YouTuber Armaan Malik Is Glorified For His Wealth And 2 Wives… As Are Many Other Powerful Men

Men like Armaan Malik or other powerful celebrities with 2 wives will continue exploiting women like this, as long as men control most of the social, economic and political power and women feel powerless enough to succumb.

‘Two wives, palatial homes and cars, this actor’s luxurious life will remind you of kings’

Goes the title of a post by Aaj Tak. When I click on the link, there is Youtuber Armaan Malik, posing with two women in typical Bollywood style.

Now, I didn’t even know this actor existed till the moment I saw the link. And I am totally not bothered with any aspect of his life including his two marriages.

Why having two wives was traditionally considered ‘prosperous’

What I find interesting is that a statement on how rich he is starts with the fact of his having two wives instead of the usual one. And that is not surprising to me one bit. Actually it brings a familiar bitter taste to the throat.

Familiar from my childhood and teenage when all stories about powerful kings gave three points of evidence to his power — he had a ‘khazana’ full of gold, a huge army, and….multiple wives.

A bitter taste from an old black and white movie about a saint poet that I watched in my teenage, which started with two men discussing how well this poet, who started life as a rich money lender, was doing in life. That sentence went exactly like the sentence I quoted at the beginning of this writeup — the description of prosperity starting with the fact that said money lender had two wives.

Later I remember asking my mother why having two wives was considered prosperous. She, a woman with massive internalised patriarchy, was obviously not in a mood to discuss this with me, and so replied in an off hand manner that ‘Because it takes money to feed and clothe wives and their children.’

But what about the women involved? The wives?

I remember a chill running down my spine at those words. Was that all it took a man to get as many wives as he wanted? And the women had no choice but to accept their ‘fate’?

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Later in life while reading up on Women’s History I realised she was right. In patriarchal societies everywhere, it was, and still is, considered normal for a man to trade his daughters in marriage to powerful men in return for social, business and political benefits. And all over the world it was, and still is, normal for powerful men to acquire multiple wives in this process.

That is why one of the parameters with which patriarchy defines a man’s success in life is the number of women he can commandeer — as wives, as concubines, or in more modern terms women he slept with, and how much younger they are than him; because in more progressive societies it is no longer legally possible for men to just keep marrying as many women as they like.

And this is not the first time I have seen popular media glorify polygamy in male celebrities. How many interviews have you read in which a rich and successful dude is lauded by his two wives as a very good husband, the first wife smilingly says she consented fully to the second marriage, the two wives describe in glowing terms how they have become ‘best friends’, and the children describe how they are closer to their step mother than their biological mother?

The ‘successful’ man

The point is, even though polygamy is illegal in India, men continue to find legal loopholes and pressurise their wives into ‘consenting’ to another marriage. And worse, media continues to push that stereotype of a successful man as a polygamous one.

Because men want to go on living In a ‘good old’ regressive world where they can treat women like collectibles. Men still don’t want to grow up and face the mature task of engaging with a woman as a human being and have a genuine and equal relationship. It benefits men to have many women dependent on them, feeling insecure and fighting for their affections. It saves them from having to be emotionally available and responsible, and as a bonus get to boost their egos with other men. All it takes is enough money and charisma.

And stories of a few men getting to live that life feeds their fantasies of being one day able to do that.

In all media stories glorifying male polygamy, I see three things missing

The first is, did the first wife have all the required resources to leave the marriage or refuse consent if she wanted to, or was her consent manufactured by pressures of some kind?

I remember reading an interview of famous Kuchipudi dancer Raja Reddy and his two wives Radha and Kaushalya many yeas back. In the interview Raja revealed that Radha had discontinued sexual relationship with Raja after his second marriage, he glorified the decision as a ‘sacrifice’, and Radha was not asked why.

The interview revealed she was completely dependent on Raja for organizing their dance tours and managing business and finances, and yet the interviewers did not ask her whether she could have walked out if she had wanted — whether she had an option other than to ‘consent’.

And I have read many such stories over years where the first wife’s career, income and so on are closely intertwined with the husband’s, and no questions are asked on how it would have been for the wife to walk out instead of staying.

Second, I see a lot of talk about ‘love’ between the polygamist and the second, usually younger wife, but I do not see any exploration on her vulnerabilities and the influence the man had on her life.

In the same interview I mentioned above, it was revealed that Kaushalya, Raja’s second wife and Radha’s sister or cousin, had moved into Raja’s house when she was five, when Raja was an adult and Radha was his newly wedded bride. She grew up in the household, and Raja was her dance guru since that early age. In the interview she revealed that she had proposed to Raja at age 17. How could Raja take the infatuation of a teenager for the man who had literally made her who she was seriously? And what about the Guru Shishya Parampara which sees gurus in a paternal role?

But these questions were never asked. And this too is often the case — the second wife often starts off as a disciple, a protégé, a subordinate of the polygamist and it is often not easy for her to resist the fascination of being desired by a man who is so influential in her life.

And third, there is often no mention of the man’s problematic history with women.

In the present case of Armaan Malik, a one minute Google search revealed that he posted insensitive pictures of both his wives pregnant at once and got mercilessly trolled, was accused of raping his household help, and even threatened suicide by standing on the parapet for hours after an argument with his wife, all within the last year or so. Clearly he is a seriously problematic person with an uneasy history with women. But there is no mention of that in the link I found, which just wants to elevate him as some sort of God who has everything including the impunity to marry more than one woman.

I would like media stories on celebrity polygamy to be honest and explore these issues. But of course I cannot command the media to do anything. We cannot also stop men from coercing and exploiting women into polygamous arrangements, as long as men control most of the social, economic and political power and women feel powerless enough to succumb.

The only thing I can do is to encourage women who would like to see justice for women to call out toxic media reports. To call them out collectively, repeatedly, on all platforms. That much at least is in our hands.

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About the Author

Srishtaa Aparna Pallavi

Aparna Pallavi's current callings are as a therapist, contemplative writer and researcher of indigenous and forest foods. Gender and patriarchy are among her favorite subjects in her contemplative writing. Formerly she has had a read more...

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