The day after India celebrated her 71st Independence Day, the news of Bollywood actress Esha Gupta being slut-shamed created a huge uproar on social media, which made many women question, “Are we really free?” Esha had shared some aesthetically captured, bold and sexy pictures on Instagram from her latest shoot with Arjun Mark. Slut-shamers asked Esha to quit calling herself an actress as she was using her body to garner attention, and should join the porn industry.
Esha isn’t the first victim of social media harassment. The regressive wrath of haters has been felt by a long list of celebrities, big and small, in Nia Sharma, Monali Thakur, Anushka Dandekar, Sania Mirza, Safa Baig and Deepika Padukone to name a few. If there is anything Esha learned from her successors, it is to face her haters with as much passion and boldness as she did while facing the camera. As a mute yet powerful response, Esha shared more pictures from her shoot – a tactic previously taken by Nia Sharma and Deepika Padukone to prove they actually had a life and were living it well rather than sitting in a comfortable corner of misogyny and typing away hatred.
Later, in an interview with The Times of India, Esha voiced, “In our country, women are eternally blamed. They are accused when a girl child is born, they are even accused when they are raped.” And she is right in saying so. For a woman, the way she walks, talks and dresses – everything at every turn, in every walk of life and on an everyday basis is put to moral policing, judgment, criticism, scorn and condemnation. Yes, the scenario is grim. But the grey can only be removed if women choose to stand up for their own selves and speak like Esha did.
There is an important lesson for women in all of these slut-shaming cases that are storming social media. The lesson comes from the voice Shikandi, from the Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Palace of Illusions, who said to Panchaali: “Wait for a man to avenge your honour, and you will wait forever.”