Businessman and former IPL chairman Lalit Modi made his relationship with actor Sushmita Sen public with a social media post last week. Ever since the two have become a subject of crass jokes about women being gold diggers and “ugly” men getting hitched to beautiful women because of their bank balance. So much for the notion that society only burdens women’s existence with beauty stereotypes. Isn’t this a case of reverse sexism?
Over the last few days, I have seen countless tweets, memes and reels about Modi, an ugly old man according to many social media users, dating a former Miss Universe. Some have called their relationship a goal for other men – if you are rich, then you don’t have to worry about looks. If you keep at it, you can get a beauty queen to fall for you even in your 50s.
Lalit Modi called ugly
Writing on why Modi chose to make the relationship public but Sen kept mum about it, one user tweeted, “There’s one more take which tries to understand Lalit Modi’s desperation in a sympathetic light. Almost everyone will try to make the relationship official if the other person is Sushmita Sen. Besides, think about this possibility from the point of view of an ugly man.”
Another user went on to call him an inspiration, writing, “Earn so much money that even if your face is ugly, you still have the beauty of the world lalit Modi is our true inspiration!”
Sen had shared an article by SheThePeople which called on the tendency to label women as gold diggers for their choice of partners. If you check the comments under her tweets, it is brimming with misogyny and reverse sexism. One response that stands out is a meme made using pictures of Sen with her former boyfriend Rohman Shawl and then one with Modi, with the caption, “If she can leave this guy (Shawl) for this guy (Modi) & you still believe urs gf vl never ditch you.”
Suggested Reading: The Problematic Culture Of Calling Women Gold Diggers
Lalit Modi is a controversial figure, being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate for financial irregularities. Many people may be conflicted about his standing as a public personality, but does this give anyone the right to shame him for his looks?
We often discuss how stereotypes related to beauty are a disturbingly common part of every woman’s life, no matter what age. Not to a similar extent, but men are judged for their looks too. Just look at the fame earned by good actors like Rajesh Sharma, Pitobash Tripathy, Sanjay Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal etc., and compare it to the popularity of the conventionally handsome Khans, Singhs and Kapoors. Looks matter, six-pack abs draw viewers, and a superstar is always well-groomed, even when he is fighting 20 goons. Is he ever pot-bellied? How many leading men flaunt a dark complexion on the silver screen, unless it is for a character who comes from an underprivileged background?
Men are often told that if they are not attractive, they need to have a great bank balance if they want to impress women. A deeply toxic idea which paints women as gold diggers or suckers for good looks and reduces the value of men to their appearance or pay cheque. While women have been conditioned to heap certain expectations on their future partners, men have internalised the notion that an “ugly” and penniless man has little to no scope, when it comes to romance.
Just as we discuss the harm brought to the lives of women by outdated beauty standards that set us up for a lifetime of suffering and a sense of inferiority, we need to talk about how toxic our idea of male beauty is. Men and women both must un-condition their perspective and learn to look through beauty standards so that they can truly see the person that lies behind the chiselled body and perfect face. After all, beauty can guarantee attention, but it never guarantees a lifetime of love, does it?
The views expressed are the author’s own.