Before yesterday, Indian male stand-up comedians were the front-runners as Indian feminist men. So many of these men have done stand-up acts on gender issues, rape and volleyed openly for equal rights for women. But then yesterday, one woman came out with allegations of creepy behaviour against comedian Utsav Chakraborty. Her courage gave strength to many other women who put forward stories of disturbing behaviour on Chakraborty’s part, where he allegedly demanded their nude pictures. Shockingly, one such allegation was levied by a minor.
The comedian has since issued a lengthy apology (curiously devoid of the word sorry), in which he shared every possible reason from his illness to his isolation, as defence. The guy also disturbingly tried to defend himself by saying that the male genitalia pictures that he sent to girls were not his own. Amidst all his bizarre self-victimisation, one thing has become clear, that he was all along pretending to be a feminist, to gain more following, work and popularity.
It makes one wonder, have these men reduced feminism to a mere stand-up performance? Do they purely endorse feminism for the sake of popularity? Or is it that they have a limited understanding of the issues we face, just like many other men?
You cannot alter your definition of gender issues as per your convenience
The saddest part is that so many in Chakraborty’s circle have admitted to knowing of his behaviour. They are now busy either distancing themselves from him, or putting up well-constructed messages to show solidarity with women. The important question is, why didn’t anyone dare to warn women of his behaviour? If these people believed so much in gender issues, how it didn’t cross their minds that by not speaking up against him, they were putting more naïve girls in harm’s way?
- Comedian Utsav Chakraborty has been allegedly accused by multiple women, of demanding nude pictures from them on social media.
- Many in Chakraborty’s circle have reportedly admitted to knowing of his creepy behaviour. They are all now busy either distancing themselves from him, or putting up well-constructed messages to show solidarity with women.
- The woke boys of comedy circuit in India have to come clean now and stop protecting their brothers. Because merely doing a stand-up act on feminism doesn’t make you a feminist.
- Demanding nudes from women, or thinking of female fans as opportunities for sexual escapades also makes you a chauvinist.
The woke boys of comedy circuit in India have to come clean now and stop protecting their brothers. Merely doing a stand up on feminism doesn’t make you a feminist. Besides you cannot expand or reduce the ambit of gender issues as per your convenience. Demanding nudes from women, or thinking of female fans as opportunities for sexual escapades also makes you guilty. One who uses gender issues as a trope to gain following and empathy and then insidiously uses feminism to exploit and harass women.
Being someone who invests a considerable amount of time and energy to watch stand up acts, I am not sure will ever be able to look at the comedy circuit in India with the same gaze again. Not without questioning their understanding of feminism or harassment. It is very easy to call out predatory behaviours like rape and assault. However, it is very difficult to face your own misogyny. Today, it feels as if feminism got reduced to being a punch line.
I am sure not many women will now be able to listen to a male stand-up comedian's take on gender issues, without doubting their credibility. But by keeping quiet the industry has brought this mistrust upon itself.
Like every industry, our comedians needed a wake-up call. On how this assumption that they support women’s rights is just half-baked, and their stand against harassment is susceptible to flexibility when it comes to their own or their friends’ behaviour. It actually reflects the commonplace convenient feminist stand among many men in our society. Who only support women’s right until it benefits them. Call out a Kavanaugh or a Patekar for their monstrous behaviour, but when it comes to asking for nudes or creeping out unsuspecting women, it is "complicated issue", which requires elaborate explanation.
Note: Utsav reached out to SheThePeople in 2020, via DMs and email saying, "Despite the thing that has happened to me, I would still consider myself a feminist (by principle). I understand what happened to me was an anecdote and not a statistic. An exception and not the norm. I will never make broad strokes generalisations about women based on this very specific sociological phenomenon that befell me. In fact, I have a lot of actively feminist women to thank who helped me through all of this."
Picture Credit : Facebook/Utsav Chakraborty. Article was updated in 2020 when Utsav shared this email.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.