Dear women of India, your first challenge for 2016 is already here. No, it's got nothing to do with the odd even rule, or convincing your relatives that you will survive without a husband, or finding the perfect shade of red lipstick or even knowing how to drape a saree in twenty different ways.
You have till November to figure out ways to escape the avalanche of stereotypes that will threaten to bury your personality. Because Chetan Bhagat is writing a book from the 'female perspective'.
Bhagat, described by New York Times as "the biggest-selling English language novelist in India's history", announced that he will be publishing his new fiction novel, written in 'female first person', in Diwali this year.
With God's blessings and your support, my new fiction novel, writing for the first time in female first person, will release Diwali 2016.— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) January 15, 2016
And, Chetan Bhagat, is apparently "really excited and nervous" to write it in female voice.
Well, so are we. Not really excited, but terrified.
With a man - who has been accused of furthering sexist stereotypes in his books and on social media - at the helm of the 'female voice', you can't accuse us of overreacting.
This time, he's not writing about how IIT students can graduate by cracking jokes on farting, Gujaratis of the world thinking about sex while playing dandiya, or a night when God decides to dial your number -- this time it will be him speaking through a voice of a woman.
Bhagat's books, columns, tweets bear enough evidence that he isn't perhaps the best spokesperson for women. We have lined up some samples of his choicest quotes on women.
- In 2012, Bhagat told the nation that “the phulka-making bride may come at a cost of missing out on other qualities”. Ironically, Bhagat was trying to advocate for women’s progress an empowerment.
He wrote, "Don't just tolerate, but accept and even celebrate our successful women. They take our homes ahead and our country forward. We may have less hot phulkas, but we will have a better nation.”
What Bhagat didn't realise is that he made it sound like a woman with a career just cannot make phulkas. Or women who make phulkas are essentially not ambitious. Or it's wrong to be unambitious and make phulkas. And finally, it's the designated duty of a woman to make phulkas as it is the man's to eat them. Just so many wrongs in one sentence!
"If my wife had spent her life in the kitchen, it would have bothered me more," he wrote. The fact that you think like this bothers us, Sir.
- He is the same guy who once tweeted that the country's plunging currency had been "raped". Bhagat drew a lot of flak on social media for tweeting, "The rupee is asking, is there no punishment for my rapists?"
People here flipping out on using word rape as metaphor. Murder is OK. Using F word is also OK. Oh wait, chance to attack someone. Why miss?— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) August 28, 2013
He, later, deleted the tweet. But, the problem is he thought it is "harmless," or worse, funny. The fact that he believed that an act of sexual aggression can actually be turned into a joke, is quite appalling. When it was pointed out to him that he was wrong, Bhagat refused to admit that he has made a mistake.
I deleted the harmless tweet because my haters were cutting it up and reposting it out of context with implied meanings.Forgot they lurk.— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) August 28, 2013
- Oh, he also uses sexist and funny in the same sentence. If sexist jokes, according to Bhagat, are funny, we are already dreading a whole book full of such sentences.
Just incidentally, when I make a remotely sexist funny comment, I get bajaoed by the same people who today find AIB really cool.— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) February 3, 2015
- In his book Half Girlfriend, Bhagat tells the story of how a man who suffers from a lack of self esteem and has no other talent except for playing basketball chases the beautiful, talented and "too good for him" woman, who finally gives in. The whole story is based on the premise that the girl always means yes even if she says no, as long as she's being friendly.
And, his idea of romance? At one point, when the girl refuses to have sex with the guy, this is what he tells her: "Deti hai toh de varna Kat le!"
Yes, the same writer who wrote that book is now planning to write a book on women.
- In his book, Two States, this is what the frustrated protagonist says at one point: “Why should any guy want to be ONLY friends with a girl? It’s like agreeing to be near a chocolate cake and never eat it. It’s like sitting in a racing car but not driving it."
Of course, girls are not meant to be friends with, because they are objects of lust. Right, Sir?
- In fact, in the entire book-- there are lines that Bhagat probably thinks will tickle your funny bones.
“She is too intelligent to be a good daughter-in-law”...“The pretty girl is always right”... “The word “future” and females is a dangerous combination.” These are lines used by the protagonist and his family. Now, we wouldn't care about Bhagat's casual sexism, only if he didn't decide to write a book from a female perspective.
- However, the author claims to understand women very well. In fact, he also thinks he can give opinions to women and tell them how to live their lives.
His advice includes: "Give it back to that mother-in-law" (Because, the husband can watch and sip on his tea. Well, how can he take sides?) "If your boss doesn't value you - tell him that, or quit" (Because, women, like men, apparently don't have bills to settle, EMIs to pay or families to support) and "Don't be competitive with other women." (Because, you can't compete with men--your only competitors are women, right?)
If Bhagat indeed wants to write in the voice of women, he should first put himself in a woman's shoes and try to re-read all that he wrote and insisted we consume as light-hearted humour. In fact, one just needs to be an intelligent, empathetic human being to understand that. If he is even slightly repulsed by what he has written about women in the past, Bhagat can still legitimately claim that he can speak from a woman's point of view.
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