jolie is not spared.