It’s 1966. On the stands is a Filmfare magazine- on the cover is Sharmila Tagore in a bikini. It causes quite a furore, and in an interview, Sharmila Tagore says even the photographer was skeptical about shooting her in a two piece, often asking her to cover up. The reaction to the cover ranged from shock to disgust. Today, you would think a bikini picture would have no one even batting an eyelid. You would be wrong. 56 years later, we continue to be offended by women and their clothing choices. We are talking about this today because just recently news about a professor in a Kolkata university being asked to resign for posting “objectionable” pictures on her private Instagram account is making the rounds. Yes, a woman professor was forced to quit her job in St Xavier’s University because one man was offended by the pictures she posted on her social media. The pictures were found by this man’s son and he was looking at them.
There’s so many things wrong with this, I don’t know where to start getting offended. Because offended I am. I am enraged. I am angry that women in India have to be chaste to teach dimwit men and their kids. I am annoyed that theirs is the perspective taken into account in courts. I am frustrated that despite all the trending hashtags and all that talk about women empowerment, women are still told how to dress and how to be. I am distressed that stupid men like the father in question are not held accountable for their archaic thinking. I am sad that a woman had a to lose a job so that someone’s moral policing mentality could be upheld.
While we were still picking up our jaws from the floor, alarmed that we have to fight for basic rights, an incoherent and intolerable Mukesh Khanna appeared on our feeds. With no reason or provocation whatsoever, he proceeds to dish out sexist advice to men. First of all, men with mindsets like Mukesh Khanna’s should not be given access to the internet. In this clip that has now gone viral, Mukesh Khanna (popularly known as Shaktimaan) pretends he knows everything there is to know about women and their sexual desires. He claims that women who enjoy or ask for sex, are not women, they are prostitutes.
Both these situations has sent me on a quest. On a seemingly wild chase to find where men get the audacity. The audacity to tell women what they can post on their private social media accounts, the audacity to tell men that they should only desire women who don’t want sex. This is so deeply problematic, we should just be giving up, because at this point, all we are doing with our vehement screaming in disgust, is losing our voices.
The men are getting away with it. Instead of telling their sons not to look, they are telling women not to post. Instead of teaching their spawn to not objectify women, they march to the university and demand resignations from teachers. Instead of telling men how enjoyable sex is with women who actually desire you, stupid men are promoting lack of sexual desire like some sort of virtue.
This is also exhausting because we are telling young girls that their merit and credentials count for nothing if they decide to post pictures that someone else finds objectionable – and there are too many people with questionable morals ready to pass judgements. We are failing our girls- teaching them that sexual desire is wrong, that for a man to want her, she must suppress her feelings and possibly lie like a dead fish, lest he get offended by her enthusiastic participation in sexual intercourse.
In modern day India, it feels like we move ahead, but only a bit before we go down a seemingly endless rabbit hole – the one that’s peppered with people with misogynistic views and the kind that uphold all the wrong kind of values. I want none of it.
We also wrote about divorce in India, the stigma of it.