The Sexist Undertones in Comedy Shows: How Indian Matrimonial ads Equate Women to Objects by Nika Roychoudhury

With the advent of 2015, most people believe sexism is a problem that the world has overcome. But then we come across instances of blatant sexism that make us wonder how we ever thought this problem had been eradicated, especially in developing countries. I felt similarly when I came across a series of fake matrimonial ads on Youtube that were based off real ones, developed by a comedy channel to make a mockery of the charade. While it is heartening that people can see that this level of sexism should not be taken lightly, it also works the other way in that people are not outright outraged by this display of crude thought and actually laugh at it, thereby diminishing its actual gravity.

The first ad was that of a woman named Ridhima. Most of her one minute on camera was spent pleading that men not call her by pet names such as “pumpkin, honey, sugar” because it means that they are “forgetting me and giving me a different personality”. While her broken English is a grammatical disaster, it is not difficult to figure out the thought behind the words. Remember the scene in the arguably terrible chick flick ‘John Tucker Must Die’, where Kate says that the three-­timing John was only calling his girlfriends “babe” because he forgot their names? It is a similar case of treating women are replaceable objects here, and Ridhima clearly feels it. She goes on to say that she will not tolerate men comparing her to toys and calling her “teddy, kitty, dolly”; here again we see the wish to be more than an object. It is, however, commendable that she stands up for what she doesn’t want in a man. On the other hand, it shows terribly on the part of the viewers that the comments on the video were filled with mean references to her looks, including ones such as “Can I call u dildo?” and “Maybe hippo would be a better nickname then. What say, Ridhima???”

Another clear indicator in Ridhima’s video is her lack of stating what she actually wants from marriage, such as common hobbies or working after marriage. In contrast, the man in the second video, Rocky 2, speaks of his love for the Indian game “kushti” and declares that he wants a wife who understands this love straight off the bat. Why is it that only men are given the luxury to describe their wants? He then goes on to mention that one of his positives is that he has no case against him in any district court. Should he be commended for not being a criminal? According to established laws, this is the expected norm for functioning members of the society. If a woman in the rural areas that the people in the videos seem to come from was even questioned for such a crime, the people of that community would have ostracized the woman’s family for generations.

Another interesting contrast is that the women ask for resumes, while the men ask for pictures. This shows that sexism is not just restricted to the minds of the men, but is now ingrained in the minds of women looking to marry as well, who will then unknowingly perpetuate this narrow mindset to their children too, ensuring that the problem continues as a vicious self-­fulfilling prophecy.

The third video shows another woman, Yashoda, who seems to have tried to appear as modernized as possible, saying that men could chat with her on Facebook and even poke her “if they want”. She mentions this last twice, emphasizing it as the most important part of the sentence, giving the impression that the decision of the man was more important than even her own comfort, as she leaves herself open to random messages in her quest for marriage.

“I like wearing colorful clothes. I want a wife to have a personality.” begins the matrimony ad of the not-so-charming Chandrakant. His subtle comparison of women to clothes again reinforces their objectification. Moreover, it treats her as a customizable good, such as a dress that can be dyed different colors, as if the wife could have no mind of her own and would just be a reflection of her husband. This sets a dangerous precedent about his attitude. He then goes on to say that he wants to marry an engineer, but not an electrical engineer due to the social stigma. With no mind to the woman’s personality, her education would be viewed as though for a job profile, and intelligent women with electrical engineering degrees would be denied a possibly happy marriage simply due to the man’s ideals on what constitutes social stigmas. Should it not be a stigma to have such a narrow mindset? Worse, this may backfire with the women looking unfavorably on an education.

Other requirements for him includes an interest in cricket, a sport widely watched in India, and playing “holi”, the festival of colors, but not drinking “bhaang”, an Indian alcoholic drink commonly consumed on the same occasion. This is basically the same as telling the woman what she can and cannot eat and in turn controlling her body as you would an object. Finally, he ends his ad by stating that she should have a valid passport, for reasons that he does not state. This makes the entire process appear dubious given the history of human trafficking in developing nations.

The next man, Shekhar, starts off by saying “I don’t have female.”, which may be attributed to bad English, but really means having a female in terms of owning her. He then goes on to say that while he is uneducated, he wants a wife who is from an “educated Brahmin family” from a particular state. There is nothing that gives him this right to demand these minimum qualifications that he himself does not possess, but this kind of double standard is evident throughout the series.

These are just a few examples out of hundreds of such videos which have been uploaded on *name withheld to protect channel* but they are enough to highlight how sexism is only taking on new forms, making light of which does not help the issue any.


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