“All these feminazi c*nts hating on Omprakash Mishra for his song is the purest form of hypocrisy. I agree that the song is cringey but he has his freedom and can sing whatever he wants to. The song goes like ‘Bolna aunty aau kya, ghanti mai bajau kya?’ I don't see rape threats in the lyrics and he is definitely asking for consent but these feminazis have to delude everything... I hate the song but I hate these feminist bigots more,” reads a status update on a Facebook page called “Random Screenshots of Indians on Internet”.
Who is Omprakash Mishra and what is 'Aunty Ki Ghanti'?
Omprakash Mishra is an aspiring Indian rap artist who goes by the name of “Rap King” on YouTube and his claim to fame is a song called “Aunty Ki Ghanti (Aunty’s Bell)”, a song about the artist’s wish to have sexual relations with an older woman, who, according to the lyrics, is quite the promiscuous woman, and yet does not give in to the rapper’s wishes.
The song released on December 31, 2015, like tonnes of other songs on the Indian internet, lived in relative obscurity for quite some time before it was discovered by Indian meme pages. The pages, realising the song’s value as a cringe-pop number, milked it to its fullest and the video got 3,624,750 views (though the original video has been removed now).
“Bol na aunty, aau kya? (Tell me aunty, should I come?)”, at this point, has achieved meme status, with actual events materialising where teenagers have taken to the streets, shouting the lyrics, celebrating Mishra’s crude lyrics and demonstrating a phenomenon that can only be called “the internet leaking into real life”.
Journalist and culture-writer Bhanuj Kappal, in an essay describing cringe-pop on Arré, says, “The rise of 'cringe-pop' is a culmination of many factors, including the rise of technology that makes music and video production accessible to anyone with a laptop and spare time; the very human traits of meanness and schadenfreude, and an internet-mediated obsession with the surreal and the absurd. It’s a phenomenon that’s part village idiot and part situationist intervention.”
It’s a reasonable explanation for why a badly made video, with terrible lip-sync and worse lyrics has gained this level of fame. People who have, and continue to enjoy the song, don’t like the words. Their love for the song is purely ironic and decidedly elitist, as they laugh at this “Rap King” spouting rhymes about his aspirational sexual exploits.
It’s the same reason why we have enjoyed Taher Shah’s mispronunciation of the word “angel”, and ironically rocked out to Dhinchak Pooja’s “Swag Waali Topi”. But urban elitism is not the only thing at play when it comes to this song.
A HuffPost India article from September 13, called the song out, and all those shouting its lyrics on the street as sexist. “It is appalling that a song so unmistakably sexually aggressive in its intent, with every lyric objectifying and belittling women, has been elevated to the status of a youth anthem,” argued Sonali Kokra in her piece.
Subsequently, there have been more pieces commenting on the song and why it is toxic, misogynistic and perpetuates rape culture. A Youth Ki Awaaz opinion piece by Jayesh Mehta uses words like “profane”, “moral depravity” and “pervert” while describing the song and the artist.
Hip-hop and misogyny
Hip-hop as a genre of music has always been chock-full of toxic masculinity, violence and misogyny. Both in song lyrics and music videos, hip-hop has done more than its fair share in adding to a culture of glorifying, justifying, and normalising the objectification, degradation and exploitation of women. Gang wars, guns and b*tches of the 90s gave way to parties, affluenza, drugs and b*tches in the new millennium, and north India’s patriarchal culture soaked it all in as Punjabi hip-hop artist set the trend for the genre and subculture.
Both, black hypermasculinity in American hip-hop and Punjabi excesses and toxic masculinity in Indian hip-hop have far-reaching consequences. An essay in The Wire examined Punjab’s “geri culture” as a reason behind the Chandigarh stalking incident. The “geri culture”, however it started, is at present a manifestation of the toxic hypermasculinity and rampant misogyny in north Indian hip-hop.
Honey Singh and Badshah, two of the biggest names in Indian hip-hop, came under fire a few years ago for a song they wrote called “Ch**t (a derogatory Hindi word for vagina)”. The song was just two men describing a woman who likes sex and the ways both of them want to, or have, had sex with her. That the song reduces women to sexual objects is an understatement.
Mishra’s song works in a similar vein. The aunty in the song is accused of having many lovers. He slut-shames her for the same, while harbouring resentment for the aunty because she does not consider him worthy enough to share her bed.
"Dekh ke jawani teri jhatka meinu lagta hai, neeche wala dekh mera saltue tenu karta hai, (your youth electrifies me, my nether regions are saluting you),” says Mishra proudly, something that is sure to earn anyone a slap should they dare utter these words on the street. Or at least one would have thought so, before scores of teens did exactly that, earning little more than condemnation from a few culture-critics on the internet.
Mishra’s song, like Honey Singh and Badshah's does not talk about rape, does not violate a woman’s consent, and does not in any way condone rape/sexual assault. But they both reek of rape culture. They both do their best to glorify a culture that sees women not as human beings with agency, but as object whose purpose is nothing more than to fulfil the sexual desires of the alpha male. The very fact that people shouting the song’s distasteful lyrics on the street was met with laughter and good-humoured mock-exasperation – a BuzzFeed article about the event felt it was worthy of the use of The Simpsons quote “what a time to be alive” – is the normalisation of casual misogyny at work.
Those defending the song as essentially harmless, like the aforementioned Facebook page, fail to grasp this very notion. Indian meme pages on the internet work on the principle of in-your-face edgy humour. Nothing is sacred and everything is fair game to them – starting from politicians to actors to SJWs (social justice warriors) to Dalits to just about anything under the sun. These meme pages, in their 4chan like quality, are active defendants of freedom of expression, which for them translates into the right to make fun of everything. Similarly, like 4chan again, these pages are a hotbed for misogyny and have created a culture of hatred for anything that critiques insensitive humour and attempts at a discourse that is more politically correct.
Is it then surprising at all that these are the same people defending Omprakash Mishra’s song and bashing those who imply that it’s a gateway to normalising rape culture.
Tech writer Pranav Dixit in a BuzzFeed essay about “guys-only WhatsApp groups” talks about this culture of closeted sexism. He argues that, “to anyone who believes in equality between the genders, there is genuinely no humour to be found in jokes that make oppressing or hating women the punch line. Every joke that relies on hitting or hating your wife reveals a marriage in which one member sees the other as inferior. Every punch line that hinges on stereotypes about female behaviour and sexualising women’s bodies reveals deep misogyny and disrespect for women you live with and work with.”
Accusing people of being oversensitive towards a gender issues and reducing every criticism of misogynistic pop-culture to a need for political correctness is easy.
Those grumbling about SJWs and feminazis are only afraid of letting go the privilege that allows them to laugh at a less-sophisticated rap artist, and make light of situations and issues that does not affect them.
It is mostly men who see the criticism, but not the culture of casual sexism, as the problem.
Misogyny is considered a hate crime in many countries; in India, it is one of the oldest traditions. Needless to say, tightly guarded and religiously followed.