Why Maanvi Gagroo's letter on 'Boys Locker Room' doesn't help
An Instagram group "Bois Locker Room" has shown how problematic the thoughts of the current generation are when it comes to rape, objectification of women, and sexual violence. As the row caught India's attention, it was only a matter of time that a celebrity opined on it. Maanvi Gagroo did, but it would have been better had she remained quiet. Let's explain why.
First, what is the Instagram controversy all about?
Boys of posh Delhi schools who are not more than 17 years were exposed on social media on Sunday. In the private chat, they circulated images of underage girls, without their consent, objectified their body parts, and also casually discussed rape. When the screenshots of the conversation were leaked, they threatened to release nude pictures of some girls. One 15-year-old was apprehended on Monday.
Maanvi's intentions may have been pure; letter didn't reflect it
Weighing in on the matter, Maanvi, famous for her role in Four More Shots Please and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhaan, penned an open letter which began with a quote of former US First Lady Michelle Obama. "The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls," the letter read. Maanvi also mentioned how society has changed for the worse.
From rape jokes to internalized patriarchy, Maanvi discussed all
Maanvi said victims shouldn't be blamed and slammed the culture where rape jokes are passed in a blink of an eye. The idea of saving for a daughter's wedding and a son's education still persists, she argued. "Yes, misogyny begins at home. It seeps through our words. It reinstates through our actions & it is enabled through our gender-based morality, (sic)" she went on.
Bad parenting is not the only problem, she claimed
In the latter half of the letter, Maanvi said everything can't be blamed on bad parenting. Saying all of us are complicit, she added, "This is not the first or the only time a 'boys locker room' has existed. And it sure as hell won't be the last." She suggested against asking questions like what was the rape victim wearing, among other points.
Maanvi didn't scratch the surface, stuck to a set template
While we aren't judging Maanvi's intentions (everyone has reached the tipping point when it comes to violence against women), her arguments aren't new. Since the horrendous Nirbhaya rape case, we have been hearing the same statements from celebrities to a point that it seems they are following a set template. Her letter was banal and didn't offer any new perspectives.
The letter is tone-deaf and tiring to read
What Maanvi misses, much like all other Bollywood celebrities preaching empowerment, is that the very industry they work for objectifies women. From item songs to skimpy dresses, Bollywood and TV series do it all, and more often than not sell it as "feminism". The stories surrounding women are mediocre, to say the least, and just like their opinions, they are stale.
Unlike Maanvi, experts didn't give bad parenting a clean chit
While Maanvi made some pertinent points, her absolving bad parenting did more harm than good. In fact, the principal of one of the schools, where the boys studied, noted that parents need to be more involved. "They (parents) are ready to give children unfettered access to smartphones but, in many cases, discussions around responsibility and respect are missing," the principal said.
Perhaps, celebrities' love for garnering headlines knows no limit
Rather than sticking to the same arguments, one expects people with outreach to focus on bringing up topics like gender sensitizing, putting the onus on parents, better upbringing of kids, and breaking taboos around sex. But celebrities, in a bid to garner headlines and stay relevant, rarely mention topics that could make a difference. Maanvi's case is clearly no different.