By Dipti Malhotra
A lot of times, we suppress ourselves and for some reason, aren’t able to express how we exactly feel about a matter – directly or indirectly concerning us. Sometimes, we consider the feelings of a person before we express our point of view. There’s a moral police on duty inside us helping us to differentiate between right and wrong. My right could be your wrong; your right could be my wrong. That’s called difference of opinion.
And that’s what’s happening since the whole “Deepika Padukone and Times of India” issue came up. No I won’t call it the “Deepika Padukone cleavage” story. It’s NOT about her cleavage being exposed that the woman reacted against, contrary to the belief. It was about the objectification, highlighting a body part and making a whole story around it and publishing it for the whole nation to read. If you are not aware of this whole issue, Twitter is the battleground where it all originated when TOI published this story via their “entertainment” handle.
The sad thing is that a woman’s body parts, if exposed – become a thing of national importance as far as entertainment is concerned. What makes a leading and reputed daily to assume that a person will be entertained seeing an actress’s exposed body? The points of views of both the parties have been doing the rounds. A media house whose reputation is at stake and of a woman who decided to stand up and speak against this absolute rubbish way of reporting, practiced not just by this particular newspaper but by too many, TV channels included.
How many of us have seen articles and news stories titled, “The top 10 wardrobe malfunctions” – national and international? Ooh, they pixelate the nipples in case there’s a wardrobe malfunction, as a mark of “respect” to the concerned woman. How kind, how sweet indeed! But how can you not report it? I mean, it’s “ENTERTAINMENT” to see a woman being shamed in public because her blouse-hook snapped open or she lifted the leg a little higher by mistake while crossing her legs. Was she wearing anything inside or not? Please zoom, dear editor! Only then you can report the story. [In case someone isn’t getting it, I am being purely sarcastic.] Anyway, the point is that these pictures and videos will do the rounds – on facebook, twitter, what’s app. And people will form opinions.
“I’m sure she’s doing it for publicity. Her movie is releasing.” “Attention seeker.” “Desperate.” I remember how Priyanka Chopra’s picture with her see through skirt was printed in another leading daily just a couple of months ago. It was front page. How important is it for us to know that PC wore white panties to a particular event. No one would have noticed! But they decided to photograph her and posted a big picture taking a quarter of the page. It has happened with a lot of actresses. I used PC’s example because it’s fresh in my memory. Of course it must have been disturbing for the girl and most of these celebrities, over the course of time, learn to ignore such reports and accept it as professional hazards. That’s where I stand with Deepika Padukone. She took a stand. This style of reporting has to stop. It angers me when people take this lightly though. A lot of people are taking it as a fight between a newspaper and an actress. WAKE UP. It’s about you! It’s for us.
No I am not being over dramatic here. It’s time to stop making a hype of what a woman is or isn’t wearing, don’t you think? On one hand, you report against the politicians who made outrageous statements at the time of December 2013 Delhi Rape Case. On the other hand, you circle and point red arrows towards a woman’s breasts and create a headline, “OMG, Deepika Padukone’s Cleavage Show.” Are you bored of this story? Don’t be. It could be you next. In TOI’s response to Deepika’s open letter, they have made it clear that if you show it, they’re going to report it. You have been a calendar girl; you have done these photo shoots in your real life.
(They actually went to the extent of getting the pictures and published them along with the story. How desperate to make a point, eh, TOI?)
So, dear women, basically, your leading newspaper is OKAY with the fact that if a woman’s wearing an outfit that exposes a certain body part that’s mostly hidden/covered, or according to the Self Appointed Moral Police Department for Women should be completely covered, she could be photographed and it’s okay to publish it. For TOI’s / any media house’s camera person, an actress is the subject. For a common man on the road, it could be you and he could post it online, make videos, spread it on what’s app, facebook, twitter etc. Now, can the girl report this and sue the person? Yes! There are laws. This person can definitely be arrested. But speak against a report by the media? Ohhh, no, no, no! No one can touch them. Why? They are always right, is it?
An editor has a responsibility, as whats printed on the paper is for the whole nation to read. Yes Bombay Times is not the main paper, and it’s purely entertainment and lifestyle based. But what you are serving to us in the garb of entertainment is leading to formation of opinions on a national level, leading to encouragement of objectification of women, leading to people making their sisters, daughters, wives dress according to “social norms”, leading to acceptance of this notion that a girl asks for eve teasing, molestation, rapes. See the bigger picture my friend. It’s NOT a mere “Deepika vs TOI” thing. It’s about you, for you, the men around you, and the women around you. A person is not born with a rapist mentality.
Newspapers are a part of our upbringing. There is nothing wrong with printing a huge picture of a sexy woman or of a man. It’s gorgeous, everybody must celebrate their bodies. What’s wrong is the style of reporting and what message the story is eventually giving out.
Dear women, you look at another woman with a low neck-line, a short hemline, and probably bitch about her attention-seeking ways, how easy she is, etc. What makes you think that a Saari, with the waistline half exposed isn’t “attention-seeking” but a short skirt is? Enough with your family values, pseudo-morals and double standards.
Dear men, respect a woman and win her respect forever. Think of your mother, daughter, sister, friends, and colleagues before you look at any other in a disrespectful way. It’s not just about looking at a woman disrespectfully. It’s in your opinions, your stands in life, what you support and what you do not.
We cannot ignore this any longer. I sincerely hope action is taken and media starts following a code of ethics for reporting and Editors of Entertainment sections become as serious as their job titles. Yes, entertainment is serious business. We need entertainment, not cheap thrills.
Dipti Malhotra is a Delhi-based wedding and portfolio photographer.
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