Why Are Successful Women Like Superstar Nayanthara Slut Shamed?

Posted: March 29, 2019

A tendency to “put women in their place,” stems from a patriarchal attitude which believes that women are inferior to men. The easiest way to do that? Slut shaming.

Nayanthara doesn’t really need introduction. One does not become the only South Indian actress in the Forbes India Celebrity 100 list, without having the power to back it up.

After starting her career in the Malayalam film industry in 2003, Nayanthara made her Tamizh debut in 2005. She had already made a name for herself when she took a break from acting in 2011. Sri Rama Rajyam in which she played the role of Sita, and for which she received many accolades, was said to be her last film.

She made a comeback in 2012 though, and with her movie Raja Rani in 2013, she reached new heights. Her dedication to her work is greatly appreciated in the industry. “She is never late for shoot. More than her stardom, it’s her work ethic that really makes me look up to her,” says Director Ashwin Sravanan, who worked with Nayanthara in the movie Maya.

She has consistently picked diverse, female oriented, and well-rounded roles, and in a male-dominated and patriarchal industry, she can carry a film on her own, leading to her being called Superstar. (Well, “Lady Superstar” actually, but we don’t go around calling the men “Male Superstars,” so why the gender tag for her?)

Her journey has not been easy. Her intimate pictures with actor Simbu were leaked long after their unpleasant break-up. She was also accused of being a “homewrecker” because of her affair with a married Prabhu Deva, and her effigy was burnt by women’s organizations.

Post this she has fiercely protected her privacy and stays away from the public eye. That however, hasn’t stopped people like Radha Ravi from putting her down.

In a recent press meet for her upcoming movie Kolayuthir Kaalam, he disapproved of her being called a superstar because she isn’t a “legend”. Referencing her past “scandals”, he slut shamed Nayanthara at the trailer launch of her own film, by commenting on how “anybody” could play Sita nowadays.

Many condemned this blatant slut shaming of Nayanthara after singer Chinmayi tweeted about it. Radha Ravi’s half-sister, actor Radhikaa Sarathkumar, also acknowledged that the comments were in bad taste. He was also suspended from the DMK, following these comments.

This incident is just the latest example of how powerful and successful women are slut shamed in an attempt to control them and to strip them of agency. It stems from a patriarchal attitude that women are inferior to men and that when they do better than men, they should be “put in their place”.

Even women who are not celebrities are accused by jealous colleagues of having “slept their way” into a promotion or a raise. Any outspoken woman on social media can attest to being called “whore,” “bitch,” “slut,” or something similar, by men who do not know how else to shut her up. Slut shaming, which is not at all about the sex, is simply the easiest way to insult a woman and pull her down, by reducing her to her sexuality.

As this piece points out, “Slut shaming reflects broader systems of power that continue to demean and harm women and prevent us all from achieving true gender equality.”

So the next time a man calls a woman a slut, let’s remember that it means that he’s afraid and acutely aware of his own ineffectuality.

Top image is a still from the Tamil movie Aramm

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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a

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