A fine line…

You know, this is not about Yo Yo Any Singh. It is about the very same young men who agree a change in attitude is required, refusing to recognise that this too, is bad attitude. Who believe that by putting up a fight against a song we find disrespectful and violent in the extreme we’re denying him his freedom of speech.
Unlike purdah or vegetarianism, rape is one of those few issues on which everyone is in agreement – it is wrong. It is a crime. Why then is a song about it okay? What exactly is the message you send out when you say its not okay to rape but completely okay to sing about it?
Am I saying that men who listen to a song called Main Balatkari Hoon will go out and rape? No, I’m just saying that there is something seriously wrong with a song that glorifies rape and makes it acceptable. And something seriously wrong with dancing to those words mindlessly. We all spent a lot of our youth dancing to absolutely inappropriate music and singing along. But if 15 years later I can step back and take a fresh look at it, I’d just call that growing up and perhaps accepting where I was wrong.
No, don’t compare it to Munni and Fevicol. The slight difference most of you don’t seem to get is *consent*.
No, don’t compare him to Rushdie or Hussain. That would be sacrilege. And I don’t believe either of them promoted violence against any group of people. There are laws against hate speech – and if rape is not an expression of violence, I don’t know what is.
Yes, it would be nice if Bollywood and Ekta Kapoor stopped making regressive content, but that doesn’t mean one can’t object to this too. Still a huge difference between singing about graphic rape and watching a saas and bahu battle it out over a man.
No, I don’t think we’re distracting from the main issue – what is the main issue btw? Only getting justice for the late 23 yr old? Not a safer place for the living 3 and 93 year olds? We will keep fighting for a change in laws, for speedier justice, and yes, for a change in attitude. We will object and fight misogyny at every step.
With some pretensions to creativity, I believe in freedom of expression. But your freedom ends at my nose. And in this case my nose is right here. Where every woman’s nose is.
Is it not telling that there are no women who find this song acceptable? Freedom of expression is not absolute and does not give you the right to abuse someone. It gives you a right to interpret, yes, but there is a fine line after which you might be inciting violence.
Is it also not telling that expression of such violence against women finds acceptability even among some otherwise enlightened, aware, gentle men?
All the laws on earth can be put in place but until you change your attitude, you’re only putting away more people, not preventing it from happening.
And what is it that shapes our attitude? Our attitude is shaped by everything within our culture, be it film, books, music, what we teach our kids, what their schools teach them and what we soak up from people around us.
YOU may not listen to Any old Singh, but then you’re not the ones getting out of pubs and trawling the streets for unsuspecting women either. Neither are you the sort who paid 15k to have him bring in the New Year at an upscale hotel.
Ladies, that should tell you what you need to know.
There is a whole section out there who don’t believe we have a right to be out on the streets.
And then there is the section who believe we have an equal right to be out on the streets but are unwilling to even step into our shoes for a minute and see what it feels like to be at the receiving end of such violence, aggression and hatred.
I’ll end with Aretha:
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. … Find out what it means to me.

Yes – what it means to me, not what *you* deem appropriate, but what *I* consider respectful.

Do read this piece on the effects of music on society  and this one of the role of music in society. 

I wish you all a 2013 that is better than 2012. May our daughters inhabit a safer world than the one we live in. May our sons be gentlemen in the true sense of the word.


37 thoughts on “A fine line…

  1. You know I have not heard this number – But I have heard his other numbers – and given the title I can easily make out that it’s only worse and I couldn’t agree any less with you.
    They put girls behind bars for voicing a legitimate concern on facebook but they have no problems in letting such demeaning songs air.
    But you know what the worst part is – i have seen girls not only mouthing the lyrics but also bumping along to them as if it were a compliment. So- regretfully- I tell myself – may be u r reading too much into it – THESE ARE GIRLS TOO AND THEY SEEM TO LIKE IT.

    • See, here’s the thing. We listened to a lot of similar English music in our teens and danced to it. But as I grow older I think more about what I consume, be it food or culture. And frankly I don’t think those girls have been taught to respect themselves. Have given it any real consideration. Our culture doesn’t teach women to value themselves. It’s time we stood up for ourselves.

      • I was going to comment saying the phenomenon of *not* standing up against such things starts in our own homes where girls are more often than not made to feel like they ought not to voice their opinion. You’ve hit the nail on the head: our culture doesn’t teach women to value themselves.
        It teaches us to keep quiet.. the whole “chalta hai, its harmless” attitude stems from years of being brought up to be the tolerant, resilient sex. So much so that it makes that fine line quite blurry, and ends up in girls not respecting themselves, not knowing if something is harmless “pop culture” or that reflects a deeper degenerative and dangerous attitude.

  2. I saw the “boycott him” posting on Facebook and I did ask, how does he talk to his mother, sister, wife and daughter with that mouth? Maybe having them all be a part of the audience in the first row will make a difference to his song writing. One can always hope….

    • Read an interesting article on this. I quote – “None of the perpetrators of those incidents could imagine their own mother or sister contravening the age-old customs they live by. And that’s why, for reasons other than that it’s sexist, it’s important to stop resorting to the maa-behen appeal when trying to talk to men. ”

      Read the whole article in the link above.

      • So, unless we raise one, two, three generations of men who respect women and afford them equal status in society, the plight of women in our country is doomed. I am wondering if there’s anything we can do in parallel to educating and raising sensitive, sensible boys, so women are not treated like chattel. So we are able to step out without fearing bodily harm. I am an eternal optimist but now i get the sinking feeling that Bean and DD will deal with these exact same issues. If anything the violence will have escalated as humans discover more torturous ways of hurting each other. I wonder how it is we prepare our daughters for a future as bleak as this.

  3. I’ve heard the Honey Singh song and while I did get annoyed with the singer I didn’t think of him as a misogynist…he’s probably just cashing on his native intellect and what his target audience deems as acceptable entertainment these days. Sadly enough, it’s making money.

    As to those girls out there who might dance and sing along with it in a pub and think everyone else is just making a big hoopla about nothing, they should know that the same group of group of males who surround them now will think differently of them because they endorsed this song over all those other girls who didn’t.

    We ARE judged by our actions and unfortunately we don’t know who is watching and how close they are to us and how easily barriers can be breached.

    For the artiste who created the song- I hope he gets bent and then we’ll see if he can still churn out such gems.

  4. I haven’t heard it and do not intend to also. It scares me that munni and fevicol with implied consent are still enough to shape views and make it seem like consent will happen albeit hesitatingly.

  5. In a perfect world, Honey Singh would make this song, expressing his freedom of speech. But the public backlash against him in terms of sales and opinion (our freedom of speech) would be so massive that this guy would be obliterated from the music scene and we would never hear about him again. Or probably no one would even finance his music record in the first place. No one would want to be associated with it.

    But, Honey Singh exists because there are enough people who think his songs are OK. Maybe they even agree with him. Maybe they think crimes such as rape are not serious.

    Honey Singh exists because we (the society) let him.

  6. Hmm.. You are right that in the name of Freedom of expression we cannot overlook crass lyrics and uncouth pictures which is why we have a censor board in place for movies. What is ok is so subjective but a song about rape cannot be subjective. Do I want to ban him? No. But we can stop listening to him. Yes. There are tons of movies/songs/short films made in bad taste and we cannot police this. But we can bring about change from within the confines of our home by teaching our kids to treat each other with respect. That is something tangible we can do..
    Honestly I care two hoots about this Honeysingh..he is prob going to cash in on this publicity but we need change from the grassroots level and ofcourse stricter governance.
    “I might not agree with what you say but I will defend to death you right to say it ” that is my policy. But do not abuse it. Clearly Yo Yo and that man who made the movie about Prophet are all abusers.

  7. I agree with you. Although I haven’t heard the song in question, couple days ago I was wondering how degrading and obscene hindi movies have become. For that matter even the online edition of Time of India sometimes looks like a page out of soft porn.

    • So true priyanca – I even have post in mind regarding this – forget the online edition certain absurd demented advertisements on the print are so pathetic – I mean on paper of such repute – some two months back I saw (one specific print add for some cellphone which I guess shows a teacher teaching in the class but if u look through the mobile she has accentuated breasts and a giant butt – and then they want teachers to wear aprons so as to not excite male students.. TIMES of India has lost it…

  8. Well written, MM. And you are absolutely right. Have not heard or heard of Honey Singh and I’d rather keep it that way. Mindless listening is one thing, but there are people out there who listen and internalize sh*t like this and that’s scarier! Like TV and Ads, soon I will have to screen the music on radio to find appropriate content for the kids. It’s tiresome 😦

  9. I read the lyrics to both songs first. Then couldn’t bear myself to hear the songs too. Speechless.

    Vast difference between what we used to dance to Vs. this. A Jumma chumma wasn’t a hundredth as offensive, as blatant, as scary. I will *still* dance happily to a Jumma chumma. That was flirting with an undertone of lust. This is crime.

    Yes the A-la-la-la-la-long (Sweat) song was pretty clear about what it wanted, but for the then 14-15 year olds who grooved to it all over in India, it was still cloaked enough to appear innocuous to us.

    There is NO way an Indian wouldn’t understand what exactly the balatkari song and the choot song are talking about. and in what details. I don’t know what to make of people who are defending the songs, the singer, the attitude.

  10. What a crappy song this is ….I googled it after your post!>.. And I am ashamed that I was his fan ever!…damn, cant believe I ever danced to his tunes… totally agree…we should show our anger by not viewing his videos and spread on Fb ..This guy is totally mad..
    How come there’s no censor for audio albums>>> ? where is film fraternit, Indian goverment..? the dress code gurus..shiv senas, the extreme hindus…???

  11. Hello, I am a new blogger… still learning the ropes. I had not heard of the song or the singh, and my Hindi is not top notch, but I did a quick search and am outraged. I completely agree with you that music has widespread effects, when we can accept that romantic songs make you mushy, why cant we apply it here ?

  12. This morning’s newspaper says that he blatantly refuses ownership to the lyrics and ever having sung these songs instead he has blamed all of us as having victimized him.In his own words”What I’m going through is another form of rape.”

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  15. He is performing this job for many years and no one is there to stop him… He always used to use abusive languages in his most of the songs as well as Raps…
    I just hate him

  16. “All the laws on earth can be put in place but until you change your attitude, you’re only putting away more people, not preventing it from happening.” — nicely said

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