The ‘Urvashi Feminist Remix’ got a lot of abuse from people who decided to body shame one of the artistes.

Fat shamers with fragile egos wont stop the Urvashi women from smashing patriarchyScreenshots
news Online abuse Friday, March 03, 2017 - 17:53

“Don’t know about the glass ceiling, but she’ll definitely break that building’s ceiling if she stays there too long.”

“So much cancer in a single video. This *expletive for a woman* is obscene.”

“These 2 ugly and fat c***s should be summoned to court for ruining one of my favourites.”

“I loved the video featuring the whales. I think the title could have been better. Instead of going with ‘Feminist Urvashi’ you could have went with ‘fat whales crying for 3 minutes because they are fat.’”

These are some of the comments you can find below Breakthrough India’s (a non-governmental organisation fighting against gender discrimination) week old video Urvashi Feminist Remix. A spin on AR Rahman’s hit song, the song seeks to challenge sexism and patriarchy with lyrics that call out the society’s hypocrisy towards women.

And while one must be open to criticism as an artist, especially on the internet where you put yourself out there, the kind of backlash the video received was unexpected and shocking for its team. The comments turned vitriolic, not criticising the songs, but the appearance of the women in it, calling them ‘feminazis’ and equating their work to cancer, AIDS and other diseases.

The video featured three women, but a lot of body-shaming comments were directed towards one of them – Anika Verma – in particular.  

Anika told BBC Hindi in an interview that body shaming has been a personal issue for her for a long time now. “People tell me to lose weight but it's not actually about my health. They are expecting me to adhere to the aesthetic beautfy sense that they have,” she said.

TNM spoke to Shobha SV, part of the team and one of the vocalists of the remix. She says that Anika was chosen for the central role since she had the best screen presence. “So what if she did not fit into the ideal tall and thin heroine stereotype? Hardly any real people we meet on a day to day basis do and we wanted to represent that,” Shobha says.

She adds that they wanted to reclaim a song that was titled Urvashi but wasn’t about what she really wants.

Like Rahman’s recent crowdsourced rendition of the song, the lyrics in the remix are mish-mash in their own little way – each one of the team came up with a line and put it together. This is also not the first video project that they’ve worked on but the first which received the kind of abuse and hate that it did.

When asked about whether they’ve succeeded in challenging misogyny when the hate comments on the video reiterates just that, Shobha says that they never set out to “change the world with one song”. “But we challenged norms. Clearly, many people noticed and got irritated. It’s not a revolutionary song but maybe it is for people with fragile egos,” she chuckles.

Initially, the hate and abuse was overwhelming, especially for Anika, who seemed to be the subject of a lot of it. Shobha says that it is not uncommon for women artists and their creativity to be reduced to their appearance, especially when they challenge gender norms. She points out how it’s important for women artists to have support systems at times like these – whether in colleagues or in allies.

The team members supported each other but it was also heartening to see other social media users engaging with the trolls and defending the artists and the video, Shobha says.

She also says that they had the Breakthrough India’s support too, which released a statement regarding the online abuse they were receiving. Here’s an excerpt from it:

“We appreciate feedback on the video. If you didn't like it, we appreciate you telling us that you didn't, and possibly why you didn't. But we simply could not conceive of a form of legitimate 'criticism' that warrants calling someone a 'whale'. This is abuse. This is an attack. Plain and simple. And this is unacceptable.”

Shobha says that while dealing with the hateful and regressive comments has been stressful, they are not going to stop doing their work. “Silence is not the solution. We will continue to use pop culture to challenge patriarchy. After all, if it can be a vehicle for misogyny, it can also be a vehicle for subversion,” she asserts.

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