Jan 012013
 

A few days ago, I didn’t know there was a rapper called Yo Yo Honey Singh (no, seriously) Hardly surprising given that the main form of music that i consume is Hindustani Classical Vocal.  Yet, today i know more about him than i need to.

In brief, Yo Yo Honey Singh is a punjabi rapper, supposedly popular, done some Bollywood numbers. He has written and sung some grossly offensive lyrics, where he raps about women in (im)purely sexual terms, often violently sexual terms. Not surprisingly, women, men and activist groups  are outraged.  One policeman in UP was so outraged that he filed a FIR against the rapper.

At one level there is the absolute bad taste and obscenity of the lyrics, at the other end is the concept of Free Speech. It is next to impossible to legislate bad taste. Obscenity can be legislated but it is a slippery slope. You find Honey Singh’s lyrics offensive; I find swear words that suggest incest with sister, daughter & mother offensive; someone else finds girls showing their legs offensive; yet others find homosexuality offensive; there are those who find casual sex offensive; yet other who find live in relationships offensive. There are people who find paintings offensive, yet others who find depiction of Gods and Prophets offensive; others find books offensive, and there are those who find music videos offensive. Unfortunately you cannot just have the things you find offensive banned. In a democracy, either everyone demands to get things banned are accepted, or there are no bans.

On Yo Yo Honey Singh and his alleged lyrics (alleged, because his lawyers claim that they are not written by him) the excuse used is that it promotes misogyny and ‘bad’ behavior towards women. I could give you the academic arguments – No message is that strong as to have such a powerful impact on its audiences; that audiences consume a plethora of messages from a multitude of media and choose which medium and messages to accept and which to reject; but this is not my classroom :D I could give you the strawman argument – where were you when Kolaveri went viral; did you laugh at that famous chamatkar balatkar speech in 3 idiots ; did you dance to jumma chumma de de - but that is neither here nor there.

The list of films and TV shows that are misogynistic and encourage ‘bad’ behavior towards women are too many to be listed. Domestic Violence, Marital Rape, Sexual harassment,second class status are par for the course. And, why do they succeed – because they reflect society. Every time media tries to create content that is not regressive, not misogynistic, it fails. A few years ago a channel had created a show that featured a female protagonist who fought for women’s issues. Her back story was that she had survived rape and rebuilt her life to fight injustice (in the courts) against women. The show flopped. Post show research revealed a very interesting attitude. The audience feedback was ‘aurat ghar ke bahar jayegi, toh balatkar to hona hi hai’.

Lonavala Market 8The fact remains that our  societies are deeply misogynistic. And that is going to take time to change. Atleast two more generations, if not more. Given the misogynistic nature of society – the State has to bear a greater burden in ensuring that equality for women does not remain a paper provision. They have to provide for basic security. Both within the household and outside it. The System has  to modify its processes and procedures, sensitize its employees – from elected officials to cops on the beat and be more accountable to the people. It is time the system came down heavily on non Constitutional bodies like the Caste Panchayats from impinging on women’s freedoms.  The government needs to move the courts to proactively protect women’s rights from organized religion.

The State, the System and Society have been failing on most counts vis-a-vis women and women’s rights. Other interests are more important. Caste, Community, Vote Banks and the rest have succeeded in tethering women’s rights.

In the scheme of things issues like Item Numbers and Honey Singh are great diversionary tactics – we can discuss freedoms and obscenity; objectification and misogyny till kingdom come. But neither the rapper nor the dancer cause rape or sexual harassment. That is the product of a society that kills its daughters, that burns its daughters-in-laws; that traffics its wives. A society that values stupid machismo, where honour means beheading your sister for daring to find happiness, and where culture means covering up the woman incase the man gets tempted. It is the product of a system of policing that makes women feel incredibly unsafe; of political parties that choose Misogynistic Pigs (with all due apologies to all the pigs in the world) to represent them.

Discussing Honey Singh or Item Girls, diverts our anger from the things that need to be changed. it diverts our anger to easily achievable things – shutting down a new year concert or filling airtime with outrage on “Item” numbers. I am not saying outrage is wrong – by all means outrage – it is a free country and outrage is good for the soul :D but, in this constantly moving target of outrage scenario, focus on change is lost. And, unless there is focus on  systemic change – women are going to remain unsafe.

It really is not about Honey Singh… it is about taking the System to task and ensuring they deliver.

  11 Responses to “It is not about Honey Singh”

  1. I am SO GLAD that someone finally came out to say what was begging to be said. I wanted to write about it, but was having difficulty in structuring my thoughts coherently. Thank you, Ms. Calamur. Shutting down Honey Singh for his offensive lyrics is but shutting down one voice; it does nothing to address the larger and more important issue at hand – how to get Indian menfolk to recognize that these lyrics are indeed vulgar, that these are acts unbecoming of a human being, that molesting/raping/participating in sexual abuse of women is not acceptable under any circumstances. As you have pointed out eloquently, Honey Singh ought to be free to shout out his obscene lyrics, and it is upto the others not to pay heed to him or follow his example or become him.

  2. Today we are demanding Honey Singh to be banned. Tomorrow someone will demand the Mills and Boons books to be banned. Later someone will demand the next M.F.Hussain to be banned. I am reminded of Madonna’s lyrics in her album Hard Candy “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Let’s remember that.

  3. [...] Calamur in her blog post about Honey Singh rightly argues that the banning of the songs is not a solution as they are merely [...]

  4. I personally feel in the context of the current scenario in Delhi and the girl, anything remotely related to it would be a part of the punching bag and Honey Singh just happened to be there. Media is indeed a reflection of society and this whole hoo haa of media/movies/tv et al ‘s role is actually a vicious circle. Media is the mirror of the society and some people imbibe from the media.

    The only realistic thing feasible is for women to be vigil and the state to ensure the law enforcers do their job. This period for transition – we are dealing with decades. Media at this moment should do their part in imparting knowledge and awareness, everything begins at that level.

  5. [...] personally offensive yourself, in the interests of the wider principle.) There was another fear, well expressed by Harini Calamur, that the media, especially, might focus on issues like this and forget that there was a much larger [...]

  6. [...] On Honey Singh, misogyny and how the media diverts your anger [...]

  7. Wonderful article that articulates exactly how I feel. Initially a lot of my anger was towards Honey who hitherto this tragic case I knew nothing of. Yes his music represented what I detest but the author is correct in stating he is not the cause but the symptom. Who influenced Honey? 940 female births to 100 males in India. That is the root of the real crises that should be picked upon and challenged.

    Please let not this debate die but remain active until equality for all is achieved. It is up to us as every day Indians to change the backward mindsets and free future generations of this misogyny

  8. [...] Calamur on why too much media discussion of Honey Singh can divert attention from what we need to talk [...]

  9. A very comprehensive piece of writing I must say!! Unfortunately no one is willing to listen! we,as a nation are too busy trying to find excuses and scapegoats..when will we learn that we must be the change?!!

  10. [...] I was trying to marshal my thoughts into a coherent stream this morning, I came across a blogpost by Harini Calamur, a columnist for DNA, with almost the same title that was playing in my mind. She wrote eloquently [...]

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