Can We Talk Of GI Jane And The Fact That Jada Pinkett Smith Is So Much More Than ‘Will Smith’s Wife’?

Can we pause to reconsider that men's incorrigible, short-sighted, and stupid attempts to glorify or belittle a woman based on her bodily attributes do not deserve so much traction and mileage?

We all know what has been the hottest news of this week.

American comedian, Chris Rock made a bald joke about American actor, Will Smith’s wife and got punched in the face.

This happened at the prestigious Academy Awards ceremony, known as the Oscars to most people.

Thanks to the steady supply of memes and tweets, even those who haven’t watched a single Hollywood movie in their lives, probably know of “the Slapgate” incident now.

Will Smith has already apologized for his “outburst”. Chris Rock won’t be pressing charges. Its all good now.

The incident has triggered a host of reactions.

“Every girl deserves a Will Smith to defend her honor.”

“When will men be more mature?”

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“Violence is not the answer”

“It is all scripted”.

Scripted or not scripted, the woman in question- Jada Pinkett Smith- looms in the shadows.

Jada Pinkett Smith is not just “Will Smith’s wife”

While the man who made a joke on her, and the man who defended her take the centerstage of lights-action-camera and endless discussions are held on them and on patriarchy, gender & violence, very few know or care about what she has to say about it.

Most of the articles do not talk about Jada, who is the epicenter of this controversy. And almost none of them talk about GI Jane (sorry who!), whose name was invoked by Chris Rock in the sexist joke that landed him a punch and endless media attention.

Who is Jada Pinkett Smith?

Will Smith’s wife, of course (do we not know that already!).

What most people do NOT know and definitely NEED to know is that Jada Pinkett Smith is also an American actor and a singer, and while she was attending the Oscars Awards ceremony with her husband, she was present there as an independent member of the Hollywood fraternity. Not simply as her husband’s companion.

She was not a guest in her husband’s work party, it was her party as well.

Jada Pinkett Smith is a woman of her own making, who has earned a spot of her own outside the perimeter of her star husband’s shadow.

She has a Daytime Emmy Award to call her own, and she has featured in Times Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people, 2021.

Besides a successful acting career, she has also founded a metal rock-band Wicked Wisdom. She is also the author of a children’s book – Girls Hold up the World- which was featured on second position in The New York Times Best Seller list.

She is a producer, a screenwriter, a talkshow host, and a successful businesswoman.

She is also a mother.

But for this current week, Jada Pinkett Smith is just a woman who is bald, and who has a husband who loves her so much, that he would punch anyone in the face for her (so sweet!).

The reality of alopecia, a disorder that has psycho-social implications for women who suffer

Jada Pinkett Smith was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune dermatological condition which can causes anything between patchy to complete hair loss.

We live in a world where every single day a woman’s body becomes a battleground for political warfare. Mostly it ranges between fat-shaming and skinny-shaming of those who cannot or refuse to match conventional & constantly-changing beauty ideals. Sometimes it is the “othering” of those who refuse to conform to the cultural hegemony driven by consumer capitalism.

But every single day, women endlessly apologize or defend their right to be fair or dark, tall or short, flat-abbed or chubby. For hair as well, the guidelines are in place. There are strict rules- of where you must have them in abundance and where you must be absolutely hairless, on which part of your body it is an epitome of beauty, and where it is the exact opposite.

Every single day, this world (we) calibrates a woman’s character and merit on the basis of her bodily attributes.

Can we focus on the woman at the centre of it all, for once?

We need to talk about how  in a world like this, a successful independent woman like Jada Pinkett Smith, dared to embrace her hair-loss without hiding under a wig. Unfazed by the public gaze, how she chose to hold her head high in the face of media scrutiny and jokes made in bad taste.

Can we give more time, effort, and attention to her silent grace and dignity, instead of the men who choose to target her with jibes or the ones who unilaterally decide to fight her battles?

Can we focus on the kind of revolution that women like Jada Pinkett Smith are trying to bring about?

Can we laud their efforts to inspire a new creed of young and confident girls who do not allow the world to define their worth based on superficial notions of beauty?

Can we please talk about her words from her phenomenonal book – Girls Hold up this World:

“We are sisters of this Earth — members of one powerful tribe. /Every color, shape, and size, we’re united by beauty inside.”

The core problem is not the joke that Chris Rock made about her condition. Or whether Will Smith should have acted the way that he did.

The issue that needs to be addressed and corrected is that, everytime something like this happens, the focus always remains on the villany or valour of the men.

We need to shift focus on the courage and resilience of women who fight these battles on their own every single day. Women who are perfectly capable of defending their worth and honour.

Or maybe they don’t need to.

While Chris Rock made his outlandish joke, Jada Pinkett Smith simply rolled her eyes with steely silence.

Maybe that is what it deserved.

Maybe she rightly decided that she did not need to dignify Chris Rock’s antics with a reaction. Maybe she was rightly convinced of the fact that a comedian’s stupid act did not define her worth. It did not take away anything from her, even though her husband felt shame and outrage on her behalf.

Can we pause to reconsider that men’s incorrigible attempts to glorify or belittle a woman based on her bodily attributes do not deserve so much traction and mileage? These acts should be called out for what they actually are- short-sighted and stupid.

So instead of having endless debates on the Chris Rocks and the Will Smiths, can we please hold up our candles to the Jada Pinkett Smiths of this world, who are relentlessly carving out a new world for girls and women to thrive on their own terms.

A last word on the infamous joke made by Chris Rock

Chris Rock referred to her as G.I Jane 2. For those who don’t know, G.I Jane refers to a Hollywood military drama from 1997. The plot is centered around the need for gender-neutrality in the military and a pilot project to test the integration of women in the Navy.

The chief protagonist, Jordan O’Neil played by Demi Moore is one of the “test cases” who endures a grueling training program and is rechristened as G.I. Jane. Needless to say, as a symbol of giving up her feminity to compete and prove her worth in the military world of men, G.I Jane shaves her head.

To reduce the G.I Jane iconography to the image of just a “bald woman”, and then to use it as a despicable tool to make jibes at another accomplished woman’s medical condition is not just bad taste.

It is the kind of reductionist-sexist world view that we need to call out, instead of talking endlessly about men duelling over their self-proclaimed rights to comment on or defend a woman’s honour.

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