Following the solar energy scam and the sex tapes case, television channels and newspapers in Kerala have revealed their misogynist biases with their femme fatale diatribes
A few weeks ago, a friend travelling on work in Kerala called. She was perplexed. As a professional in the tourism field, she had to often visit Kerala. This time around, she was encountering increasing hostility, especially from men. It was quite contrary to her steady belief that one of the few things that saves a woman in Kerala from constant ogling and “commentadi”( the act of passing lewd comments) was her bold look and “don’t you dare act smart with me’ attitude.
I asked her to keep track of the local news. Since the last month, Kerala’s vibrant and powerful media have been busy bashing women by making broad generalisations about women’s criminal minds. All because of two women. One, was Saritha Nair who was involved in the solar energy scam, which has put several politicians in the dock and another was a woman’s act of recording a sitting MLA’s alleged sexual advances.
Saritha Nair is an accomplice of Biju Radhakrishnan in the Solar Energy Scam that is reported to be much more than the official estimate of Rs.10 crore. Though several politicians directly and indirectly supported the company set up by Saritha Nair and murder accused Biju Radhakrishnan, investors lost money in the vain hope of making a huge profit while tapping Kerala’s solar energy potential.
When the story of ‘Sarithorjam’ (Saritha energy) as the media repulsively put it – was making its misogynistic waves, a more sleazy and juicy story came in. A 30-year-old woman approached the police with a CD of alleged sexual abuse by a sitting MLA. The woman was in a relationship with the son of MLA Jose Thettayil. The families were reportedly on the verge of fixing their marriage when the MLA allegedly sexually abused the woman. Thettayil allegedly demanded sexual favors again under the pretext that his consent is crucial if she really wanted to get married to his son. The woman decided to record the MLA in action; she taped her and the politician in her apartment and went to the police with the CD.
How on earth would a decent Malayali woman have the audacity to record sexual acts on a web cam?
As the video tapes played out, the news channels resembled the sleazy posters of adult movies shown in dilapidating theaters in one’s neighborhood.
Most news channels and print media competed with each other in shifting focus from the real issues of corruption, mis-governance and sexual abuse. A leading newspaper published a series of articles, on why an increasing number of women are becoming Karuthammas – Black women (a brahminical term for immoral/deceitful woman).
Some journalists commented about Saritha Nair’s silk saris and the amount of makeup she wears. The main accused, Biju Radhakrishnan -who confessed to having killed his wife seven years ago- and the politicians who kept the dubious company alive till date, were nowhere in the media headlines. It was just Saritha Nair and the way she seduced the rich and the powerful of Kerala.
This phenomenon was similarly represented in the online social media networks. On Facebook, a platform where classic Malayali voyeurism takes its supreme form, a well-known Left leaning poet took this line — “Woman, your good looks is your wealth” — from a poem written by a legendary Kerala poet Vallathol and made it his status message. A journalist wrote on his FB wall that he wouldn’t dare to press the ‘like’ button on any woman’s posts from now on, as he is not sure how many Saritha Nairs and hidden sex tapes are out there. Why lose reputation by supporting women on Facebook?
In a supposedly progressive e-group in Kerala where a lot discussions around media and politics take place, a member trotted out his hidden misogyny by asking whether it is wrong for a “father and son to eat from the same plate” ( in response to the woman’s allegations of that both father and son sexually abused her).
What is highly disturbing is the fact that the media is blatantly hypocritical and misogynist when it comes reporting on male and female criminals. Kerala, since 1980s, has been in the news for several cases of kidnap and rape of young girls. In some cases influential people including politicians were accused of rape.
When the accused are men, media would play down the growing violence against women by making general statements such as – the number of criminals in the society are increasing, rapes are increasing and the most important question- where are the feminists – as if it is the feminists’ responsibility to control growing sexual violence.
But if a woman is at the centre of a cheating case, sex trade or human trafficking, the reportage changes. A blame game starts and scandalous generalisations are made about woman’s criminal mentality and their immoral instincts. Religious and community leaders, along with stalwarts of Malayali patriarchy, script speeches putting the blame on material things that trigger the criminal thoughts in women. And these material things include–don’t laugh, ‘mobile phones, jeans, lipstick, internet, co-ed schools etc.
The message is clear and uncompromising – let us start the ‘shame the woman’ game. Look around; there are Sarithas everywhere. They use their sexual charm to seduce our good men. They destroy our otherwise serene social fabric. In short, watch out for the femme fatale.
The author is a journalist in kerala and her name has been withheld on request