Flying Beast controversy: Looking at how Instagram influencer sexism is conveniently packaged as two-bit humour and crass innuendos to millions of social media users. How far does such content resemble boys’ club humour? Does that make it easy for audiences to validate their misogynist behaviours? Where must influencers draw the line?
Popular content creator Gaurav Taneja, better known as ‘Flying Beast’ to his fans, recently took to Instagram to share news of a swanky car purchase with his two million plus followers. Alongside a picture of himself, his wife and their new possession, he wrote, “Finally took the delivery of our new car. Jai Mata Di.” It seemed like a regular harmless life update, something not too extraordinary given how customary it has become for such milestones to be announced on social media.
A comment on the photo from Taneja’s contemporary and triply popular influencer Bhuvam Bam was where things began going sharply downhill. He asked Taneja, “Bhai. Kitna deti hai?” (a Hindi phrase colloquially used for referring to a vehicle’s mileage) The new car’s owner responded, “Abhi toh nayi nayi hai… abhi sharmaa rahi hai,” [She’s new and hence shy to ‘give’.]
Taneja’s response to Bam can be read two ways: as a simple reply to a question on mileage and a clearly double innuendo-laden reply to a question on “mileage.” As I see it, the emojis the creator has inserted at the end of what he thinks is clever humour is a giveaway of what he intended the statement to sound like. And so he made it sound exactly like that: horribly misogynist and distastefully vulgar.
His fans, majorly male, got the ‘joke’ and thoroughly enjoyed it too.
See the same pointed out by a Twitter user, whose post has caught the attention of thousands online:
just a very few replies on bb’s comment. nobody is talking about “mileage” here. don’t tell me that they didn’t expect such a response, they knew exactly they were saying. u all defending this are the worst kind of people who are contributing to a culture which harms women. pic.twitter.com/4WBbS4Af9M
— Agatha Srishtie 🌸 (@SrishtyRanjan) April 5, 2021
If there are doubts over whether Taneja’s supposed humour is being misconstrued into something it is not, his fans make amply clear that it is precisely as sexist as we think it is. “ye badhiya tha guru,” one user wrote. “babhi tho 4 saal purani hogye h thu sharmati nahi hogi,” another commented, referring to Taneja’s wife who was also in the frame. “purani wali sahi se deti hai kya apki,” another asked.
The influencer’s remark was far from being either unwitting or innocent or decent. Very clearly. And see the kind of trash it dragged in?
Boys will be boys? No sir, women shouldn’t have to tolerate humour that degrades us.
For all the praises showered on them for being fearlessly vocal and unabashedly themselves, social media content creators often take that candour and turn it around into the most dangerous, oppressive narratives.
We have examined previously how CarryMinati, in his infamous ‘TikTok roast’ last year dispersed homophobia to millions of viewers. (The likes of Bam defended CarryMinati. More here.) We also noted last year how male influencers like Shubham Mishra and Hindustani Bhau promoted the worst kind of hate speech and encouraged violence against comedian Agrima Joshua. Now remarks on Taneja’s photos exhibit how popular the notion of male propriety over women’s bodies and sexualities still is.
Are influencers dishing out bois’ locker room talk in the name of seemingly harmless comedy?
Where is the accountability for disseminating views online that are, in every way, anti-women and sexually offensive? Throw up your hands all you like, but this is not an overreaction. Comments such as Taneja’s are enabling and platforming casual sexism and female objectification. The thousands that followed, along that same vein, only go to show how the influencer’s purported humour gave “mileage” to so many other misogynists who found their own thoughts reflected in his statement.
From where I see it, this was just a public, albeit a lesser intense, re-play of the bois’ locker room conversation. Where it’s perfectly okay for men to discuss women and their capacity to ‘give’ in bed. The kind of talk that is often brushed aside with the ‘boys will be boys’ justification. A space where women are still ‘objects’ whose worth and value can be adjudged via loose chats. Something that needs to be called out urgently, before it festers past cure.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
Image Credit: Gaurav Taneja, Bhuvan Bam / Instagram