When reputed speakers come together on a platform to discuss important topics, you are all ears. You expect to get enriched as a journalist and as an audience by their ‘words of wisdom’. But what happens when the so-called learned, respected, and popular panellists begin to shame women, talk about sex (not in a healthy way) and then laugh on their own sexist comments in front of hundreds of students, teachers, dignitaries and media?
I had this rather shocking experience at a literary discussion in the city recently. I was quite excited about attending it when I read the list of speakers but little did I know that it was going to turn into a huge disappointment, not just for me but for all those present there.
The session, which was supposed to be discussing health and the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, at some stage turned into a discourse on how women find solace in overspending and blowing up their husbands’ hard-earned money and how to some women, it is a way to achieve mental peace. Some men in the audience hooted on this comment, but some ‘sensible’ souls did silently question the statement. Aren’t women today working and earning a livelihood, contributing to family expenses and therefore independent? All around the world, women, including leading ladies in Hollywood and Bollywood are fighting for equal pay, and here was this panellist, talking from a respected dais, about how women depend on men for their trivial needs. I agree, we love the shopping therapy at times, and there’s no harm in that, but calling all women ‘shopaholic’ and spendthrifts was a gross generalisation that reeked of a patriarchal attitude.
If this man was guilty, a female speaker was no less. While trying hard to adjust her tiny skirt in front of the audience, she referred to a woman as ‘fat and ugly’. Well, that’s how women who don’t have sculpted bodies are called. Who gave her that right? The ‘fat and ugly’ woman could be suffering from some hormonal imbalance or may be she simply had that body structure, but the panellist had no right to body shame anyone and secondly, was she ‘perfect’ — she wore clothes that she was not even comfortable in and it showed.
When a student in the audience raised a query about how to find time to meditate, Mr Sexist, who had already offended us enough, went on to give ‘masturbation’ as a solution to all the problems that students have to deal with. This made everyone in the audience roll their eyes. Some even exclaimed ‘what?’, just to confirm if they had heard it right. Imagine a session at a college where a well-known personality advises you to use your ‘smartphone’ to masturbate! Talking about sex or sexuality is not a taboo but shouldn’t there be a right place and audience for it? A literary session on health for students certainly doesn’t fit the bill!