By Tanvi Sharma

Edited by Michelle Cherain, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

The realm of popular culture has always managed to draw attention from the masses. A fashion photographer who goes by the name Raj Shetye put up pictures of his latest photo shoot, on the theme of “gang rape in a bus.” The photos drew flak from several quarters and had to be taken down eventually.

However, the big question arises, “Is rape a glamour quotient?” Certainly not! When will the ‘objectification’ of women end? Perhaps never! Women have always been depicted as ‘objects’ to be subjected to male gaze in popular cinema. This particular photo shoot depicts models dressed in haute couture enacting a gang rape scene inside a bus. A crime as heinous as rape was glamorized sending a message that rape is stylish and fancy. Since stylish models were enacting the scene, the fashion shoot equalized rape to an act of heroism.

The concept of “male gaze” has been ever prevalent in our society and popular culture at large. Most of the films show scantily clad or naked women in an objectified manner to serve the male gaze. Such an objectification is evidence of the highly skewed gender relations in our patriarchal society. Almost all the films have a scene where the camera pans over the woman’s body, lingers over her body parts, accentuates her curves and shows the woman figure in a highly sexualized manner. Women are seen as nothing but objects of desire. The photo shoot titled “Wrong Turn” also shows the female model as an object being controlled by men. More so, this very control has been glamorized and depicted in a positive manner. All this because the control of the camera is with a heterosexual man, Raj Shetye!

It is this kind of portrayal that further leads to power asymmetry in the society at large. This kind of portrayal of women re-inforces the superiority of men and degrades the value of women in the society. In Indian movies, the concept of “item girls” but no “item boys” carries forward the fact that male gaze is given primacy over female gaze. I wonder why women take off their clothes in cinema more often than men. Will my gender always spend its life wooing men and drawing pleasure from its own objectification? Will women ever stop looking at themselves from the angle of the “male gaze”? Will movie makers and photographers ever stop satisfying the “male gaze”?

Photography is an art and fashion is a reflection of social issues. Both these instruments can be used to draw attention to social issues and create a positive impact among the masses. Insensitivity towards the society at large in order to garner cheap publicity is nothing short of appalling. Popular culture can be used in a responsible and mature manner to initiate thought provoking discussions and debates. Mindsets can be changed through popular culture and therefore it is required that art forms should be handled with care. One “wrong turn” can have a huge impact on the liberty of a certain section of the society. If the same photo shoot had been carried by treating the subject with adequate gravity, it could have been worthy of approbation.

16th December 2012. A day that shamed our nation! The gang rape of a 23 year old girl in a moving bus stirred all of us beyond imagination. Millions of prayers followed and thousands of tears were shed, roads were jammed by the protestors all across the nation. Sadly, not much has changed in our country even after this heinous incident. The Nirbhaya inspired fashion shoot needs to be whole heartedly condemned.

Tanvi firmly believes in the power of words over weapons. She is here to change the way people look at things. An avid reader, a closet singer and an inveterate foodie who can live her entire life on the Internet.

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind