Sushmita Sen, the first Indian woman to become Miss Universe and a successful Bollywood actress who has recently starred in an International Emmy-award nominated series “Arya“ was trending on social media. However, the actress wasn’t trending for any of her achievements.
She was trending after the news of her dating Lalit Modi, the first chairman of the Indian Premier League, came out. Modi, a millionaire who’s 12 years senior to Sen, announced their relationship on social media by sharing pictures of their family vacation in Maldives and Sardinia.
The media very quickly denounced her choosing to date a man richer and older than her and was soon filled with misogynistic comments. She was called names, and the particular lowlights were women being named gold diggers. Sen was called a “gold digger” for dating a richer man, even as her cinema career continues to flourish with her notable performance in the web series Arya.
Over the years, Sen has continuously challenged pre-defined societal norms. From her questioning several laws in the process of adopting her two daughters and making the adoption of a girl child a part of the cultural conversation to encouraging women to lead a financially independent life, she is an inspiration for many women.
Sen made a successful comeback with the hit Hotstar show “Arya”, after being diagnosed with Addison’s disease (a rare long-term endocrine disorder) and falling severely ill. It’s extremely sad to witness such hatred for her relationship choices.
While no one has the right to comment on someone’s personal dating life, and there shouldn’t be a need to justify the choices you make for your own life. More importantly, social media trolling can take a toll on someone’s mental health. Calling someone a “gold digger”, be it a famous 46-year-old celebrity or just a 25-year-old girl, shouldn’t be normalised in society.
Sen had mentioned in an interview that she doesn’t need a man to buy her diamonds. She stated that, “I have never allowed anyone to gift me diamonds. In fact, I had gifted myself a 22-carat diamond ring many years ago, which I wear everywhere. People watch me go shopping for groceries and wonder ‘What is she wearing?!’. But I’m proud that I could do that for myself. For me, my diamond ring is a symbol of hope and empowerment. I believe that all women should be independent, especially financially”.
A woman who has always highlighted the importance of being financially independent and has led her whole life without any dependence on a male counterpart is now being denounced for dating someone richer.
A practice like “dowry” has been prevalent in India, but a man demanding expensive gifts was never called a gold digger. However, if a woman who is financially independent decides to date a man richer than her, then her whole personality is narrowed down to just being after money.
The same media who had criticised Sushmita Sen and called her a gold digger, does not focus on the heinous dowry practices in India.
In one of many comments about her relationship with Lalit Modi, a guy mentioned how a guy could get any girl if he is rich and successful because all girls are after is money. These kinds of sexist comments are deeply rooted in our masculine society that has always portrayed women to be materialistic.
Furthermore, it has always been hard for people to accept an older woman dating a much older guy. The age-gap relationships are always looked down on if a woman is significantly younger or older than a guy. A guy is never in question in these kinds of relationships.
Sen’s previous relationship with a 25-year-old model, Rohman Shawl, had drawn raised eyebrows on her. This relationship was a replica of her current relationship in terms of the age gap and financial means. Except in her previous relationship, she was repelled for dating such a young guy, and the guy was never called a gold digger for dating a richer woman.
Age seems to be completely unrelated to how men date, like in the case of actor Keanu Reeves dating artist Alexandra Grant. The actor was praised for his age-appropriate dating choice while, in reality, Reeves was 55 years old and Grant was 46 years old at the time.
A woman is called names, but no one has ever seen something similar happening to any man. Not that this kind of behaviour is encouraged in any way, because it’s just wrong and shameful. However, isn’t people making jokes about it just a form of normalising such downtrodden behaviour?
If we were to delve down to the root cause of this kind of misogynistic behaviour, we would understand how our society has normalised it over the years.
A woman’s life choices are always closely monitored by everyone. Women are always open to scrutiny, with anyone having the right to criticise them.
It’s shameful to see such a reaction from the media in this time and age. It’s high time that we address the problematic misogynistic thoughts, and work towards diminishing the age and money relationship taboo.
It’s a woman’s choice if she wants to date a younger man, an older man or a man her age, and it’s again her life if she decides to spend her life with a rich man or a poor man.
Also read: Misogyny In Memes: Sexist Jokes Are Not Harmless Entertainment
If a celebrity as big as Sushmita Sen can face such harshness from the conservative society, I wonder how a common girl must be fighting these age-old gender norms in her day-to-day life.
Also read: Microaggressions As Memes: A Digitised World Of Misogyny
Featured image source: BollywoodShaadis