Bollywood and TV actresses have made it known that they refuse to be shamed over their dressing choices.
Sonam Kapoor isn’t one to shy away from taking her fashion to the next level. Be it red carpet appearances or promotions, the actress is known for her experimental sartorial style, and has been lauded for it too.
However, this wasn’t quite the case when she opted for a black Rasario Atelier jumpsuit at a recent event in the city. She faced the wrath on social media for her choice, and even publications carried reports of her, with the focus on the plunging neckline of her outfit.
Known for speaking her mind online, the Neerja actress lashed back on Twitter for the “sexist” comments. Sonam called out the trolls using her profile, saying that despite feeling comfortable in the outfit, news portals shared irrelevant news. She went on to write, “The photogs went out of their way to take these pics...and frankly I don’t give a damn, I’m proud of my body! (sic)”
Similarly, Disha Patani faced flak for her fashion statement. Only late last month, actress Disha was also trolled for uploading a picture in a “bold” outfit, which she wore while attending an awards function. Even as Disha brought down the trolls on Instagram, she too — like Sonam — received mixed reactions from people, who either called the celebrities out for sexualising their bodies, or supporting them in their “my body, my choice” stance.
This response is a very positive step says author, poet and feminist activist, Sharanya Manivannan, since the female body has long been objectified in the entertainment industry. “By standing by her choice, like she wants to, and establishing that she approved the photographs, Sonam has claimed power over her narrative representation in the media,” she explains.
Trolling isn’t just restricted to Bollywood personalities, whose outfits face scrutiny both online and off it. After being called ‘cheap’ and a ‘porn star’ by trolls for her dance moves in a video, TV actress Nia Sharma, of Jamai Raja fame, hit back by posting another video on Instagram, daring her critics to ‘slut shame’ her again. The actress believes it is important to stand up to the detractors, since comments like these not just affect celebrities but also the common girl. She says, “I hope that by calling out the trolls often, the subject will become irrelevant. There will come a time slamming trolls won’t make news because the topic will be hackneyed.”
Believing that it is important for women to stand up for their choices, Sharanya recalls a personal incident. She says, “Someone cyber-stalked me and sent a cleavage-revealing photo of me to my family as a form of harassment!” However, this didn’t discourage her. She fought against it and stood by her decision to have that photo published.
Meghna Pant, author and feminist, raises a pertinent point when she says it boils down to two different schools of thoughts within feminism itself. While one ideology is that women must not feel the need to explain their decisions, the other one thinks that when doing things like these, women are still adhering to a man-centric narrative. “The reason there are so many feminists enraged by this graphic display of women’s bodies is because they think that women are objectifying themselves and their bodies by exposing them in such a manner. They believe that women are still trying to pander to the male gaze,” she explains.
It’s not just in India that leading celebrities are being shamed for their choices of clothes. UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador for the HeForShe campaign, Emma Watson, recently did a magazine shoot, which included baring her breasts, save her nipples that were covered under a jacket. Considering the mixed reactions the photo got, Meghna thinks there is really no escaping from the trolls. “When someone is a public figure, they will be trolled,” she confirms.
The author, however, says that the only way out of this circle is to develop a thick skin. “I’ve spoken to so many feminists who are publicly trolled for literally anything they do — their work, their clothes, their intelligence — there is nothing one can do about it except ignore it. Developing a thick skin is the only solution,” she concludes.
(With inputs from Aarti Bhanushali)