All women, even Bollywood A-listers, have been victims of misogyny and sexism at some point in their lives. It is even rampant in the film industry, with many films promoting toxic masculinity and downplaying the need for consent, and cyber bullies targeting actresses with personal and negative comments about their weight, looks, intellect, attitude, relationships, and so on. However, some of our Bollywood divas have occasionally chosen to fight back against such gender bias and misogynistic comments. Here are some examples of excellent comebacks they have given and questions they have raised:
Sonam Kapoor’s response on being called a ‘bimbo’ online for her comments on the meat ban in India:
“Before being judgmental a**holes. What I said was a critique of the general mentality .. Which is not exclusive to the banning of meat. And the saddest thing about this whole thing is.. That it's mostly women who are calling me out on being bimbo. Guess it's not only the men!
Huma Qureshi, in an interview with Hindustan Times, talked about the pressure on girls to look beautiful all the time:
“Whether I’m putting up a picture of an egg or doing something funny, I don’t care if I’m wearing makeup or not. I’m very happy with how I look. I never had any problem in getting work or male attention. All this is expected from girls only — wear makeup and look beautiful. My guy friends don’t always have to do their hair and makeup. I’m often told to make my airport looks stylish, and I’m like ‘airport par kaun heels pehenta hai’?”
When a leading media publication tweeted a photo of her cleavage with the caption "OMG: Deepika Padukone's cleavage show", Deepika Padukone responded on Twitter: "YES! I am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??"
She then penned down her thoughts in a longer post: “I have no issue celebrating my body and I have never shied away from anything on-screen to portray a character. In fact my next character portrayed is a bar dancer (sorry Farah for the spoiler!) who titillates men as a means to support her livelihood. My issue is you propagating the objectification of a REAL person,and not a character being played. Sure,dissect my characters if you wish-if it is of so much interest then discuss the character's cup size and leg length if it is relevant to making the role convincing. All I am asking for is respect as a woman off-screen.”
Parineeti Chopra schooled a journalist, at an event organised by a sanitary napkin brand, when he called menstruation “a problem”:
“I have come here to beat up people like these… men really need to understand what periods are and understand it is not a problem. They are very healthy and natural.”
Shruti Seth wrote an open letter to the people of India, based on the hurtful remarks she was subjected to, following her tweet to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticising his #Selfiewithdaughter campaign:
“Men and women alike said the most vile things about me, stripping me of all my dignity as someone’s daughter, wife and mother and most importantly a woman. Men who were busy hash-tagging their selfies with their daughters one minute called me slanderous names the next. What is the point of taking selfies with your girls when you’re also responsible for creating the most toxic environment for them to grow up in? How will taking a photograph nullify the misogyny and patriarchy that is so deeply entrenched in our society?”
These are just a few of countless excellent comebacks that many Bollywood divas have given to counter sexism which creeps up in unexpected ways. We hope that these lovely and strong ladies of Bollywood will continue to be vocal about these issues as they impact the daily lives of women in India and elsewhere. Their courage and bold stance inspires women to speak up for themselves and for other women around them who are often subjected to disrespectful comments and behaviour, and various injustices, simply due to their gender and perceived vulnerability.