Women are human beings. These words should seem self-evident. If you disagree with this you might as well stop reading any further, as you will not find any resonance with the rest of this article.
It was just another usual weekday morning. Wake up, check the newspaper while enjoying your hot cup of coffee, surf the social networking sites through your phone – you know, the usual.
This was until I found a photo posted by India’s badminton star Jwala Gutta on her Facebook page. What is odd in posting a picture of yourself on your own page, you might ask. Nothing.
Except for the lewd comments on the picture that followed.
You might be wondering what exactly makes these comments vulgar. Here’s one for example:
“Sexy…but, who’s this? Porn star? Film star? Or sports star??? Who are you & what do you want???”
Indeed, if you use social media platforms to stay up to date with the world and to connect with you friends, you might have encountered verbal abuse in some form or the other. Women in particular, are very often objectified on the web. In the virtual world, sexual harassment of women is a disturbing grey area, and in the absence of stringent laws regarding the same, it becomes more pronounced.
Celebrities, being public figures, face this almost on a daily basis. However, sports personalities being objectified is something that comes as a surprise to me. These are the people who bring pride and win accolades for the country. They sacrifice a lot and give everything to the sport just so that they can keep the Indian flag flying high. They should not be objects of some pervert’s fantasies.
And yet, here we are – with trolls of the 21st century alive and well. We have advanced in so many aspects of life and yet, there are still people who objectify women. Special categories are reserved for the women we perceive as ‘worthy’ of objectification – strippers, cheerleaders, models and reality stars. However, when sports personalities are objectified, it becomes more than just nuisance.
Even the strongest of professional athletes cannot escape the stigma bestowed upon womankind. If you are an incredibly handsome male badminton player from India, who is ranked 150th in the world, you are, in all probability, soon going to be an accountant. However, if you are a very pretty female badminton player from India, ranked 650th in the world, chances are, you will be more talked-about than the higher-ranked male player.
I wanted to delve deeper into this problem. And the more I researched, the more disturbed I got. Not only do people go on the athletes’ profiles and comment on their pictures, but there are dedicated pages for the purpose of passing crude comments. What struck me most vividly is that most of the offenders don’t even know about the achievements of the sports stars, while the rest do not acknowledge them.
On Facebook alone, there are hundreds of pages and groups devoted to the objectification of women, with some even devoted to sports personalities. And thousands of people actually follow these pages or are members of these groups.
There exist numerous Facebook pages that go by names like ‘Saanniaa Mirzza Shaggers’, ‘Mayanti Langer “Bustiest n Sexiest Sports Journalist”’, etc. These pages specialize in providing their followers with pictures of the respective personalities, which they somehow always manage to make provocative.
The people who follow these pages comment about their fantasies, and some of the posts are so derogatory that any self-respecting human being would shudder in horror while reading them.
One of the comments on a picture of badminton ace Saina Nehwal in traditional attire read: “face is not gud but navel is toooooooooo gud…..”
In Sania Mirza’s case, the fact that she is married to a Pakistani cricketer is not very well-received among the Indian followers of such pages. While there are numerous pages branding her as “Deshdrohi”, there are an equal number of pages that objectify the tennis star.
One of the comments on a picture of Mirza playing a shot read: “don’t strike me pls! allow me first to touch your bo**s.”
Other comments like, “c*m on her glasses” and “Sania Mirza perfect b**ch” were all over the internet.
After almost an hour of browsing, by which time I had nearly lost respect for the male species as a whole, I decided to click on one of the profiles who had made a lewd comment. Turns out, the individual has liked a lot of other pages such as “Rock you c**k”, “Hot sports girls temper”, “Shagging Bollywood” amongst others.
The likes of Dipika Pallikal, Tania Sachdev and other female sports stars of India face the same problem. The underlying problem is the mentality of their ‘fans’. Mind you, not all men are perverts and no one is a born pervert. But there is not much that we can do about it either.
Our perception of women in sports is not going to change. I suppose we don’t even know where exactly the change is needed. But let us at least pay more attention to this issue and what our role in it should be. Maybe, just maybe, our contribution to the underlying cause will help eradicate the problem.Published 22 Nov 2016, 17:29 IST