“Maybe the problem lies with you. Nobody gives you the fucking right to slap a girl.”

Neha Dhupia has been trolled massively in the past weeks for her comments on MTV Roadies, where she is a judge along with Prince Narula, Nikhil Chinapa, Raftaar and host Rannvijay Singh. During an audition, a contestant confessed to having slapped his girlfriend when he found out that she had been cheating on him with five other boys. This was Dhupia’s response:

Yeh jo tu bol raha hai na, ek nahi, paanch ladko ke saath gayi thi (What you’re saying about her cheating with five men)- it’s her choice. You haven’t tied this person down and said that since you’re in a relationship with me toh tu agar ja ke cheat karegi, main yeh sab karunga (that if you cheat, I’ll do all of this). Maybe, the problem lies with you. Check yourself first. Agar woh wahaan ja ke cheat kar rahi hai (if she’s cheating), maybe she was feeling threatened by you. Maybe you were not providing physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever she needed. Don’t say main sab karta tha (that you did it all). Nobody gives you the fucking right to slap a girl.”

Image: India TV News

Dhupia made it clear in a later statement that when she said “it’s her choice”, she meant that “adultery is a moral choice”. Chinapa also had his say. The contestant in question mentioned that he could’ve had done a lot worse such as reporting the girl to her parents. To this, Chinapa’s sarcastically replied “Matlab you could have destroyed her reputation, but you only hit her”.

MTV Roadies is not known for its sensitivity or any valuable contributions to society. In my opinion, it is a bullshit show, and should be in the trash with other reality TV like it (is Salman Khan reading this?) And while this could very possibly be a marketing gimmick much like companies did during the time of #MeToo, the subsequent trolling that Dhupia has had to face is symptomatic of a huge problem in India.

The nature of a relationship is evolving amongst young India, causing quite a bit of dissonance. People are acknowledging that traditional relationships were a one-size-fits-all model that kept a lot of people unhappy. And in this context, Indians are for unable to un-stereotype the Indian feminist, finding feminists to be an excuse for literally any kind of structural conflict involving women.

These are just a bunch of images I’ve taken from Instagram on which Dhupia’s official handle was tagged. There’s a lot more vitriol out there, including on Twitter and Facebook.

Feminist responses have become a scapegoat for every time problematic behaviour is called out, and the way in which the backlash emerges is simply disgusting. Backlash against statements meant to be empowering for women, regardless of whether these statements are politically correct or incorrect, are aggressively sexualised and vulgarised. Actress Swara Bhasker is a veteran in this area, and is routinely trolled on Twitter for her strong statements. While she herself has been a part of some problematic movies such as Raanjhanaa and Veere Di Wedding, it’s not on any level okay for the general public to express their outrage by saying things like “you toh do pathbreaking masturbation” and “LaWhore is trending”.

And it isn’t funny. It’s the equivalent of saying that since you won’t let us sexualise your body in public anymore, we’ll now use anything you say as license to damage your reputation online. There is a huge gap in education amongst the Indian public as to what is sexually okay and not, what is okay to do in a relationship and what isn’t, and how the laws governing the interaction between sexes has changed. Finding the answers to this question is a collective effort, and social media accounts such as Agents of Ish, Feminist and SheThePeople are doing a wonderful job of offering solutions through content, but I wonder if another cultural turning point is round the corner, like #MeToo was. Neha Dhupia was right, maybe the problem is with you.

Cover image: Free Press Journal

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