Merin Joseph was the youngest IPS officer in the Kerala cadre. But going by Google search, people are not interested in her policing qualities; the top queries are about her age, husband and Facebook page.
Reacting to a listicle, 10 Most Beautiful Female IAS and IPS officers in India that was published on Bhaskar.com, Joseph posted on Facebook, "Shameless objectification of women and propagation of patriarchal structures, reducing a lady's worth to her face value. These are bold and brave officers working in the complex bureaucratic system in India, negotiating their way through the good, bad and ugly of our body politic- and here we have a list of officers whom people can ogle at." Following the backlash, the listicle was later taken down.
Angoorlata Deka, the newly-elected BJP MLA from Assam, too faced a similar predicament. Though the first-time candidate managed to clinch the seat from a veteran MLA, most of the news headlines focused on her beauty. Doesn't matter what she has achieved, she was reduced to her physical attributes.
Elections were recently held in four states but how many headlines do you see about the most handsome male candidates? Or where is the listicle on 10 most hunky male officers? In a world driven by the visual media, why are qualified and intelligent women reduced to just a pretty face? Should Merin Joseph or Angoorleta Deka be defined and identified by their looks? How many men have taken to social media sites expressing disgust over the gender bias and urging people to look beyond their bodies?
Was Merin right in blaming the media? Take for instance India.com: One of their stories is Kerala IPS officer Merin Joseph slams objectification of women that reduces women to just ‘face value.’ Right below that story, their photo gallery has "hot and sexy" pictures of Sonam Kapoor and Deepika Padukone.
Let's not single out only India.com, many media websites have photo galleries dedicated to 'celebs go nude on Instagram' or 'actresses with wardrobe malfunction'. Of course, media houses will argue that why blame the messenger, when people are actually searching for such posts.
Away from home, how many posts have you seen glorifying the achievements of international lawyer and human rights activist Amal Alamuddin? Never mind the fact that she recently helped free an Azerbaijan investigative journalist, in jail since December 2014; the queries are mostly about her style and wedding.
Why do women have to be desexualised before they are taken seriously? There was a period when feminists had to distance themselves from fashion and style to get their point across. The dialogue has gradually shifted to why a woman with a great fashion sense can't be taken seriously on a professional level.
Beauty, irrespective of how you define it, is something a person is born with. If a person is identified just by their looks, it undermines her (his) achievements. Women like Merin or Angoorlata should not have to take to social media sites to point out the blatant flaws in the way women are treated. It should be obvious that they are much more than just a pretty face.
Updated Date: May 26, 2016 16:08 PM