From the vantage point of 2016, let’s take a look at this 1970s video featuring British actress Helen Mirren being interviewed by Michael Parkinson, posted below:
As Mirren steps into the room, Parkinson introduces her as a “sex queen” who projects a “sluttish eroticism”.
Though Mirren puts him on the spot for his highly sexist introduction, Parkinson pays her no attention. Instead, he asks: “What do you think when people say things like that about you?” and continues to make casual and callous sexist comments throughout the interview, though Mirren calls him out for it again and again.
In 2016, even as we continue to fight sexism, this sounds like an interview from hell.
The world as it is now is constructed upon worlds that were. And patriarchy has been around almost since civilisation began. So I’m not surprised to watch an interview like this, though I am surprised that a country that spent much of the last century hanging on to colonial possessions by claiming to teach us lesser mortals about civilisation could not wipe out patriarchy faster.
The truth though is that every single one of us, wherever we might be in the world, uses subtle sexism in everyday conversation, assuming that it’s all right.
In India not long ago, actress Sunny Leone was interviewed by a journalist who would not stop insulting her on the TV show by making judgmental remarks about her past.
Here’s the thing: I was expecting that. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to say it, but it’s true. Every day is a struggle for women, not just in India, but around the world. From the clothes we wear, to the conversations we have, to the shade of our lipstick, to our hairstyles, to the possible titillation factor of a necklace with a pendant resting just above our breasts, women cannot make a move without figuring out what effect it will have on the men around them, even random passers-by.
You may think I exaggerate, but if you do, chances are you’re man. Because you don’t know how a woman cringes at the thought of being a target of some snide remark that “compliments” her ass and her bosom.
If a renowned actress like Helen Mirren can be objectified for her big bosom, which apparently distracts men from appreciating her acting skills, we are regular civilians trying to prove our worth to our bosses. I will try not to draw parallels because context changes from person to person, but I am not kidding when I say ‘bullshit’ to anyone who dismisses a snide comment as a one-time thing.
Even in 2016, sexism is an ingrained devil. Even the educated sometimes subconsciously pass judgements we would not expect. The problem is that we have lived and breathed in a world where such behaviour has been accepted for centuries. Millennia even. Changing this behaviour, unfortunately, will take a long time, but we must ensure it does not spread to future generations.
Feature Image Credit: theguradian.com