"Kumudam" magazine's idea of morality: Shaming women wearing leggings on their cover

What was the point of these photos, one wonders
"Kumudam" magazine's idea of morality: Shaming women wearing leggings on their cover
"Kumudam" magazine's idea of morality: Shaming women wearing leggings on their cover
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Popular Tamil magazine 'Kumadam Reporter', known to be a sensationalist magazine, is now at the centre of the controversy over a cover story on the trend of women wearing leggings and doing shocking things – wearing leggings and riding pillion on a two-wheeler, walking, etc.

The story talks about a ban on leggings in some colleges in Tamil Nadu and takes the views of various women. In the process of taking a high moral ground, the magazine has used images of women, in all probability without their permission, which is an invasion of their privacy. The magazine is crafty, and says that the pictures are not meant to invade the privacy of the women, but to show readers what some men and women think of "our mothers and sisters". There is also a poem from an anonymous male writer, stating that since men cannot change and will continue ogling at women, it is better women should change themselves. Reactions have poured out online in spite of the story, which many see as a voyeuristic attempt to grab readership while pretending to take a moral highground.

“Your recent edition is not only low but disgusting. A new low in Journalism! Shame,” writes PInky Rajpurohit, a reporter based in Chennai, on her Facebook wall.

Several have pointed out that the magazine has crossed limits in not only daring to take pictures of women behind their back, possibly without their permission, but also presenting them in a vulgar manner and attempting to raise questions on choice of clothing, albeit in the words of others. “Why don't you click men wearing lungis above their thigh and print out an issue? Are you f###### kidding me?????” asked another Chennai-resident in a Facebook post.

A group of women journalists, writers and activist in Tamil Nadu are to release a statement condemning Kumudam for the article and protesting against it.

This is not the first time Kumadam group’s magazines have been in trouble over controversial stories.

A few weeks back, one of the inside pages of a Kumudam group magazine printed a picture of a woman, asking “Na enna seppa figure ah?” which loosely translates to, “Am I a bad-looking chick?”

Few years back, the magazine had a series called “Oru Nadigayin Kadhai” (An actress’ story) which degraded women. It was after protests that the magazine pulled it back.

Kavitha Muralidharan, a senior journalist based in Chennai, says, “Kumudham has a history of misogyny. On one hand they generously use photos of actors to boost their sales and on the other they freely indulge in moral policing. Their cover story on leggings is definitely a new low for Tamil journalism. But not new considering Kumudham’s standards.” She says that the magazine should be concentrating on other burning issues instead.

The inside pages of the Kumudam Reporter story on leggings

"By putting out a story with pictures of women in tight clothing, saying men are bad and leggings are inciting them, it is as if violence against women can be justified. In no way can violence against women be justified. It doesn't happen because a woman provokes men. It happens because a man chooses to act that way, exhibiting perversion or violence.  To counter their point scientifically, Chennai is relatively safe for women compared to other major cities in India. Now, I shudder to think, would their article give men an excuse to act otherwise?" asks Jayashree Balasubramanian, a communication scientist based in Chennai.

Women wearing leggings have been favorite targets of many in the recent past, with even senior writers making misogynistic, sexist comments for wearing tight-fitting leggings.

In May this year, Malayalam writer and Secretary of the Kerala Book Marketing Society Babu Kuzhimattom wrote about leggings and why women should be “submissive”, and the connection between the two is apparently a “lingachalanam” – roughly translated as having an erection.

In a Facebook post, the 59-year-old writer recounted an incident in Thiruvananthapuram when his car swerved, because his driver was distracted. “Only for adults … My driver… is young and a bachelor. He doesn’t have any bad habits, but still he could not control himself. How can we blame him? The sight we saw on the roadside aroused even me sexually (the Malayalam word lingachalanam). There was a sexy woman, with perfect curves and shape, of age around 40 standing on the roadside without dress...” Full story here. 

Lesson No 1 in Feminist Theory – This is a classic example of what Laura Mulvey called the “male gaze”. This means men and women look at the male body as if it is normal, and that there is something out of the ordinary with the female body. For instance, it is clear to anyone with functioning eyes, that the shape, size, etc of men’s bodies and butts are also visible in their clothing, such as pants. Using images of women's butts in such a manner, just bodyshames them disproportinately more, in a world in which thin women are considered good-looking.

Members of the editorial and management at Kumudam refused to comment.

You can sign a petition against Kumudam seeking an apology from them here.

With inputs from Ramanathan S.

Note: The pictures have been used to convey the ridiculousness of the story to our readers, we have blurred the images out of respect to the women whose privacy has been breached. We took this call in the interest of generating the necessary amount of outrage on this unpardonable story.

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