A wave of #MeToo revelations has rocked India, breaking a culture of silence around sexual attack, harassment and everyday sexism, calling men to account in a male-dominated country.
Last year will be remembered, amongst other things, as the year when India’s #MeToo movement took root and sparked debates about what is socially accepted behaviour by men towards women. With the onset of new year, there’s a call for a new normal in the country, where one’s remarks are free of sexism, racism and misogyny, be it a politician, an actor, or a cricketer.
Recently, Indian team cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul received flak for their sexist comments on the show Koffee with Karan-a popular TV chat show. The show, hosted by Karan Johar, is no stranger to controversy, but the episode starring the duo received massive online outrage, particularly Pandya, after which he also lost his endorsements and both got banned for two matches by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). There was such strong backlash that the broadcaster Star TV, also removed the episode from its online streaming platform, Hotstar. The cricketing fraternity is furious and social media is up in arms, especially in #MeToo context.
It is interesting nevertheless to hear what the celebrities have to say about women empowerment and the ongoing Me Too movement, however, sometimes their derogatory or baseless remarks also receive severe trolling and flak on Twitter. In an episode of round table conference moderated by journalist Rajeev Masand, Bollywood actress Rani Mukherjee said that women should strengthen themselves more than complaining about their problems. Her statement was called insensitive and sexist by netizens, as she indirectly equated ‘being abused’ to ‘being weak’, because according to her if one cannot fight back her abuser, she should be told that ‘she cannot be felt cornered’ and that she needs to be taught ‘martial arts’, which would ultimately be the end of the problems of all women.
Rani Mukherjee’s response on #MeToo and her insistence on placing the responsibility on women is so problematic and almost victim blaming.
“If they don’t want it to happen it will not happen”
“Those are the women we need to talk to and say yaar you need to change” pic.twitter.com/04lpxpfCWg
— Saniya (@touche_always) December 29, 2018
Casual sexism across political spectrum
While the leading political parties in India promise women empowerment, they themselves don’t seem to be unbiased in their comments at all. When the Indian National Congress president Rahul Gandhi took a dig at prime minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal, he said that the PM has got “a woman” to defend him.
“The watchman with a 56-inch chest ran away and told a woman, Sitharamanji, defend me. I won’t be able to defend myself, defend me. For two and a half hours, the woman could not defend him. I had asked a straight question – answer yes or no – but she couldn’t answer,” Gandhi was quoted saying.
The remark that fetched him backlash was followed by some more sexism as he dug his heels in telling the Prime Minister to ‘man up’, instead of apologising.
With all due respect Modi Ji, in our culture respect for women begins at home.
Stop shaking. Be a man and answer my question: Did the Air Force and Defence Ministry object when you bypassed the original Rafale deal?
Yes? Or No? #RafaleScam
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 9, 2019
The term summarises ‘toxic masculinity’ by trying to attach a valour to manliness. In short, it means if one isn’t brave, strong, or powerful, he’s not a man. Even though the ruling political party BJP, seems to be disgusted with Gandhi’s comments, the once made headlines of PM Narendra Modi’s speech about Bangladesh’s woman prime minister shouldn’t be forgotten. He said that Sheikh Hasina, ‘despite being a woman’, is openly saying that she has zero tolerance of terrorism.
As of few years back, when such comments would go unnoticed largely, the currently increasing intolerance towards sexist comments in public is where the country is heading, courtesy the powerful #MeToo movement in the country.