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Painting and Denting Misogyny: Losing the Plot

So he gets a rap, naughty boy!

A man makes a
sexist statement. We cry misogyny, and rightly so. But, who is this man and why
are his utterances so important?

Mukherjee is one of those political ‘leaders’ who has inherited his career; his
father is the President of India. A phrase from his remarks about the
protestors in Delhi saying that they were “highly dented and painted”
women has become the pivot of a war.
This should tell us a lot about such wars.
Here’s a chunk from the quote:

“(These are
people) who have little connection with the ground reality. In India, walking
on the street with candle, going to discotheques…Those who are coming in the
name of students, pretty pretty women, highly dented and painted, giving
interviews on TV, as if they have come to show their kids and others…”

Two important
points here:

  • His speech was
    in Bangla to a Bengali channel, but this phrase was in English. It means that
    he wanted it to immediately reach a wide audience. What he may never earn by
    way of fame, he has got through the notorious route.
  • The analogy is
    primarily of cars. I have no intention of giving him the benefit of doubt, but
    dent also means “to make a dent (an impression)”. However, clubbed
    with painted it is obviously a scratch/abrasion. Intriguingly, while running
    down some women he actually believes that despite such reductionism they can
    “have an adverse effect on” those around, which is what the word
    denotes in a larger sense.

His words are
kneejerk. So, unfortunately, are most reactions. In fact, the speed with which serious
Op-eds are churned out and live panel discussions are arranged makes one wonder
as to who is really making a joke of it.

I am afraid, but
holding up an individual’s comments may serve the valid purpose of making it
into a showpiece, but the very space that women wish to reclaim is being handed
over on a platter for such nonsensical debates. Are women learning something
new about male attitudes?

A few weeks ago,
another politician, Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam said to BJP member Smriti Irani
on a TV discussion:

“Char din hue
hain aur aap rajnitik vishleshak bani firti hain
(It’s been only four days that
you have entered politics and you have already turned into a political
analyst). Aap toh TV pe thumke lagati thi, aaj chunavi vishleshak ban gayi (Till
about some time ago, you used to dance on TV and now you have become an

He was insulting
her. What was the media response? To refer to him as a would-be rapist. Aren’t
we concerned about how a serious crime against women is being used as a
metaphor for just about everything? It is cringing to read pieces by women
about how they were touched here and there at different stages in their lives.

The derogatory aspect apart, aren’t there women whose job it is to dance? I had said this
when Imam Bukhari made a similar statement about Shabana Azmi. Would the more
appropriate response by women not be to dignify the profession rather than feel
‘defamed’ by it? Or are we seeing a neat hierarchy in which certain women have
natural rights as opposed to those who will fight for the ‘lesser’ ones?

I watched one of
those debates on ‘dented and painted’ on Times Now last night. It was absurd
and sheer theatre.
To the incessant queries of “What do you have to say”,
Mukherjee kept up a monotone, “I’ve already withdrawn my statement, I have
nothing more to say”. The anchor, Arnab Goswami, kept repeating, “I think you
are nervous”, when the host had the nervous tic. Did it achieve anything
except to prove that the media could outshout Mukherjee and look even more ludicrous?

His sister was
shocked and according to the host said that she as an emancipated woman had
been to discotheques. Honestly, how is that a sign of emancipation?

It was curious
to see a representative from Slutwalk on the panel. Would the studios bring
women from the red-light areas to discuss women’s issues? About Slutwalk, I had
earlier written here:

“How grounded
are they in such real issues and what about the already educated men in the
BMWs who commit date rape? What about marital rape and the silence of emotional
We buy cars that use women

It is also quite
hypocritical that while one person is made an example of (a few others are
mentioned by turns), we forget that many people refer to painted, artificial,
botoxed, plumped up women who are considered lower down in the entertainment
industry or when we discuss socialites.
Terms like cow, bitch, cat fights are
the stuff of social media and Page 3 chatter, and we have all at some time used
these. How, then, does our conscience revolt for a group? This is clearly about
acceptability. By accepting them we legitimise ourselves as superior in some
ways. In the initial days of the Anna Movement, people assumed they were
upholding a Gandhian prototype.

Do men become
sensitised by seeing one of their own become a public square exhibit, when many
of them probably talk like this in private?

If any woman
imagines that a male feminist renaissance is possible due to such display news,
she needs a reality check. She might also like to examine her own position.
There are women who run down others for wearing makeup or for being haggard.
Advertisements use envy or competitiveness rather effectively to market

And cars are
sold with a woman as a sexy mascot. Is it fine because they aren’t quite dented
enough to be painted over? 

(c) Farzana Versey