Unfazed: A deconstruction of media objectification

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Almost every day, one inevitably comes across news about blatant instances of sexism in the media. The most recent case of the wrath of patriarchy and sexism is evident from the furore over Kate Middleton visiting India. Oh and Prince William. But, the news is so accosted with people lashing out on her clothes and her body that one tends to forget that Prince William was also present. It all happened when both of them were paying their respects to the Indian soldiers at the India Gate, a moment obviously demanding austerity and reverence. Instead, Times Of India chose to blazon “Kate’s Marilyn Monroe moment at the India gate” across the front page of its newspaper because for them what was of primary significance was her skirt bellowing up due to the gusty wind and its semblance to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic pose. But, the TOI team obviously failed to note that the Marilyn Monroe pose was consensual and intended to be an iconic, appealing pose while Kate Middleton was observing RESPECT for the Indian Soldiers at the India Gate, whilst struggling with her flying dress because of the WIND. And they very brazenly ignored her husband whose suit had also ruffled up with the wind. Of course, sexism and an open disregard for journalistic ethics doesn’t really call for all that. The contentious storm over this hadn’t even abated before other media sources, Indian and Western, took up this skirt issue amongst other related body shaming issues and headed headlong for a very preposterous and catastrophic turn.

Shobba de, who ironically is a self acclaimed feminist, pontificated, “A sari needs curves, Kate has none”. This is paradigm of the sort of oblique, nonsensical body requisites propagated in the media as the most desirable traits which makes saris synonymous with “curves” and crop tops with a flat stomach, to name a few. Well, at least we can thank Shobha De for just unequivocally promulgating the pervasiveness of internalized misogyny. If this overt objectification wasn’t enough, she further reprimanded her choice of Jenny Packham royal blue gown by drawing parallels with the “chaka chak” outfits from “the busy gali right behind the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel”. The Daily Mail chose to zero in on her bare TOES after she removed her shoes at the Gandhi Smrithi by rambling about her “un-pedicured toes” and how her feet had suffered from wearing impractical shoes and lapses into a tirade of advices to avoid the same .The Independent called her choice of clothes in India drab and even goes on to say “The Indian women (at The Taj)of all ages looked extremely glamorous putting us Brits to shame” and “as for Kate covering her flesh ,this isn’t a predominantly Muslim country”.Talk about sexism aggravated by racism.

The actual intentions for their visit and all the news on their affability and interaction with the people and ironically, even the presence of Prince Williams got drowned out and obscured under the crude media glare on Kate’s body, her clothes and the brouhaha over it. My heart goes out to Kate and public figures like her who are incessantly faced with others haranguing them around on literally everything.

In the midst of the maelstrom of news pieces about Kate Middleton wearing this and that , her skirt bellowing up in the “typical Marilyn Monroe manner”, her feet needing pedicure and all that mumbo jumbo , can we just please seek a much needed moment of digression and think , why does this perpetually happen? Why is it that women, especially those under the public and media glare, is always objectified, body shamed and unabashedly told by everyone what to do with their bodies , what to wear and how to make themselves more aesthetically appealing? The sad truth lurking behind such gibberish is that when it comes to women, it is always their beauty that serves as the most detrimental yardstick in literally everything concerning them and when it comes to men it’s mostly their success that calls for attention. Written and visual media is simply reeking of articles discussing how to make women “look beautiful” and “feel beautiful” which is also often fraught with beauty tips, diet plans and other preposterous advices on how to achieve so and so celebrity’s perfect body and flawless skin. The supposed unpardonable fashion mistakes and wardrobe malfunctions are distorted to such a ludicrous debacle that it can’t even be just brusquely brushed aside and only left to the tumultuous social media discussions. Photos zeroing in on their visible underwear and claims about how so and so went bra less or had an “oops moment” exemplifies the blatant disregard for treating them like just any other individual. Telling them how they shouldn’t have worn a bikini because they don’t have a
“bikini body” and all such fashion policing never fails to make me cringe thinking about the sort of extend people resort to for those million dollar news pieces. Celebrities, especially women celebrities, cannot be just heedlessly paraded around like mere objects.

The current cult of item songs with their very blatant objectifications of women, saddled with lascivious and obscene lyrics and dance moves clearly catapults the perception of women as mere objects for the sexual gratification of men. And why is it that when it comes to men , there is an absolute dearth of such item songs , propagation of beauty centric messages and such blatant ways of scrutinising male celebrities solely on the basis of what they wear and how they look?

The point is that apart from the obvious problem of disparaging the people under scrutiny, such unbridled instances of media portrayals, further exacerbated by their ostensible differences in the way they deal with males and females, implicitly acts to aggravate the already innate propensity towards sexism and patriarchy. It is such wanton lures of media that indoctrinates women into believing that beauty and clothes are a pre requisite for their self worth and consequently, for their validation as women by others. This succinctly explains why Kate’s struggle to tame her skirt and her revealed legs managed to create front page headlines rather than the humble and affable deeds she engaged in. The propagation of such beauty and body standards makes both men and women judge a woman likewise solely on the basis of such standards .The overt significance of item songs and similar songs with unbridled expressions of obscenity act to further objectify women and equates their bodies with sexuality and wooing men. Internalized misogyny is another inevitable consequence. Similarly, men grapple with other issues concomitant with the wrath of patriarchy. For men, the pressure to earn, succeed professionally and support himself or his family and consequently validate their masculinity often steers them away from enabling them to be anything other than what fits into such straightjacket notions of what is masculine. Rather than zeroing in on abysmal issues of sexism and patriarchy like rape and domestic abuse alone, we all need to address such seemingly trivial, subtle and inconsequential problems which will serve to tackle things from its very roots . Revamping this inherent sexist approach of a platform like media – known to have a gargantuan impact on society- can be one tiny,yet vital step towards abating the wrath of patriarchy and male chauvinism .Such an abatement will then help us to address the more abysmal consequences of patriarchy more effectively in the long run.

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