Hardik Pandya and K.L.Rahul are out of the Indian cricket team for the time being because they are facing charges for inappropriate conversations in the recently aired television talk show, Koffee with Karan. This is not the first time that people have got into trouble through the show but this time, because it concerns members of the Indian cricket team, that the play has gone bad. Karan Johar eggs on his guests to reveal their worst side; he creates a strange competitive atmosphere in which the participants fall into the trap to gossip about their peers and make socially inappropriate conversations. Karan has carefully crafted an image of himself as the gatekeeper into an elite society where he poses as the judge of who gets to go into the inner circle of celebrityhood and who remain the pariahs. Young people with some measure of success often get drawn into a competitive game playing atmosphere and drop their social defenses and sometimes even play stupid in their eagerness to get included in the haloed portals of celebrityhood, a space which Karan pretends that he manages. Controversy is Karan Johar’s way of keeping people under his control.
In his characteristic manner, Karan Johar called upon Hardik Pandya and K.L.Rahul, two young cricketers of the Indian team and veered them over the ledge of socially appropriate behavior. He played upon their recently won successes and lured them entry into a world of entitlements and privileges, of the upper stall of the society. Inebriated by Karan’s acceptance of them as his inner circle, these men were eager to fall in line with what they imagined would be the culture of the more entitled. And in this they said what they said. Hardik Pandya spoke about his irreverence towards women as if success grants him the liberty to do so. Rahul too showed off profligacy as a measure of his success as he bragged about partying through the night. These comments do not merely reek in misogyny, but these shows how misogyny is intricately related to a feeling of power and how success in India has come to mean the liberty to disrespect and disregard all social norms and morals rather than hard work.
The punishment meted out to the two young men is the harshest of the available options. The BCCI is clear that it has taken these casual remarks in dead seriousness. Virat Kohli has issued a public statement distancing the cricket team from the offenders, Harbhajan Singh, a senior cricketer has gone as far as to say that he will never bring his wife and daughter in the company of these two men and the Mumbai Police has hailed the punishment as exemplary for such attitudes towards women. The probe headed by the retired captain of the Indian woman’s team, Diana Eduljee has called for a lifetime ban. Advertisers have moved away from the two brand prospects. In every which way, Hardik and Rahul suffer the death sentence, metaphorically being hanged by the neck until dead.
Hate for women seems to have emerged as a measure of masculine wellbeing. Recalling the episode of Nirbhaya murder, the offenders were in a state of feeling high after some good money came their way with which they had good food and celebratory alcohol, took out the bus on an unscheduled trip in order to “hunt” girls. Girl hunting becomes game hunting, a leisure sport, a mark of economic, social and cultural surplus. This too happens because of the way the society construes success. In India especially, success is looked upon as a product rather than as a process in which the individual becomes freer not of her immediate and material needs but of those social rules that bind her. This may be a fall out of the caste system in which rules of social behavior are tied to the hierarchy; you obey rules because you are supposed to be of a certain rank. Expectedly then emancipation means anomie and the Indian society has not been able to develop adequate rules of appropriate social behavior. We dirty our streets, we have pathetic sanitary habits, we hardly know how to behave in crowded spaces including the public transport and we have little manners when dealing with outsiders. In short, India does not have a well defined and comely public behavior. Misogyny is part of the lack of civic awareness and public behavior.
Why is it that when men feel powerful, they want to insult women? For this we must understand how the feeling of power works at the level of the body, social structure, economic power and even in the mind. Misogyny is an outcome of the combination of all the above. At the level of the body, the male who feels powerful wants to feel a sense of command over female bodies, at the level of money power he feels that he can “obtain” women by offering them fine dining and other fineries. At the level of the mind, he feels that he can do without women, he can be emotionally free of them. The sense of power brings in a sense of hierarchy in which women are constructed as the lesser and the dispensable entity of existence. To be nice to women, to need them and to seek their companionship is looked down upon as weakness. The moment the male achieves, he projects himself as one who can disregard women. Such thoughts are ubiquitous across the human society though not so openly profligate elsewhere with a higher level of civic culture than in India. In other words, misogyny is almost a social instinct of the human society. High culture often can mask this instinct and the fact that Hardik and Rahul did not mask theirs it clearly shows their station in the relatively lower echelons of the society.
Media was once reserved for people who were genuinely exceptional but today its proliferation as technology has led to a hunger for content. The content famine has created spaces for prejudices and ignorance to fill in the place for genuine inspiration. Misogyny, among others gets a new legitimacy as content of the media. The episode of the cricketers is not an isolated event but is a general trend of the media which seeks excitement through digging into privately held superstitions and biases and setting them forth as public discourses. Such is also the symptom of an ever-growing fascist trend of the society when all that which lie concealed within humans suppressed by discourses of reason and tolerance, universality and common good bursts forth with vengeance to establish the personal over the public. This is perhaps why misogyny is so closely associated with fascism. The rise of the personal over the public, the particular over the universal, identity politics over liberal public sphere within which lie embedded biases like misogyny.