Hardik Pandya episode showed 2019 won’t take misogyny on the field or off it.
Karan Johar introduced them as the stars of the ‘brat pack’ of Indian cricket. It could only go downhill from there.
Hardik Pandya and K.L. Rahul sat on the notorious Koffee with Karan couch and were their ‘unfiltered, real selves’. What they forgot was that being real and unfiltered isn’t an excuse to be misogynistic, crude, and rather boring in their casual, clichéd sense of entitlement. It’s nothing new, and it’s nothing unique. The only glimmer of hope was the storm that hit the cricketer after the show was aired.
The world of sports is one which inculcates and sustains terrible sexism and toxic masculinity. Just listen to Hardik Pandya on the couch if you need proof. Here’s a man who knows he can talk about women as if they are objects to collect in a game for points. In 2019. Right after #MeToo.
‘Locker room talk’ – that spectre of male virility that haunts every ‘boys will be boys’ conversation – was out on Karan Johar’s couch in full force. It was cringe-worthy because of how blatant it was. Hardik Pandya talked about everything about how he objectifies women in clubs to how he ‘hooks up’ with multiple women – worse than that was his body language and the giggles from Karan Johar and K.L. Rahul.
But sexism has always been blatant in cricket. From the ‘cheerleaders’ of IPL to the way our women’s teams are treated, to how incredible anchors like Mayanti Langer are treated – this disdain for women and their capacities, is well documented. We reward boys who show aggression and call it ‘character’. Mix that with the unrelenting objectification of women and you have a heady mixture leading to men who are rewarded for this grotesque display of ‘mardaangi’.
It’s not just what happens on the field alone. The way the BCCI dealt with the recent #MeToo allegations against Rahul Johri proves that they have nothing but lip service to provide to the cause of justice and parity. They went out of their way to protect a man accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, overrode former captain and Committee of Administrators (CoA) member Diana Edulji’s apprehensions, and tripped upon themselves to declare him the victim here. Don’t forget the ‘welcome back’ cake for Johri. After the shenanigans they indulged in, why should their ‘demands for statements’ and show-cause notices to Pandya inspire any faith?
Pandya’s own ‘apology’is a classic example of a hurried retraction. We’ve seen multiple variations of this in the last few months. He didn’t ‘mean to cause harm’ and he got ‘carried away’, thereby absolving himself of any responsibility. The rationalisations from the rest of the world poured in almost in tandem. Allusions to his lack of formal education, ‘youthfulness’, ‘just a joke ya’ and the fact that Johar and Rahul were both laughing along – this is a trend we’ve seen often enough. Everything is at fault except the man himself. It’s an old, tired excuse we’ve wrung our way through, and it’s just a matter of time before this is forgotten too, as per the tested ‘ride the news cycle wave’ theory of crisis management.
This is barely going to be a blip on our collective conscience soon enough. It’ll soon be a story of: Don’t think too much into Hardik Pandya’s ignorant comments, he’s still young. We’re going to go back to the status quo, he’s going to be back on the pitch, and the jokes will happen again. But I hope we all pause for a moment and enjoy how everyone collectively telling a man to shut up allowed us, for one glorious moment, a chance to see him squirm and apologise for something he would have been lauded for as ‘candidness’ only a year ago. I hope we carry that delicious energy and ask a classmate, a colleague, a friend to shut up too.
We called a hero out and kicked off a conversation on how very human his flaws are. May be we should start doing this for the people in our lives.
The author is a poet.
Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.