From teaching the public that women who wear "modern dress" are not evil to establishing that it's fine for women to swear.

5 things Oviya of Bigg Boss taught TN that feminists have been saying for agesScreengrab
Flix Entertainment Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - 16:51

The growing cult of Queen Oviya in Tamil Nadu is probably confounding to anyone outside the state.

From being a mere contestant in the first season of Tamil Bigg Boss, she has transformed into an icon with a large fan following - with even established stars like Trisha rooting for her.

Of course, Oviya hasn't saved the world yet from any kind of crisis and rationally speaking, the love and loyalty that she seems to command from the public does seem overboard. But that's the thing with popular culture, when an idea takes hold of public imagination, there's no telling how far it will go.

Which is why, it's also pretty amazing to see the pop culture response to Oviya's performance at the Bigg Boss house.

Typically, pop culture in Tamil Nadu tends to be rather misogynistic - Tamil cinema is full of stereotypes that celebrate the "modestly" dressed, docile woman who is in sharp contrast to the "modern" dress wearing, assertive type. The latter category is eventually tamed by the hero and put in her place.

Oviya, however, is the very kind of woman pop culture usually tends to denigrate: she's always dressed in "modern" clothes, swears openly, and has refused to be cowed down by the older people or men of the house.

And yet TN loves her.

Here are five things Oviya has taught the TN public about women which feminists have been saying for ages:

1. There's nothing wrong with wearing "modern" clothes. 

From MGR's days to Vijay's, Tamil cinema heroes have been throwing insults at women for dressing in "modern" clothes, justifying sexual harassment and passing character judgments on them. But social media appears to have newly discovered that clothes are not a mark of anyone's character. 

2. There's nothing wrong with women swearing. 

"Aambala ambalaya irukanam, pombala pombalaya irukanam" - these are wise words which have been mouthed by several heroes over generations. It's usually the "villi" who swears on screen because she's not a "real" woman.

Oviya swears quite freely in the house and after Kamal Haasan told her to watch her words since this wasn't an adult show, she promised to use "fish" instead of "f*ck".

"Can't you just not swear at all?" asked Kamal. And Oviya said, "Well, if I get angry, I will swear. But I'll make sure I'll say fish!" - and she has only won more fans for her response.

3. There's nothing wrong with women having an opinion that goes against the popular one.

Oviya has pretty strong opinions although she mostly keeps to herself. However, though the house "seniors" and men have expressed their disagreements with her, often telling her that she should listen to them, she's maintained that she's entitled to her own opinions.

And what's more, the public loves her all the more for her attitude.

4. There's nothing wrong with standing your ground against men.

On Friday's episode, one of the contestants, Shakti, threatened to slap Oviya. Not to be cowed down, she dared him to do so. Shakti later complained to Kamal Haasan that she'd "triggered" him into wanting to hit her.

This is a common excuse that men use when they unleash violence upon women - she asked for it. Oviya was not only unapologetic about it, she also clearly said that she wouldn't keep her mouth shut just to please others.

She'd earlier said, "Neenga shut up pannunga" to Ganja Karuppu, and the phrase became such a massive hit overnight that people have even turned it into a T-shirt slogan. Contrast this with the scores of women on popular media who are "tamed" by the men around them, for their “own good.”

5. There's nothing wrong with having a very good opinion of yourself. 

Having a very good opinion about herself is usually considered to be arrogance in a woman. "Headweight" as it's called in Tamil Nadu. Oviya, however, has become all the more endearing for saying that she supports herself very well even if others don't.

Women are usually expected to "adjust" according to their immediate society's whims and fancies - if they don't, they're considered "arrogant". Oviya always says she has self-respect and will not change her behaviour to suit other people's expectations.

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