Seems like everyone is allowed an opinion on what a woman should wear – except for the woman in question. In India, it’s interesting how, if a woman chooses to wear a bikini – it’s considered blasphemous, and if one wears a hijab, that too is cause for uproar. There is no winning in this uphill battle – just ask Ira Khan – the newest target for internet trolls.
On Monday, for her birthday, Ira shared some pictures of herself clad in a bikini on Instagram. One of the photos show Ira cutting the cake, while her dad Aamir Khan and the family cheer for her.
And the trolls were quick to dole out their expert opinions. All they seem to do is sit around waiting for women to do something, anything at all, and lunge at the opportunity to pen offensive remarks. In this particular incident, the trolls barked on, saying, “leave India”, and “shameless family” – words like, ‘sankaar’ and ‘culture’ were also intermittently used with slurs.
Do Women Have the Luxury of Choice?
In a way, the trolls swiftly attacked her identity. They jibed at her lack of hijab or burqa – bringing to fore the blatant Islamophobia that is simmering in the country and the amusement they draw from scoffing at the Muslim community. Failing to understand, it’s the choice that is primary when one chooses to wear something or not. It’s the agency some women are fortunate enough to exercise. And every time a woman is chastised for her choice of clothes – whatever it may be – one is attempting to take the choice away from her.
The Growing Intolerance of a Secular India
Trolls also called out Aamir Khan, who a few years ago, highlighted the growing intolerance in India. Yet, religious divisions have only become painstakingly obvious since then. And women’s bodies still appear to be the battleground. In this case, petty remarks breed the growing communal bigotry.
'Sanskriti'; A Crash-Course On Controlling Women's Bodies
Some trolls, on the other end, live to uphold the “Sanskriti” of the nation. They pen long tirades on how women smear their ‘culture’ by wearing “less” clothes. But it’s an elusive term that is largely used to control women’s mobility and choice. The word was coined during the colonial era and gained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. It has a long history of being politicised for various agendas – one of which is to clearly manipulate women.
What's Aamir Khan Got to do With it?
“How can you wear that in front of your father?” was perhaps the most frequently commented remark on the post. Slightly disconcerting, because the first reflexive thought would be – why can’t she, that’s her parent? But at the same time, the idea of respect vis-a-vis one's clothes is quite normal in India. Although the co-relation and its causation do not make any sense.
In the end, though, Ira’s photos were a fresh change from the photoshopped, touched up pictures we are used to in this day and age. It’s a nod to all those women who mindlessly scroll through Instagram aspiring for bodies that don’t even exist in real life. The fad diets that celebrities advocate – giving up on certain food groups, cabbage soup and whatnot – are the concocted realities of the seeming glow that is achieved through virtual brush-ups. Ira, simply shared some fun pictures from a cherished moment in her life.
But the trolls incessantly charged at her and made it less of a celebratory moment and more of a reminder of how much control people still attempt to exert over women's bodies. And it’s interesting how most were parroting the same opinions decorated with abusive slurs – while cornering a public figure as they anonymously prattled on about “Sanskriti”.
It’s a sad state of affairs, where the hyper-focus on women’s bodies leads to more harm than good. And Ira deviates from the elusive ideal. The trolls attempt to bog her down, lunging at her identity, but they ultimately underline their shortcoming not hers.