Faye D’Souza, the editor of Mirror Now, hosted a debate on June 9, 2017, over the incessant trolls that shame women for their appearance and their choice of clothes. During the course of the debate, Faye D’Souza effectively schooled a panellist, Maulana Qasmi for his highly offensive and sexist (not to mention illogical) comment, asking the anchor to show up to the debate in her underwear to be considered equal to men.
The panel discussion was largely about the trolling and abuse faced by the Dangal star Fatima Sana Shaikh for her pictures in a bikini on social media. Trollers seemed to be exceptionally upset by the fact that such a “shameful” action was done by Shaikh during the month of Ramzan. Most panellists condemned such trolls, however, a few did all in their might to defend the trolls. Maulana Qasmi being one of the latter.
Maulana Qasmi repeatedly made the offhanded comment about how Shaikh was “hand-in-glove” with her trollers, despite having any solid fact or proof to support this conspiracy theory. He also didn’t have anything to say when asked what kind of a woman would want such disrespectful comments being made about her, even for publicity.
Not only that, he also repeatedly called this form of online abuse a “petty issue” and not worth being raised to the platform. Faye D’Souza rightly shot his argument down by saying that she will continue to bring such issues to her platform, no matter how petty they might seem to male panellists, not that the reasonable argument made Maulana Qasmi drop his uncaring one.
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It was rightly pointed out by another panellist that Maulana Qasmi was only protecting the trolls by diverting the issue. When the Maulana kept on shouting, not letting another female panellist question him about his statement, D’Souza quick-wittedly maintained order in her panel by saying perhaps the Maulana wasn’t used to listening to a woman’s voice.
Maulana Qasmi, towards the end of the debate, swooped down to such a low level as to suggest that the anchor come to the debate in her underwear to make his point. He shouted, “I am telling you, wear an underwear and come. You will become equal to men. Wear an underwear and come to debate. There will be equality between men and women.” However, Faye D’Souza, instead of loosing her head, took to calmly and astutely slamming down his comment by saying how he wasn’t going to scare her into not doing her job or any other woman for that matter.
Another panellist, Maulana Yasoob Abbas, while opposing Shaikh’s choice of outfit deemed it fit to call Sheikh “bazaaru“, something which D’Souza was quick to act upon. She paused the debate to call out Maulana Yasoob Abbas for his unwarranted comment, saying that she wouldn’t tolerate anyone calling a woman “bazaaru” on her show, and asked him to immediately withdraw it and apologise.
However, Maulana Yasoob Abbas wasn’t ready to accept that he had done anything wrong, instead attempted to make it seem acceptable owing to Shaikh’s “mockery” of Islam by wearing such an outfit. Maulana Yasoob Abbas was suspiciously quiet after this and it was heartening to see that he was later replaced quietly by another cleric as a panellist. D’Souza proved that she wasn’t all talk, she proved that she wasn’t going to take bullshit on her show and would take action against it.
Faye D’Souza had also taken it upon herself a few days back to comment about the new data on proposed GST rates of 18% tax against biscuits, including the glucose biscuits which are the only other dry food apart from bread in our country that we can get for less than Rs 100/kg, as pointed out by D’Souza. These glucose biscuits are largely used as baby food by parents who can’t afford CERELAC for their children, and often are the only source of sugar, iron and calcium for children.
— Faye DSouza (@fayedsouza) June 3, 2017
She also pointed out the systemic flaw that there are no women in India’s GST council, that is headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. According to Faye D’Souza, the presence of a woman in the GST Council is a must and any woman could have immediately advised them against raising the tax of glucose biscuits.
Indian media has had a long history of misogyny, from the unjust treatment of female journalists to gender biased comments being made on national television. A woman’s appearance is weighed highly over her talent, treating her as an object to only “glam up” the news. A woman, who worked as a ‘personality development’ coach for upcoming news anchors, said, “Viewers change channels in minutes. You need a beautiful anchor to hold their attention.”
Sexual harassment in Indian media also takes more blatant routes. “I am not just a newsreader. I can do reporting. I am a sub-editor. Yet after this, no one wants to hire me,” said S Akila, a former anchor of Sun TV, Chennai. She filed a sexual harassment case in November 2014 against her seniors Vetrivendhan and V Raja, the former chief editor. Akila joined Sun TV in December 2011, and a few weeks later, she alleges Vetrivendhan “Started making advances. When I refused to be friendly with him, he put me on the 4 a.m. shift for a month-and-a-half at a stretch.”
It is also not uncommon to see politicians and other “important men” of the nation make highly offensive remarks towards women on national television. For instance, the remark made by Abhijit Mukherjee, President Pranab Mukherjee’s son and an MP from Jangipur seat, about the female protesters after the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case. Mukherjee had said, “Walking in candlelight processions, going to discotheques, we have also led student life, we have been students. I well know what the character of a student should be. Those who are coming in the name of students in the rallies, sundori, sundori mahila (beautiful women), are highly dented and painted.”
Here’s another panel discussion on NewsX about the ruthless trolling of a Kollywood actress Amala Paul over her photo shoot. A panellist, advocate Naveen Chomal, defended the trolls by saying that it could be justified if the woman wasn’t dressed appropriate manner. He also says that trollers don’t have a personal grudge against the actress, however, the trolling targeted her personal life and her recent status as a divorcee. Priya Malik, an actress and another panellist, provided strong arguments against Mr Chomal’s statements and pointed out the society’s hypocrisy and gender biases.
Women like Faye D’Souza and Priya Malik show to us how important female participation is in Indian media for a better, more accurate and sensitive representation of women’s issues in the country. We can only hope for more women journalists and panellists to forward and change the face of Indian journalism.
Featured Image Credit: The Indian Express