File photo | Simirin Kaur Dhadli | Facebook
File photo | Simirin Kaur Dhadli | Facebook
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Women pull other women up — that’s empowering. But internalised misogyny and slut-shaming pays more on YouTube. So it’s not surprising that Punjabi singer Simiran Kaur Dhadli wrote and sang a song on ‘attention-seeking’ women that’s already gotten over two million views on YouTube in just four days.

Dhadli is telling us what a ‘good’ woman should look like in her new song ‘Lahu Di Awaaz’, released on 13 September. It’s not a ridiculous Twitter thread that will be forgotten tomorrow, she’s written and sung a deeply problematic song attacking the choices modern Indian women are making on the internet — the clothes they wear, the content they post, the Instagram reels they make and how much they ‘reveal’. The song contrasts these women with badly edited sepia-toned videos of traditionally dressed women — mothers, families, etc. Sadly, the self-proclaimed ‘voice for the woman’ who ‘sings songs that uplift the image of women’, has a lot to learn about feminism.

A song to shame women 

The Punjabi song begins with the singer describing a dream she had the previous night, in which she saw some ‘suit, salwar and dupatta clad’ women, who were trying to say something to her. “These girls who lower their eyes in front of their brothers, do not raise their voices in front of their fathers, but then I got out of the dream and saw the reality”, she goes on to sing.

Kaur further uses blurred images, Instagram reels and TikTok videos of women wearing revealing clothes to put across a point that such women are ‘sick in their mind and stripping just to become famous’.

Mainu lage dimaagi taur te ajkal kudiyan ne bimaar… marja dubb ke jism dikha ke paise vatt di ae”, she sings in her song.

Simirin Kaur has also used two instances of allegedly fake complaints by women that ‘ruined’ the lives of the men — the 2015 Tilak Nagar sexual harassment incident in which the accused was acquitted of all charges against him, and the recent Lucknow incident, in which a woman was seen beating up a taxi driver, while the latter said he had no fault. In the Lucknow incident, the ‘meninists’ took a back seat when they learnt that the driver is Muslim and the woman, a Hindu. FYI, no feminist stood up for the girl or justified her actions.

But such instances are often cherry picked to encourage whataboutery over thousands of other cases of sexual harassment by men.

Also read: How Punjabi ideas of honour lead to girl-shaming and prenatal sex selection in Canada

Why the song shocks

Simiran Kaur’s other song ‘Soorma’ recently became everyone’s favourite on Instagram after actor Vicky Kaushal made a video on it that went viral. To be honest, I was hooked to the song too, and was happy that a unique and powerful female voice was making her mark in the Punjabi music industry after long. I wish I was right, because her new song is far from female empowerment.

Misogyny manifests itself in various ways, probably the worst is when it is internalised and perpetuated by women themselves. ‘Lahu Di Awaaz’ is its latest example. The song has divided people on the internet. For some, it is an upholder of traditional Indian or Punjabi culture, for others (like me), it is slut-shaming of women.

The comment section of the song just reflects how most Indians misunderstand feminism or the concept of choice. The users, mostly men (as expected) are hailing the song as ‘legendary’, ‘eye opener’, ‘masterpiece, and a ‘true feminist song’.

Not just men, some women on Twitter also supported the new song claiming it is “just stating facts” and the youth is “degrading everything from morals to clothing”.

But another Twitter user said “women writing against women is the last thing” she wants to see.

Punjabi poet Armaan Singh made a reaction video to the song on Instagram and said that it’s a harsh truth that we as a community still place the blame on what women wear or don’t wear.

Also read: ‘Vagina’ is top search on Bhojpuri Wikipedia, bringing vulgar songs back under scanner

Of course, our country refuses to see women beyond their bodies, or as objects. First, the videos of women have probably been taken without their permission and used in Kaur’s song, which in itself is offensive — that’s another concept we don’t understand, privacy and permission. Second, why is it so difficult to understand the concept of choice, especially in the case of women? Women can both wear salwar kameez and crop tops.

Dhadli is trying to tell her audience who is an ideal woman, and contrasts the women who reveal on Instagram with freedom fighters and religious icons like Mata Gujri, Mai Bhago and Maharani Raj Kaur.

You’re good if you wear traditional clothes, keep your voice low and lead your life according to the ‘standards’ set by society. You are bad if you have agency over own body. Shouldn’t we criticise men who consume such content, if the question is about morality? The extreme version of this school of thought is the Taliban.

The burden of ‘Sanskar’ is always on women.

Views are personal.

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