By Karanjeet Kaur Jan. 13, 2019
Is there really much of a difference between the comments made by Bipin Rawat, Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor, and Hardik Pandya? At this point they just seem like hues on the Pantone shade card of sexism and ingrained patriarchy.
About a month or so ago, I read an article about men who talk so much on their dates that they just forget to ask any questions of the women they are with. The author of the unambiguously titled piece, “The Depressing Phenomenon of Men Who Ask Their Dates No Questions” had spoken to over 250 women, who all seemed to agree that the men that they’d been going to dinner with, spoke about everything from snowboarding to phone chargers that don’t fit into plug points and “how most people pronounce ‘namaste’ wrong,” but were somehow unable to ask their dates anything beyond their names.
Look, I get it. I know one – or 250 – anecdotal swallows do not a summer make. But whether you’re in Minneapolis or Mumbai, in the age of “Thank you, next” and “fuccbois” and a lexicon that’s less “clandestine meeting” and more “catch and release”, the dating swamp can feel like it’s infested by narcissistic, overgrown, emotionally stunted frat boys. At worst. At best, they’re men who have no idea how to be… people.
We saw an example of this utter cluelessness/frat boy behaviour this past week, when the notorious Koffee With Karan episode featuring cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul aired. If you haven’t seen it yet, congratulations on spending half an hour of your life doing something productive. But if you have seen the episode – which has now been pulled off streaming platforms – you’ll know Pandya spoke of women with as much finesse as, and minus the cuteness of, this doge meme.
Pandya, and his wingman Rahul, who witnessed the trainwreck his friend was initiating, also failed to check his friend’s misogyny. They were roundly cancelled by social media, which elicited a round of non-apology apologies. The BCCI rapped the men, dropped them from ODIs against Australia, and ordered an inquiry into the whole affair.
I know one – or 250 – anecdotal swallows do not a summer make.
It is necessary to call out Pandya’s all-out tackiness and ingrained misogyny – and this is perhaps the only acceptable use of the phrase, “they were asking for it”. But let’s admit that it is also easy. Pandya is a patsy, but as cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle tweeted, this was an opportunity for the BCCI to spend “time in sensitising these young players to life beyond the dressing room; to getting them outside the bubble that is inevitable given the adulation they get.” It is difficult to expect men like Pandya to be models of woke behaviour, when their world is a locker room, a cesspit of testosterone. Until then, Pandya and co. will fail the test of being people.
It’s way harder to reconcile the insidious comments of men supposedly espousing liberal values… and last week seemed like a competitive misogyny contest. The top contender was the wild card entry, Rahul Gandhi. The politician, who, over the course of one smart social media campaign and riding the tailwinds of electoral wins in unwinnable states, has gone from Pappu to Pass, made not one, but two missteps. Gandhi once couldn’t stop parroting those two highly sexy, highly expedient, highly meme-able words “women empowerment”. This week, in reference to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, implied that PM Modi had a “mahila” defend him during the Rafale debate in parliament. Later that same day, he doubled down by tweeting the exhortation “be a man” aimed at the PM. FFS, really Rahul? Have you been talking to Aakash from Dil Chahta Hai?
Then there is Shashi Tharoor. That great liberal hope who has single-handedly spearheaded India’s campaign for colonial reparations and righting historical wrongs (and might still be our only shot at bringing back the koh-i-noor), showed no such alacrity when it came to the entry of women in Sabarimala. By going against the spirit of the Supreme Court order that upheld the right of women to pray at the temple, Tharoor’s craven “I only listen to my constituency” remarks landed him in the august company of PM Modi, who’d also labelled Sabarimala “tradition”. (We cancelled Shashi Tharoor also earlier this week – read all about it here.)
This Tradition X Mardaangi event, was capped off by Army chief General Bipin Rawat who pulled the next number. Rawat is well-known for expressing sentiments like women shouldn’t serve in combat positions because they will complain of men peeping while they change, and for endorsing the actions of Major Leetul Gogoi who tied a Kashmiri man to his jeep and paraded him across villages. This time, in response to a query at a press conference, he said gay sex will not be permitted in the army. Rawat is not technically wrong since the Army Act still holds homosexuality criminal, but his views betray the same attitude as your WhatsApp uncle who has worked out the complex equation “Homosexuality = Effeminacy >> Inferiority LOL”.
The crisis in the CBI can now only be considered with detached amusement.
Is there really that much of a difference between Rawat, the PM, Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor, and Hardik Pandya, who at this point just seem like hues on the Pantone shade card of sexism and ingrained patriarchy? More importantly, who wins the competitive misogyny sweepstakes? Difficult to say, but we all know who lost, i.e., all of us.
Maybe we should all cheer up. It’s only the second week of the new year. The crisis in the CBI can now only be considered with detached amusement. The 10 per cent upper-caste reservation okayed by the parliament has sounded the bugle for election season proper. The Accidental Prime Minister is actually a film. And Vivek Anand Oberoi has a career again. Take solace in the fact that there are far worse things for us to worry about, than how to teach some men to be people again.