As a feminist, I count on the media to be responsible opinion leaders, be just, be objective and often propagate fair values that might even be radical for many, in order to do the right thing. My blind faith was beaten black and blue when Times of India made rookie mistakes while reporting about women, last year. Yet, it was restored slightly, when every other publication swooped in to defend women’s rights and call out TOI for their lack of respect and reporting in good taste.
And so another reality check was administered that the media is but, mere mortals like anyone else. Hindustan Times, a leading national daily, organized a contest “Campus ka Mahayuddh” in the national capital- Delhi, a city that is already being schooled for being a hellish host for its womankind. They chose to name its various editions “Naya Maal” and “Proper Patola” – which were quests to find the most vivacious female first-years in Delhi University. While Patola is slang for a “hot, sexy Punjabi Girl”- Maal literally translates to goods- or objects. Objectification of women couldn’t get more literal and overt.
Maal is unfortunately, a very popular slang for women. One doesn’t think twice before referring to an attractive woman as a piece of meat or a mass of desire. It is so very intrinsic to the syntax of an average Indian while being informal, that it has formed a part of our ideology as a culture. Patola is a notch higher in offensiveness- a stereotype that plagues voluptuous Punjabi women and paints them as objects of lust.
Lately though, films and shows have been using the word maal only ironically, with negative connotations. The business of entertainment and fiction is scripting more sensitively. Now, maal is how the bad guy describes the female protagonist, when the makers want to show just how much he doesn’t deserve her and how much of a prick he is, you know? And here we have the ‘messiah’ of our values- a mainstream English National daily- sexualizing young 18 year olds girls, and the best part is- it’s news, it’s not even fiction. They’re advocating this perception towards women in the real world.
Does HT endorse this idea of women as an organization? They would answer in the negative, obviously. And I do know most of their journalists to not have this perverted a world-view.
The name was presumably finalized by a marketing team and sanctioned by higher management in a serious lapse of judgement. They may have wanted to pander to the masses at large, and create a concept the audiences can relate to. Let’s face it- we do still have many amid us who treat women as objects, and consider them a sum of their body parts – created just to pleasure a man.
While we are on the subject of relating to more popular perceptions- the non-english speaking population of the country, and perhaps more savage, sees a Hindustan Times copy having only the utility of making for good toilet paper, handy material to wrap junk food in, or perhaps- a super-absorbant mat substitute when you want to laze on a lawn that was wet by a light drizzle. Would it be appropriate then, to refer to your publication – that obviously stands for a mot more than the material it was made of – as essentially toilet paper, because it’ll relate to a large section of the society and make for a rather catchy headline?
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