20 July 2009

When you don't do anything, do it in a sari

This graphic adorned The Telegraph’s front page a couple of days ago. In response to protests by women’s organizations, the paper’s reply was:

"For some months now, Bengal has looked like a state without an administration. Friday’s bandh and the unchecked vandalism on its eve further demonstrated the lack of will on the administration’s part to enforce the law.

In yesterday’s paper, the five top administrators were depicted as men in saris to illustrate the paralysis of government draped in humour.

Some of our readers and others have taken affront, seeing in it an assumption that women are weak. It is possible some may have associated the administrators in the graphic with women, which was not the intention of the visual device at all. We are sorry if the graphic gave that impression.

Some others have, however, expressed appreciation of the political message we sought to communicate and the humour.

The Telegraph practises gender equality. It also believes that women have long grown beyond stereotypes as the weaker sex in saris. Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee are just two examples of women in positions of strength. There are a million other unknown women — in saris or business suits — in whose daily shows of strength we rejoice in the pages of our newspaper. We hope our readers will see the Gang of Five in Saris in that context.

We also hope despite all its divisions, true to 19th century poet Ishwar Gupta’s words — Eto bhanga Bangadesh, tobu range bhara — Bengal still enjoys a good laugh."

As somebody said on Facebook, the explanation is worse than the original deed.

Now, if we assume, for a nano-second, that it was not The Telegraph’s intention to equate saris and thereby women with paralysis/immobility/sickness/weakness, will the paper then enlighten us on what was?

This was on the front page, so a lot of thought must have gone into it. Probably, an entirely editorial meeting or, at least, a discussion between the top editors. So, what exactly were they thinking when they did this? It’d be disgusting to know, but I’d still hear them out on how they’d defend such a primitive mode of thinking.

If not for saris, they’d have shown the five men wearing bangles, perhaps?

And, of course, Bengal will have a good laugh at this incredibly creative, path-breaking, out-of-the-box visual. I, for one, almost fell out of my chair laughing. They are too much man.

After all, this trendy unputdownable paper employs a lot of women, you see, so their gender-sensitive credentials are proven beyond doubt.

Just for curiosity sake, when the venerable editors of this paper were gleefully debating with their designer on whether the Gang of Five should wear this or that sari, and showing shock and surprise at the ruin Bengal has fallen into in the last few months (!!!!!! This is unbeatable, side-splitting humour. Way to go, TT!), did they call the administration a bunch of fatherfuckers, bhaichod, etc?

Am just curious, that’s all.


Debby said...

It's quite possible that in their 5 pm meeting, they forgot about how women would react to the FP photo. And it's possible that even 10 bright minds discussing this idea, automatically chose to depict these characters in saris without realizing the implications the picture may attract. You may be knowing, how sometimes the entire staff gets carried away with an evening's worth of idea, tossing aside reason and objectivity. So it happens.

Vijayalaxmi Hegde said...

To me, this incident just shows the staid ways of thinking in Indian newspaper rooms.

They were in no hurry to come up with the visual. Why didnt they press themselves to be creative? And not fall for this oft-repeated sexist joke? Even if there were some voices of protest in the edit meet, am sure they were snubbed. I know how these biggies think. They just cant be wrong.

And, even if for a minute, I assume what you're saying is right, what do I do with the reply? Do you feel there's a clear apology coming through? It just asks us to laugh it off!?