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Are sexist and homophobic jokes and insults acceptable? Why do most of us keep quiet when faced with such jokes?
I started a new job – my first job – two weeks ago. After getting all the paperwork done and settling down into my new life, I decided that I needed a reorganisation of my mind. I wanted to use this opportunity to make a fresh start towards being the person I want to be, and achieving the things I want to achieve.
One of my steps in this process was to ask my closest friends for two things that they don’t like about me and think I need to change. This was not an effort to be more likable, or have fewer disagreements. Those friends who know me the best could help me become the person I want to be by pointing out things about myself that I may not be aware of, and might not be okay with.
One of my friends told me that the biggest thing she doesn’t like about me is that sometimes, I “argue for the sake of arguing”, even when I know that the statement she made wasn’t serious, or that she didn’t mean it in a bad way. I understood what she means – she and I have a lot of arguments about her casual use of words such as “whore”, “gay”, “slut” etc. as insults.
I know my friend doesn’t mean that being gay is bad, or having multiple sexual partners is bad. She uses the words like many of us do – “My boss didn’t let me off early, she’s such a whore!” or “That guy/movie/activity is so gay, why would you want to be a part of it?” But I’m always uncomfortable when she uses those words, and I usually argue. And this is one thing about myself that I am not uncomfortable with.
Words like these have strong meanings and connotations. A “whore” by simple definition is ‘a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money’ (Dictionary.com), but the word is no longer used like that in society. It is an insult thrown at women for any of a range of “unacceptable” behaviours, from not giving your employee leave, flirting with a guy, wearing certain types of clothing, having the temerity to protest when a guy hits on you in a way you’re not comfortable with, or testifying before Congress about contraception. It is a demeaning insult used precisely to reduce a woman down to her body and sexuality; it is a way to discount everything that a woman is because she has a vagina and did something that you don’t approve of.
“Slut” holds many of the same connotations. Not only do I strongly hate the way a large part of society looks down upon and passes [unfounded] judgments on a woman’s life, character, beliefs and future because of her sex life, but I also hate that that one word can be used to degrade and reduce a woman to her vagina and thus, ignore every other thing about her.
The same holds true for so many commonly used “insults”. Why should “gay” ever be used to describe something you don’t like or don’t want to be a part of? It is inherently a judgment on homosexuality, even if you don’t mean it that way.
Using these words spreads ideas, and implies approval to demeaning, disgusting societal concepts. I am glad I protest. My friends have learned not to use such words around me, and even if I haven’t changed the way they think or speak around others, I’ve made them think about this and made a small change that is important. All of us need to stop using slut, whore, gay etc as insults, and we need to speak up when others use them even in jest.
I have recently completed a degree in Economics and Political Science, in Singapore, and am about to start a career as a journalist. I'm a passionate feminist, voracious reader, dedicated foodie, and love good read more...
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).