Times of India, Sexism & Deepika Padukone

It started when the Times of India (the largest English daily) featured a close-up of Deepika Padukone’s cleavage (one of Bollywood’s most famous actresses) with the caption: “OMG! Deepika Padukone’s cleavage show.” Then something rather unusual happened; Deepika Padukone tweeted, hitting back at the newspaper and telling her seven million followers: “YES! I am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??” Unlike Hollywood actresses, the women of Bollywood are seen but not really heard. Male actors share their views, support causes and take up social issues but rarely do major female actresses make their voices heard. Ms. Padukone struck a chord on Twitter and with prominent people across India, who lauded her for standing up to the rampant sexism that exists in daily life. The Times, instead of apologizing, sent out a tweet (which has since been deleted) saying that they were paying her a compliment and added insult to injury by putting a smiley face at the end of the tweet. Seems their digital department failed to notice that Ms. Padukone had been retweeted more than 7,000 times and a hashtag supporting her -#IStandWithDeepikaPadukone – was fast becoming one of the top trending hashtags. Ms. Padukone then responded with a Facebook post demanding respect for women. It might have been left at that but for the Times issuing an arrogant and childish second post titled, “Dear Deepika, our point of view…” All they achieved is to dig a deeper hole and frankly prove her point about sexism in our media. It has also led to the creation of a new hashtag #boycottTOI. In the letter, The Times accuses her of being hypocritical and suggests that she stirred up this controversy simply to gain publicity for her new film. However, what I found most deplorable about their salacious bully tactic and arrogant defense is this one line; “Deepika, who began her career as a ‘calendar girl’ for a liquor brand…” They are insinuating that a woman who started her career as a bikini-clad pin-up model has no right to take the moral high ground, or take umbrage at the fact that a self-important national newspaper used a publicly available image and added a titillating headline to drive more hits to their site. With this response, the Times has not only proven Ms. Padukone’s point but it is clear that they totally missed the point. She starts her blog post saying, “There is only ONE sign that a woman wants to have sex and that is that she says “YES.” This is the point – even if a woman walked down the street naked it is not an invitation to have sex with her, to rape her or take advantage of her. In the same way, a respectable national news outlet should have enough common sense and decorum not to exploit a publicly available image and use it to cheaply get more online hits. This is not about right or wrong, legal or illegal but about decency and responsibility. It is about setting an example in our society. Indian women live in a society that is already stacked totally in favour of men, one where women are treated as objects or personal property. The Times should be leading the way to change medieval male attitudes and not be justifying their actions by saying that everyone else does it too…

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