Casual Sexism in the entertainment industry
Casual Sexism is an issue that has always intrigued me. That there was some form of discrimination that we have just accepted as a way of life, questionably or unquestionably, it does not matter. The point remains that sentences like, ‘Don’t throw it like a girl’ or ‘Don’t cry like a girl‘ exists solely because of the acceptance that ‘it is how things are’. Even if we witness some changes taking place with people transcending these expectations, we still have a long way to go.
The entertainment industry is one of such places that finds itself plagued with ideas and practices of casual sexism. Be it the way a woman should look or the proper physique deemed attractive to the audience; all of this reflects casual sexism.
The weight-y Sexism
One of the most frequently-recognised, yet shrugged-aside issue is body weight. The industry is responsible for selecting and even inculcating the idea of what an ‘ideal’ or ‘beautiful’ physique is. Moreover, we see that it is something that is not just limited to women. The zero figure with breasts that are captivating enough for leering are now are a thing now. The industry fails to provide space ever to have a woman who does not adhere to these requirements.
Dum laga ke haisha – Another movie that revolved around the idea that fat woman needs to be accepted through a long process rather than just as another regular occurrence.
Women are specially trained to look a certain way in the Bollywood industry. I remember when Dum Laga Ke haisha was released. It was not a movie that embraced the idea of a fat woman. Instead, it was a movie based on ridiculing a woman for being overweight and played to mocking her. Her husband had to go through an entire scene of emotional tears and berating wives for accepting her finally.
The perfect body campaign that was launched by Victoria’s secret back in 2014
I recently stumbled upon the Perfect Body Campaign that Victoria’s Secret launched. The issue might be years old, but it is still relevant today. The brand received backlash as their ad portrayed their skinny models as ‘perfect’, creating outrage amongst women about what that word means. Women of all body types exist, and by deeming that slim body type as ‘normal’, we evoke negative sentiments amongst them. We also need to remember that this company, run by men, aims to sell body image to men by hosting runaway shows with small-waisted women.
This has created a niche in the pre-existing idea of Sexism that you need to look and appear a particular way to enter the industry and put an inherent expectation of what normality should look like to some people.
The Indian audience is known to be pretty impressionable, the ones ready to take on any recent trends, which only help promote such unrealistic expectations. Girls starving themselves to achieve the body type of their ideals or spending thousands are ubiquitous and not even questioned because that is what men desire.’
So, the entertainment industry has a big part in Body-Shaming and encourages unreasonable notions of perfection and being beautiful.
The vocabulary sexism
‘When a man does something, it is strategic when a woman does the same thing it is calculated. A man is allowed to react whereas a woman can only overreact.’
This interview by Taylor Swift has made me ponder about the truth of how even the language and vocabulary bends itself for men and women for the same thing. Furthermore, it is true in the media perception of the entertainment industry or even how it works.
This is true when someone in the industry releases a song against each other. When Olivio Rodrigo and Sabrina Carpenter released songs against each other, it was deemed to take ‘revenge’ against each other, and everything was considered to be a ‘drama’, whereas when rapper Eminem and Machine Gun Kelley had a feud, it was deemed to be ‘dissing’ each other.
The title for Olivio Rodrigo and Sabrina Carpenter
The title for Machine Gun Kelley and Eminem
One would notice how media took different turns when their subject was changed. So, when two female singers fight, it is not just a feud, but it is a drama, whereas when two male rappers fight, it is dissing each other. That is to say, women do this only to draw attention towards them. Words take a completely different meaning when confronted with different sexes, and this is just another one of the main aspects of casual Sexism prevalent in this industry.
The age Sexism
Let us take two movies for context: When Harry met Sejal and English Vinglish. Both films starred one of the most prominent and aged filmstars of the generation, but the difference was the role in which they were cast. While Shahrukh Khan, in his 50s, got to play the young protagonist beside a young actress, Lt. Sridevi was 48 when she portrayed a mother’s role.
People might try to sideline this issue by dismissing this as the actresses’ versatility, but the issue remains that why does this age sexism exist in the industry. It is not just with just this one film. After a certain age, women are refused against some specific roles; a woman after her mid-30s or early-40s is only suited for an older woman’s role, whereas men never go through it. They are easily cast as young heroes and lovers with actresses of very young age as their partners.
It is one of the examples of how the industrial perception of beauty and attractiveness is. For them, women seem to lose the semblance of charm that’ll draw the male audiences to the theatres and can only be cast for the throwaway roles or even if they do manage to get the central role, it is more often than not of older women.
The heteronormative Sexism
This Sexism does not extend to just women; people of the LGBTQIA+ community remain out of reach of the Indian industry. We cannot even claim to have ever witnessed an openly out actor or actress in the films. It is as if this community does not exist for them. Heteronormativity is the thing of Bollywood where we fail to give space to them. Is it the biases and stereotypes or the reluctance that the audience will not like it? We do not know, but the one thing that we do know that in the industry that has only recently gathered the courage to make homosexual movies, we might have to wait for years, possibly to witness a change.
Overcoming the industry Sexism
Fashion brands and entertainment industry can give as many excuses that they want but people are now ready to fight back
Feminism is emerging. People are starting to realise that beauty is not a narrow concept constrained to specific normative standards. However, it is also true that we have a very long way to go. Even with lingerie brands and clothing companies starting to accept that their reign over pre-dominantly traditional ideas will not continue anymore and are desperately scrambling to bring changes. However, their efforts are just that: desperate at best.
Victoria’s secret tried to redeem itself by hiring a plus-sized model; their efforts went in vain as either people knew that this change was not because they finally realised their mistake, or it was not what plus-sized models usually looked like. People complained that VS could not give them a curvy woman in response to the plus-sized model. And honestly? They were accurate in their argument. Hiring a white, just slightly curvy model was not their best move.
As for the vocabulary, that too is something that needs a long road to change. Since the media propagates it, it is rooted in the people’s mindset. Moreover, that is something that takes much effort to change. When they have been told to attribute women with ‘weak’, ‘fragile’ and ‘dependent’, it will require quite an argument to deter them.
So, all-in-all, the industry is littered with prejudices, stereotypes and pre-set notions of normality that, even though not fit for the thinking of the 21st century, are still being practised. I feel like the industry fears a change that could uproot its very foundation; for them being ‘normal’ towards ‘casual sexism’ in the industry is being safe and a guaranteed way of achieving success. We need to go a long way, and the change looks like a light in the far future, but we do need to do our small part to contribute and shrug out the idea of this normative implies.
*Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed on this website are of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of ‘Not So Complicated’.
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