I ask why there is a storm over a remark Salman retracted almost as soon as he made it (he said ‘I shouldn’t have said that’ as soon as he had made the rape analogy, and rephrased his thought) while there is no serious discussion about the widespread culture of rape jokes and rape analogies in general. In other words, everyone seems happy discussing and bashing an individual celebrity – while studiously refraining from debating the larger issue.
There was never this kind of widespread outrage, for instance, when a balatkar joke was made by the Thinking Khan in 3 Idiots. And how many of us have snickered when our colleague/classmate has talked of being ‘raped’ in an interview or a cricket team being ‘raped’ in a game? That is not to absolve Salman – but it is to say that instead of doing the easy thing of crucifying Salman on twitter, we should be resolving to stand up to such jokes or analogies when our boss/colleague/friends indulge in them…
And I just have to say this. When media channels call me for comments on this subject all day and invite me to discussions on this at prominent night slots, I do give my comments but could not bring myself to join the night debates this time.
Why? Because – because Soni Sori is on her 7th day of hunger fast against the actual rape and murder of a woman – and I don’t see the media lining up to ask for bytes on this or organising night time debates on it. Sure, one or two may have ran news about it – but they are not going at it hammer and tongs as they should – as they do when an actor makes a stray remark that he almost immediately rethinks and rephrases. NCW gives Salman a week to apologise. Has NCW any plans to go meet Soni while she is on fast – demand to accompany Soni to Gompad?
I make a distinction between the remark that Salman made and the kind of ideological, programmatic, systematic misogyny expressed by a Dilip Ghosh (‘Jadavpur women are shameless and cant be sexually harassed’) or a Mulayam (‘Boys will be boys, rape is not a big deal’) or Amit Shah (‘Communal violence is done to save mothers and daughters’.
While I am no fan of Salman’s record of domestic violence, manslaughter by car offscreen, or his macho on-screen image, this once I have to say, it does seem to be a mental slip that, to his credit, he was helped by his audience to realise and correct (to the credit of them all, they didnt all of them laugh appreciatively at his joke, they tittered and he as a result had a rethink). We should debate the systematic ideological misogyny and the sexism-bigotry political cocktails much much more than we do.
But doing that is more difficult and demanding of reflection and introspection than outraging over a celebrity bad boy.
The author is a well-known activist and the views expressed here are her own