I just did a news post on Saturday, and yet there are already new stories out there! How does this keep happening? It’s like the news never stops or something.
Twinkle, Akshay, and “Sexual Harassment”
This is an odd one. One of those stories I was waiting to play out a bit before I commented on it. But now it has played out, so I think I can say something moderately interesting, and then you guys can say things in the comments and so on. Oh, and here is a link to bollywoodhungama’s latest update.
Akshay is one of the hosts of a TV show, the “Great Indian Laughter Challenge”. On a recent episode, one of the female judges reached up to ring the bell that is part of the show set, and Akshay joked “Mallika ji, aap bell bajao, main aapko bajata hoon”. Which I think loosely translates to “Mallika ji, you ring the bell, I’ll ring you”. Which I guess could be slang for all sorts of things.
In response, Mallika Dua, the judge, said nothing. But her father released a video in which he said “I am going to screw this cretin Akshay Kumar for telling his co-worker Mallika Dua that ‘aap bell bajao main aap ko bajata hun’ at 5:26. This is his sense of humor and language. Star Plus..wake up..”
(Here’s the whole family.)
Mallika herself then released a statement saying “So, I want humor to be limitless. I also don’t want to be uncomfortable at my work place. The lines are blurred. Thoughts?”
Before moving on, do we all understand why Mallika’s father’s statement is ridiculous and unimportant and hers is thought-provoking and appropriate? Mallika’s father seems to be objecting to a general offense towards the audience, and is speaking for his daughter’s “virtue”. And is using much much worse language than Akshay ever did in order to make his point.
There is also a misunderstanding of what sexual harassment is. It is not exactly the same as being offended by language used. Although sometimes it is. But it’s what Mallika is saying, “uncomfortable at my work place”. Most of all, it has nothing to do with what time this show is broadcast. If it is broadcast at 11pm at night after all the kiddies are in bed and no one in the audience was upset about the language, but Mallika felt uncomfortable in her workplace, it is still wrong.
Most of all, it’s not Mallika’s father’s place to comment on this. His opinion is meaningless. This is between Mallika and Akshay, if she is okay with it than there is no problem. If she is not okay with it, than she can speak for herself. Her father’s assumption that her “virtue” is his to defend, that Akshay’s comment is somehow an attack on him (not Mallika) and on the general Indian audience, that is a lot more dangerous. Because that opens up the idea that, if the general Indian audience and her father were okay with anything Akshay (or any other man) did to her, then it would not be a problem. Even if Mallika was not okay with it.
(And then you get Amitabh deciding for Raakhee that she should marry Shashi because it is who her father picked for her, and poor Raakhee’s voice is nowhere in the conversation.)
That was how this whole thing started. And I had an immediate reaction of being on Akshay’s side just because Mallika’s father’s statement was so wrong. And odd, he is apparently an experienced broadcaster and journalist, why would he release a statement in this kind of language, jumping in to a situation where he had no standing to talk? What is up with him?
But then Mallika’s statement is completely appropriate, and deserves consideration. If this comment made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace, than it should not have been said, that is straight-forward. That is sexual harassment and workplace issues and all of that.
So, what are the rules in that case? Well, it still isn’t exactly what is happening here. Every job I have had (and I have had A LOT of jobs) gives a really simple instruction for sexual harressment. If a co-worker does something/says something that makes you uncomfortable, tell them “I am uncomfortable when you do [blank] and you have to stop”. If they do it again, go to their supervisor and report it. And if nothing changes, then go to the media, sue them, quit, do whatever you want.
Of course, this is because Mallika used the word “uncomfortable”. If she said she felt “unsafe” in her workplace, that would be something else entirely, at that point you immediately go to a supervisor, or the police, or the media, or whatever else you want. But “uncomfortable” is different, it means that this behavior should stop, but there is still room for a smaller reaction before escalating it.
So, what would I have expected her to do? I would have expected her to wait until after filming and say to Akshay “that joke made me uncomfortable. Please don’t say things like that again.” Or heck, she could even say it during filming, address the remark immediately, say “stop, I didn’t like that, please don’t make that joke again”. And then if Akshay did say it again, she could go to the producers. Or, if Akshay is the producer, the TV network. And if that doesn’t work, then go to the media.
It’s possible that this is what happened, that there has been a pattern of behavior and Akshay has not been responding to her concerns. But I have not seen anything yet in the coverage to indicate that Mallika is reacting to more than one comment. Which makes me think it really is just one comment and this is, I don’t want to say an “overreaction” exactly, but in incorrect reaction.
This is not an issue of public safety or public discussion. This is an issue between Mallika and Akshay. And treating it as an issue of public discussion is making it more dangerous, not less. If I am being harassed in the workplace, I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it, I just want my boss fired. That’s the first step before anything else. And I am not seeing anyone here who is talking about that, who is asking if Star TV has a standard employee manual covering this situation and what it says. Instead, it seems like new language to address on old issue, a family’s “honor” residing within their women.
(Sorry, “Star Plus”. If that makes any difference)
Oh, and now Twinkle has said something. Which still isn’t what I want her to say, but maybe kind of faints in that direction. She starts be clarifying that the “joke” isn’t necessarily immediately offensive. She does not say that Mallika has no right to be offended, but does deal with the wording of it being something that may not have any particular connotation. And she ends by asking “kindly stop tagging me in this debate.”
She is saying without explicitly saying it that the overriding social offense is inappropriate for this particular joke. And it is also inappropriate to bring in unrelated family members. Which is a very slight faint in the direction of “don’t try to make this a massive public issue when it is a tiny not that bad joke” and also “what the heck is Mallika’s father doing inserting himself into this conversation?”
From my far far far distance from this whole story, here is my random imaginary version of how it happened. Mallika’s Dad, possibly struggling with a tiny bit of dementia or need for fame or just always being an incredibly possessive and protective father, made a crazy statement. Mallika, feeling the need to support him and possibly also feeling legitimately upset at Akshay’s remark, gave her very clear and intelligent and appropriate comment. And now everyone else suddenly has to comment as well or else the story will become them NOT commenting.
And lost in all of this is the basic idea that workplace harassment is the responsibility of the workplace to address, and no one else.
Nawazuddin Continues to be Yuchy
Speaking of workplace harassment and odd female modesty as the nation’s possession stories, Nawazuddin! There are now two former girlfriends reporting that they do not like the way he talks about them and shares intimate details. Niharika Singh is the one mentioned in his autobiography excerpts who already expressed her dislike for how she was presented, now another ex-girlfriend has posted on Facebook that she broke up with him because he told his friends intimate details of their relationship.
This is a perfect way to handle it! The issue is that he is making their relationship public, so they are making their issues with him making it public also public. And no one is accusing him of anything illegal or making it into a public issue, both women acknowledge a mutual consensual relationship, and are not ashamed of anything they did during that relationship. They are just unhappy with the way Nawazuddin is talking about them and the relationship and are presenting their side of the story. And in this case the media and the public are the appropriate people to go to, because that’s where Nawazuddin went. The only other option would be to file legal order to stop him talking, which is what Hrithik attempted with Kangana and obviously it didn’t work.
And then it gets fuzzy again because some random advocate just filed a legal order against Nawazuddin for “insulting the modesty of a woman”. This advocate is not related in any way to either of the two women involved. He just felt like filing the legal order. And, I suppose, getting his name in the paper for doing it (notice how I am NOT repeating his name because I don’t want to give him the satisfaction).
It’s in the law books, insulting the modesty of a woman is a public issue that any Indian citizen can bring up without permission of the woman. This is bothersome, right? What gives him the right to decide that her modesty was insulted? What gives him the right to attack Nawazuddin on her behalf? Again, I am getting a feeling of female modesty somehow belonging to the nation, to protect or give away, rather than to the particular woman involved.
(Same thing happened with “Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai”. If the audience didn’t mind watching it, and Madhuri didn’t mind filming it, why should anyone file a legal notice?)
Oh, and also that Nawazuddin continues to be kind of gross, but not in a way that makes me want him to be arrested or no longer able to enjoy watching him onscreen. He is just someone I don’t ever want to date. Or let any of my friends date. Or probably spend too long in conversation with him, since it sounds like his conversation is kind of dull, if all he has to talk about is bragging about past romantic encounters.
I know we are all fascinated by this. Well, at least I am. Now it is announced that he will be appearing on Lip Sing Battle. Still no press conference. Lip Sing Battle is choreographed and fun and easy, and very very very very edited. He can flub up his lines 20 times and it won’t matter, they will insert the one good shot. He can also not worry about thinking on his feet, they will write nice fake chatty-chat for him.
And thank you Hotstar! I can watch the episode! I watched a whole bunch of episodes a few days ago while blogging, they are good background noise. But this one I will actually want to focus on, see if he seems all charming and confident and smart like usual, or if he seems like there might be some reason he wants to do this very very very very rehearsed and edited show.