English   |   Bangla

Below The Belt

That image of Kate's dress: ToI wears its sexism on its front page

Nudity equals to sex appeal equals to visual gratification equals to great sales equals to winning the rating game.

 |  Below The Belt  |  6-minute read |   12-04-2016
  • ---
    Total Shares

This isn't the first time that Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton's pleated skirt has played truant, earning her the opportunity of yet another "Marilyn moment" - a term first coined by The Daily Mail.

This time it was during her much publicised and photographed visit to India, five years after she tied the knot and expressed an interest to visit our country.

In fact, the Duchess of Cambridge has quite the reputation of wardrobe malfunctions; one of Middleton's most infamous upskirt moments happening during her and Prince William's official visit to Canada in July 2011.

Again in 2013, at a charity event in London, she flashed a bit more leg than she probably intended in the midst of her duties as a patron of Place2Be, an anti-bullying organisation that provides mental health services. During that event, the wind suddenly picked up and sent her pleated skirt spiralling skywards. The most embarrassing part was that Middleton was in the middle of greeting a student when she practically revealed her royal undergarments.

Also read: ToI's image of Kate's dress doesn't fly with readers, outrage online

Likewise on October 21, 2014, her skirt went soaring up again when she was meeting the president of Singapore, with the press going ga-ga over the sudden skin show, two inches above her knees. The same thing happened again when the royal couple first touched down in Australia, as the wind blew her skirt up and lent all watching a voyeuristic view.

So then, why are we making this huge hullabaloo and crying foul when the leading national daily The Times of India carried a picture on its front page on Monday labelled "Kate's Marilyn Moment at India Gate"? The caption below the image said that Middleton had some "anxious moments as she struggled to manage her unruly 1,700-pound dress reminding onlookers of Marilyn Monroe's iconic 'white dress' picture".

kate_041216044025.jpg Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton's peek-a-boo moment in India. 

Is The Times of India plain sexist in a similar way that Indian films revel in sleazy item numbers with raunchy, double meaning, sexually-loaded lyrics that are aimed to turn on frontbenchers in a sexually frustrated nation, or is the paper merely trying desperately to emulate its Western counterparts which, in the true tradition of cheeky tabloid journalism, usually make a field day of such instances when a celebrity suffers an accidental peek-a-boo?

Is the widely read national daily going turning tabloidish by carrying on its front page, sleazy pictures of celebrities suffering wardrobe malfunctions, and garnishing it with raunchy, tongue-in-cheek headlines and bold, red circles, drawing our attention?

A woman's body, after all, is considered a canvas for stimulation and pleasure, even if it only appears on the pages of a magazine or a newspaper. Is The Times of India replaying what it did with Bollywood A-lister Deepika Padukone when it had tweeted a video shot deliberately to offer a sneak peek of Padukone's cleavage, with a titillating caption, "OMG! Deepika Padukone's cleavage show", circled just like Heat magazine's "circle of shame"?

The controversy snowballed into a veritable war of words between the actress - her publicity team turning this into a feminist war - and the publication. Now Padukone is a thinking, urban, young woman with her head firmly on her shoulders, who has been rather unabashed about her life, her affairs of the heart and her recent struggle with depression, but the Times of India video led her to unleash a flurry of strong-worded tweets that screamed hoarsely and defiantly, "Supposedly India's 'LEADING' newspaper and this is 'NEWS'!!??" Also, "YES! I am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??"

The Times of India claiming in defence that Pandukone regularly "flaunts" her body on the red carpet sounded vaguely familiar to the language employed on The Daily Mail's "Sidebar of Shame", where women are regularly reported to be "showing off their curves" as they lead their daily lives.

marilyn_041216044141.jpg Kate Middleton's wardrobe malfunction is being compared to Marilyn Monroe's famous "white dress" picture.

And for those of us now pointing fingers at how The Times of India is making a habit of sexually objectifying women celebs, are we forgetting crass sex comedies that rake in more than a hundred crores and are allowed to get past our holier than thou Censor Board that turns a convenient blind eye? Or raunchy Bhojpuri item songs with words like "khatiya" and "baby doll" used in the same breath being played unabashedly at every discotheque in the country and even at children's dance competitions on television with little children sporting garish make-up and gyrating like lustful adults, biting their puckered lower lips and rolling their kohl-drenched eyes?

Or fashion magazines that revel in photoshopped, immaculate, bikini bods that also make a clamour about stretch marks and post partum weight gain among the Page 3 crowd, or, Bollywood award nights based on a formulaic standard of actresses dancing in barely-there clothes, and flashy red carpet coverages that are all about a woman's thighs, back, cleavage?

Whether we like it or not sex sells and how. For those of us who have worked in the features team at The Times of India, the standing instructions were to always use pictures of celebs that were "sexy", and "revealing", where they are in "skimpy clothes". Nudity equals to sex appeal equals to visual gratification equals to great sales equals to winning the rating game.

Is The Times of India simply a reflection of what turns us on as a nation?

Why are we so celeb-obsessed and vulnerable about our bodies? Why has the Will-Kat visit made us follow their every move like hungry sharks? Why are we so interested in what Middleton's wearing? What is her desi dessing quotient? How she refused to taste a piece of dosa? If she's going to wear Amrapali earrings, or not? What Alia Bhatt and Aishwarya Rai wore to the evening gala dinner?

In a country where menstruating women aren't allowed to enter a temple's sanctum sanctorum, where godmen touch a woman's private parts in the name of blessing them with progeny, and where rape is linked to the amount of flesh a woman shows, is Middleton being punished for being too staid and boring for an audience that is used to chatpata celeb masala? That worships a woman and yet disrobes her daily, with its eyes, first...

Is the image of Middleton with her dishevelled skirt on The Times' front page just a symptom of the sexually starved culture that wants paisa wasool from its media? A media that sensationalises sex and can't have enough of a woman's body, which ironically makes the strongest news headlines.

Writer

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu Sreemoyee Piu Kundu @sreemoyeekundu

The writer is an ex lifestyle editor and PR vice president, and now a full-time novelist based in Delhi. She's the author of Faraway Music, Sita's Curse and You've Got The Wrong Girl! Also, a columnist on sexuality and gender and the recipient of NDTV L'oreal Women of Worth Award in the 'Literature' category.

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.