Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb

It’s almost the weekend, so indulge me a bit of crankiness leftover from the work week. I had been avoiding mentioning the arrest warrant against Richard Gere until I realized it rankled. For those of you who have managed to avoid it:

A court issued arrest warrants for Hollywood actor Richard Gere and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on Thursday, saying their kiss at a public function “transgressed all limits of vulgarity”. [Link]

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p designtimesp=”247″>So what, right? So some busybody in Jaipur gets his or her nose bent out of shape and files a complaint “charging that the public display of affection offended local sensibilities” [Link] and finds some judge who agrees, saying that the incident was “highly sexually erotic” and violated India’s public obscenity laws. We blogged earlier about how Ajmer had prepared a booklet instructing tourists of the opposite sex not to hold hands or touch. It’s just more of the same.

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p designtimesp=”251″>Part of my annoyance stems from the fact that this frivolous suit will further clog a court system that can’t handle urgent matters in a timely fashion.

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p designtimesp=”252″>But mainly I’m annoyed at Shetty’s lame ass response to the incident. Instead of telling people that it was just a peck on the cheek, she replied:

I understand this is his culture, not ours. But this was not such a big thing or so obscene for people to overreact in such manner… [Link]

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p designtimesp=”258″>

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p designtimesp=”259″>Was I the only one who expected her to follow that sentence with a list of activities on stage that would have been far more obscene?

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p designtimesp=”260″>Honey, just a little bit obscene is like being a little bit pregnant. Show some backbone! An embrace and a smooch on the cheek is tame compared to stuff in Bollywood lately. Why pander by arguing that it was kind of obscene but not … you know … not such a big deal.

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p designtimesp=”261″>Shetty compounded the lameness of that response by also saying:

I understand people’s sentiments, but I don’t want a foreigner to take bad memories from here. [Link]

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p>So, OK, it was obscene and people are angry, but please, let him go because we don’t want to ruffle a foreigner’s feathers? Gere’s a frequent visitor to India, he comes to Dharamsala all the time. This is far from his first impression of India.

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p designtimesp=”268″>Maybe it’s because I’m an ABD, but I just don’t get it. Why not say, I’m sorry you all are offended, I’ll ask him not to do it again, but really it was just a kiss on the cheek. It wasn’t on my lips, and there was no tongue involved. None. Now if you’re done with the lawsuits, I have to get prepared for my sexy Bollywood movie …

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p designtimesp=”269″>No, nobody in India ever kisses anybody on the cheeks. Shame Shame! [pic via Rhinocracy]

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UPDATE: The Daily Show does it far better than I have [Thanks Sirc]

Related posts: ShameShame! Paint a Vulgar Picture, Shilpa.

148 thoughts on “Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb

  1. conservatism is too broad, but perhaps the covering up of particular parts? e.g., i know that in kerala in the early 20th century muslim peasant women were walking around topless until the mullahs told them to stop. they did, and their hindu overlords got pissed and told them to keeping dressing as they had. so some muslim men killed a few landlords and their women didn’t have to go topless again.

    No, I don’t think they were going ‘topless’ as you might think… just not wearing blouses under their sarees. Makes sense if you want to save yourself the trouble of tailoring. That’s the reason the saree is worn the way it is. It may be considered revealing in modern times, but censorable parts were certainly not bare.

  2. as a point of fact, there is some evidence that the practice of veiling and purdah which is common amongst muslims was picked up from elite byzantine (veiling) and sassanid/persian practice (purdah), since these were the lands they conquered.

    Yes, and I think that in turn was picked up from the ancient Assyrians, who also transmitted it to Jerusalem — which is why all Abrahamic religions have strong veiling traditions (to different extents, of course).

  3. This actually reminds me of the time, my boyfriend and I were sitting in a park in Bangalore, enjoying the surroundings in a seemingly secluded area, when he nonchalantly kissed me on the cheek.

    You must have been in a particularly conservative part of the city or something. The park near where I lived had nothing but young couples all over each other, to the extent that even felt uncomfortable

  4. Kush Tandon saahb,

    Please do not call me ‘ji’. I am really much younger than you and feel awkward when someone older than me calls me by a respectful term. Thank you though.

    I know that America has a huge race problem, it seems to be this country’s original ‘sin’ and it will never go away. I am surprised to learn about the KKK’s sickening history, though. America is also medieval when it comes to potraying races (look at the ‘safe’ minority pairings in Grey’s Anatomy, for instance).

    Yes, the medieval instict is there everywhere and is universal. It is not unique to the east or the west. I have not ever disputed that. But the medieval instict is curbed somewhat in the United States. There are states like Alabama, where the law against interracial marriage is revoked only by 2000, but that does not mean that anyone can sue an actress with the lower courts taking them seriously by issuing arrest warrants. Something in India must be used to curbed this ‘medieval instict’ – either a fine for anyone filing frivolous charges of obscenity. A previous commenter has written that the same man who filed the lawsuit filed 50 other frivalous ones previously. If there was a steep fine for irrelevant lawsuits, the man might have stopped at 5.

    I admit, I am not aware of the situation of the courts in India. The thing that irked me was that the court issued arrest warrants. Maybe the lower courts are useless, I don’t know. I just heard that the courts are the one instituition that are known for their honesty. That’s the reason that I was shocked: not the burning effigies, but the fact that the court listened to the idiots and issued an arrest warrent.

  5. I was reading Kimberly Crenshaw’s Mapping the Margins where she talks about the intersectionality between racism and feminism, and I’m sure there’s probably some angle out there relating to this.
    How is it about anything but racism and feminism?

    Actually racism and misogyny. Feminism is the general term for “empowerment of women” as I understand it. However, it sounds pretty interesting that racism and misogyny would intersect in some ways. I will have to look up that article/book.

    No, I don’t think they were going ‘topless’ as you might think… just not wearing blouses under their sarees

    .

    According to many family members who wanted to educate me on the history of the state of Kerala (I’m 1/2 Andhra so didn’t know much) women in “the old days” (meaning quite a long time ago) did not wear any kind of clothing on the top at home and would only drape the top when going out. The typical clothing around the house was and is the set mundu, kind of a half sari with a separate top and bottom, and at that time the top was often not worn. There was also another way to wrap it, under the arms instead of over the shoulder, which is often used in dance performances. Kerala sari or regular sari was worn when going out but the topless thing actually ended up in women often having a sort of “surname” meaning: person who does not go out of the house. This is what I was told about historical times there anyway.

  6. Bytewords,

    do you have any idea about the profile of trafficking that goes on? do you have the slightest idea of how to counter it? i don’t need the sound bites you will take from kristof’s article—his article has a point, you don’t. do you have any idea of the grinding poverty that makes otherwise normal people abet human trafficking in bihar? and can you even say if poverty is a dominant issue here? which will help better: empowering women only, or empowering community leaders? is lack of access to education relevant, or is it a spurious variable? does trafficking cut across community lines, or are some more vulnerable than others? how much is across state lines (easier to curb, indication of how organized the mafia is)? is it diffuse, or are there some gangs running most of the trafficking?

    I request you do not throw ad hominem attacks on me and assume certain characteristics of me that you do not have the time to assume. Do I have any experience with sexual trafficking? No. Do I read materials other than Kristof’s ‘sound bytes.’ Yes. I helped my friend with a research project with sexual trafficking of the Women from Nepal and was depressingly obsessed with this topic for the next two months. I find it appalling that sexual slavery still takes place in the country that I was born in. However, Let’s not derail this thread about this issue.

    Yes, I also know what poverty is. I spent 14 years in India, 3 of them in grindbreaking poverty. I also know something about exploitation and the ‘patriachy’ because I was sexually assaulted (though not raped) as a teenager. Are you happy now, Bytewords?

    i will listen to you if you have anything half way intelligent to say. or if you even knew what questions to ask. the difference from kristof and you: he sees the problem, you think the people are the problem.

    I have previously asked intelligent questions. Just scroll up. I just said that India has a problem and that this problem might not have a parallel in the west or it is milder in form. I never implicated the people of India as the problem.

    I hope Bytewords, that it was just late night caffeine and the anonymity of the internet that caused this outburst. I am sure you are a really nice guy/girl in person.

  7. Avi,

    No worries. I really do not want to lecture you. I also want to give you the “benefit of doubt” of youth, and a long ways to go.

    You really have a lot to learn about American history or politics, or for that matter, Indian too.

    I agree what Indian courts have done is highly stupid.

    However, what US Senate did to Ingrid Bergman, this Shilpa Shetty – Gere affair looks very pale. Here some excerpts:

    The pregnancy caused a huge scandal in the United States. It even led to her being denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Edwin C. Johnson, a Senator from Colorado, who referred to her as “a horrible example of womanhood and a powerful influence for evil.” In addition, there was a floor vote, which resulted in her being made a persona non grata. The scandal forced Ingrid Bergman to exile herself to Italy, leaving her husband and daughter in the United States. Her husband, Dr. Petter Lindström, eventually sued for desertion and waged a custody battle for Pia Lindström.

    One of the greatest actress of 20th century was declared persona non grata and left US because she played nun in lot of hollywood movies, and she in real life became pregnant out of wedlock, and that was unacceptable to American lawmakers.

    I hardly leave comments these days on SM. I was just stuck (surprised) by your spirited defense (or something like that, I am not sure) for KKK (or similar Neo-Nazi) groups – they do not go to courts to get arrest warrants – they lynch for whistling at white women, kill, bomb churches and children, drag people behind the jeeps, and they had 6 million people as their formal members once.

    Well, I am done on this thread.Sure, in last 2 comments, you have asked some intelligent questions.

  8. Concur with Fire Fly at #97. It was sexual harassment.

    I admit, I am not aware of the situation of the courts in India. The thing that irked me was that the court issued arrest warrants. Maybe the lower courts are useless, I don’t know. I just heard that the courts are the one instituition that are known for their honesty. That’s the reason that I was shocked: not the burning effigies, but the fact that the court listened to the idiots and issued an arrest warrent.

    Avi, bringing suit for public, willful, sexual harassment by any other name is not frivolous. Pity Shilpa Shetty couldn’t do or say anything in her own defense. What worked on Big Brother doesn’t work here. Did Richard Gere watch that show and decide she was fair game? You won’t find him behaving that way in front of a crowd of truckers with, say, Sharon Stone– regardless of what she does onscreen.

  9. oh and yelling “Sex! Condom! Condom Nehi! Sex Nehi!” right after that assault was pretty damned rude, and vulgar too, in any culture– if he can’t speak the language he really ought to shut up.

  10. I am sorry, but I don’t get the feminist angle one bit. Isn’t there an arrest warrant for Shilpa Shetty too? Or do you guys think she dealt a fierce blow to feminism and should be shackled up too?

  11. a lot of postcolonial gender studies bullcrap talks about how india was perceived as a feminine country for a lot of its history. the brits preferred the hardy muslims and gurkhas to ‘girly’ hindus etc, and during the cold war the two strong, masculine white superpowers would try to ‘woo’ cute little india, with a lot of off the cuff comments about the apparent ‘girly voices’ of south asian males. really, there have been serious studies of this. is this a part of a wider trend?

  12. In 1965, Virginia trial court Judge Leon Bazile sentenced to jail an interethnic couple who had married in Washington, D.C.,

    So Kush Tandon, how about explaining to us how your pointing fingers at what America did decades ago exonerates what hindu fundamentalist jingos are doing in India today?

    And while you are at it, do explain why Shiv Sena goons go bananas over a cocky white kisser and groper, or indians celebrating Valentine’s Day, but not give a hoot about the rampant, open sexual exploitation of children in Mumbai, their stronghold? What do you think is worse?

    Could their lack of concern and compassion for the child prostitutes of Mumbai have something to do with the fact that this abomination is sanctioned by brahminism?

  13. I don’t think it’s as clearly sexual harrassment as some others do. Different legal definitions in different jurisdictions, of course. Pretty obvious that there was physical contact, hard to determine if it was of a sexual nature, and it also matters if Shilpa Shetty felt that this was unwelcome. She’d be the person to ask, rather than projecting whether we think it was uncomfortable or welcome or consensual. I don’t think it’s a case that would be best handled in court — I wonder what conversations (if any) Gere and Shetty have had about the incident.

  14. It seems to me that some courts in India have almost a universal jurisdiction on both people and issues. Its like the Indian courts have a ‘genocide/crime against humanity’ type of jurisdiction on all cases period. I am not sure what harm was caused to the lawyer in Jaipur by Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty. In some weird way, any lawyer in a local court in India apparently also acts as the prosecutor who brings up cases where the harm is caused to the public sensibilities or whatever.

    Here is an interesting analysis. The culprit seems to be the concept of ‘Public Interest Litigation’. This is too cool:

    (c) Citizen standing

    The doctrine of citizen standing thus marks a significant expansion of the court’s rule, from protector of individual rights to guardian of the rule of law wherever threatened by official lawlessness.

  15. I remember once hiring a driver for a trip while I was in the Dehli area. Big mistake, as I was a woman traveling alone. I remember we passed through an area where university students go to and I did see some couples sitting close together — my driver, who I didn’t hire as my tour guide, said this and it brought me giggles, “here people come to do sexy, sexy”.

    It’s good to get perspectives about laws in the U.S. such as what Kush Tandon cited. I forget these things when I sit in judgement of India’s social customs and how it affects me as a woman. And I’m sure Kush Tandon wasn’t using it to exonerate the rampant sexism tolerated in Indian society.

    On another note – I was once traveling in dharamsala (sp?) and really I was saddened how hard it was to be an Indian woman – just to do everyday things – like walking to the market alone. I was struck how all the Hindu and Muslim women I saw never looked men in the eye or even looked at me in the eye. However, in my experience, what a contrast the Tibetan population was. I was so pleased to actually meet people who would talk back to me and they were Tibetans. Tibetan women would always smile back at me. I happened to meet some Tibetans at a coffee shop/restaurant and we got to talking. They asked me “why are women treated so badly in Hindu and Muslim culture…” – They were talking about how reserved Hindu and Muslim women were, whereas their Tibetan women friends, as I stated earlier, seemed a lot more independent and self-confident. These were Tibetan boys who said this – about 18.

    The contrast between how the Tibetan women carried themselves and how the rest of the Indian women carried themselves was so striking to me.

    Any Tibetans out there to add to this…

  16. As Jon Stewart said, the Gere kiss would be considered offensive in any culture. He was way out of line. Almost as bad as George Bush grabbing and massaging Angela Merkel’s shoulders during some summit or the other. Of course this doesn’t merit an arrest warrant, but I’m okay with letting him sweat for a bit.

  17. I think she should sue him for harassment. He practically mauled her all over the stage!! Gere would have given Gulshan Grover a run for his money

  18. 95 Avi,

    It is not just Kristof, but his predecessors at NYT and every foreign correspondent in India has to write the Drainage Inspector’s reports (as Gandhi called it) when they move to India. For one, there are a lot of drains to report about. That used to be the only kind of reports in the past, but now we have a few more positive reports on economics, outsourcing and bollywood. The Gere-Shetty incident is the occasional incident that happens every now and then in India, that the American media picks up with the tone of ‘ha!ha!ha! look at these silly primitive Indians for < insert the particular incident in caricature>. And India will provide plenty of these kind of incidents for someone who goes looking for it on a regular basis, not all of which get wide play in the American media.

    These kinds of incidents of protests are orchestrated by some political party or organization to make some point to someone, with rent-a-crowd tactics.

  19. it also matters if Shilpa Shetty felt that this was unwelcome. She’d be the person to ask, rather than projecting whether we think it was uncomfortable or welcome or consensual

    The video clip is edited, so some interpretation of the body language becomes necessary – and, to me, it does seem like she definitely wasn’t keen on getting bussed by him like that, not there anyway. Yes, she’s not actively fighting him off, but still, even the hand-holding is going on longer than she wants, and the only reason for her to have fallen over backward was that she didn’t particularly like the extent and intensity of the physical contact. It seems like he wanted a full-mouth version, and you can see he’s whispering something – maybe he was asking her, who knows – but she took it on the cheek, he went for the other one, she pulled back, etc.

    Suppose she really didn’t like it – how was she to have really made it obvious – by smacking him across the face and/or kneeing him? In public, with cameras running, she with a career to push, and given all the power asymmetry in their public profiles, etc etc? I don’t think so. And after it happened, would she really publicly admit that yes, she didn’t want him all over her like that, and he shouldn’t have done it? No, she’d say, it was no big deal really, just like she has.

    I have to really give her credit for the way she recovered from it, and went on with her MC-ing. But he’s clearly not quite done with her, when they’re back down the stairs into the audience area, he’s still holding her hand while she seems to be pulling it away!

    This doesn’t mean I support the third party lawsuits and all that, but let’s also be clear what actually happened here and the multiple inappropriate messages it sends.

  20. Sure, Chachaji, I think it’s quite possible that she felt threatened and upset by it. On Big Brother everyone saw her reaction to demeaning, racist comments and I believe she commented on the show, the people, and how she felt, so I don’t believe it’s as unlikely as you say that she wouldn’t comment on Gere publicly. Maybe she’d say “Oh Richard was just being goofy,” or “He was out of line”, who knows? There are ways to express her displeasure at Gere’s actions, and I think Ennis started getting at it this in the post — but I have yet to see anyone ask that question to her about whether the incident was upsetting. The sad truth is that victims have to come forward and explain themselves, often in difficult situations, and I’m bothered by the implication by the press and the judge that she was somehow at fault.

    It was a strange scene. Gere looked like he was on something, the crowd cheering, etc.

  21. Ennis, are you sure there’s an arrest warrant for Shilpa Shetty too? Other news sources say the warrant is only for Gere.

    From HT (link):

    “The court has called Shilpa through a summons, while arrest warrants have been issued for Gere, as he might flee from India,” Poonam Chand Bhandari, the lawyer and petitioner in the matter, told HT on Thursday. The responsibility to ensure compliance of warrants against Gere has been entrusted to Jaipur SP (HQ), while the summons for Shilpa is to be served through the metropolitan magistrate of Mumbai, Bhandari said.
  22. I think Gere knew they’d be uproar. He was trying to in himself after being outed. But Shilpa squirmed like a trapped gerbil, probably because either Gere lacks the instincts necessary to pull of the difficult stolen kiss maneuver, or he’s lost these instincts due to being around hollywood’s casting couch mentality for so long, which give misogyny a bad name.

    The Cindy Crawford marriage backfired on Gere as well, as Crawford’s masculine mannerisms raised many an eyebrow. Jenna Jameson eventually outed Crawford in her seminal work, “How to Make Love to a Porn Star,” which strangely happened to be ghost written by Neil Strauss, whose advice Gere is desperately in need off.

    Speaking of game, Gere could take a lesson form those heroic 13 year old boys who seduce their hot teachers. Those kids are cunning like animals, as they sense their prey wants it. It is at this age that these instincts need to be cultivated and refined, before the feminist establishment tries to rob children of their inner noble savage by convincing them that they are rape victims.

    Anyone trying to pull off an assumed close maneuver needs to know how to walk the thin line between force and consent. Gere, a card carrying member of the leftist-liberal hollywood cabal, has long since lost such instincts, if he ever had them.

  23. So? Does that mean the backwardness is just a projection of western orientalism on the Indian subcontinent? Backwardness is present in India and it won’t go away if the Western foreigners do not condemn it. Indian backwardness does exist, and this episode (and the Khushboo one) illustrates that women are blamed for any incident with sexual connotations

    Avi, I agree to a certain extent to what you say here, which is why I use the word “partially” to describe this as a projection of the western media’s need for amusement, but in all fairness, do you think third-world countries, india in particular, get a fair saying in what is being portrayed here. there are beautiful things about india and the indian way of life that can never be tangibly demonstrated to someone living half the globe away, so all they know is our misery. i agree, in a lot of places misogyny is rampant and women are considered second class, but that’s not all people and all places. i am from kerala and i can confidently tell you no one i know in kerala and around india care one bit about this.

    to reiterate, the whole point of my previous post was that this a very,very small group of people involved in this specific case and the western media is trying to make it seem like the whole goddamn country is out for gere’s and shetty’s heads, which, im sure you can agree with me on this at least, is far from the truth.

    if you want to point out that a lot of indian women have miserable lives in india, i really don’t think this is the case in point because this is a small group of people making a huge deal out of nothing and the fact that they are getting so much attention from the western media is embarassing for the rest of us who made to look like idiots. there are a 100 million posts on this site with pretty much the same point of view as you and i have on the status of indian women.

  24. Public displays of affection between men and women are forbidden in Islam – Indians have never recovered from their colonisation by the Muslim hordes!

  25. I’m pleased about the direction this discussion is taking, and think the only “backward” part of the reaction/response is blaming the victim. chachaji and fsowallah, I don’t see that there was any alternative to a third party bringing suit when SS was not really in a position to do anything much about it. Salauddeen, you may be right, and after all we’re all writingspeakingthinking in English, but I’m with Jon Stewart on this. The Klimt painting depicts some tenderness, unlike the Gere Tango Manqué Manoever, which is plain abusive and clumsy.

  26. As someone who watches NDTV and Star News, the two 24X7 news channels that broadcast live from India without any repackaging for the US, I have come to understand one simple truth about today’s Indian media. When there is an explosion of channels and other media, news will become magnified and redundant just to feed the media monster. The US experienced it decades ago. India is experiencing it now.

    There is nothing wrong with that, but it is hard to take news seriously when every trivia is sliced and diced on Indian TV as though it was a major social issue. The other day Barkha Dutt, who is one of the best TV journalists on Indian TV, was running a panel discussion on something so inconsequential that I don’t even remember anymore what the topic was. Can a country of 1.2 billion people be so devoid of important issues that a journalist of Miss Dutt’s caliber must resort to sensationalism for the sake of the almighty ratings? I don’t remember what I watched, but I watched. So the media scored another victory.

    Anybody seen the movie NETWORK from the 80′s? Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway. It’s a very smart satire on the media. There is a Bollywood equivalent of it, though very different in approach – “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani,” with Shah Rukh.

    I am not sure if I threadjacked here or contributed to the topic. Sorry, Ennis.

  27. I remember once hiring a driver for a trip while I was in the Dehli area. Big mistake, as I was a woman traveling alone. I remember we passed through an area where university students go to and I did see some couples sitting close together — my driver, who I didn’t hire as my tour guide, said this and it brought me giggles, “here people come to do sexy, sexy”. It’s good to get perspectives about laws in the U.S. such as what Kush Tandon cited. I forget these things when I sit in judgement of India’s social customs and how it affects me as a woman. And I’m sure Kush Tandon wasn’t using it to exonerate the rampant sexism tolerated in Indian society. On another note – I was once traveling in dharamsala (sp?) and really I was saddened how hard it was to be an Indian woman - just to do everyday things – like walking to the market alone. I was struck how all the Hindu and Muslim women I saw never looked men in the eye or even looked at me in the eye. However, in my experience, what a contrast the Tibetan population was. I was so pleased to actually meet people who would talk back to me and they were Tibetans. Tibetan women would always smile back at me. I happened to meet some Tibetans at a coffee shop/restaurant and we got to talking. They asked me “why are women treated so badly in Hindu and Muslim culture…” – They were talking about how reserved Hindu and Muslim women were, whereas their Tibetan women friends, as I stated earlier, seemed a lot more independent and self-confident. These were Tibetan boys who said this – about 18. The contrast between how the Tibetan women carried themselves and how the rest of the Indian women carried themselves was so striking to me. Any Tibetans out there to add to this…

    And that hardship that Indian women face on a daily basis is precisely why Gere should not done what he has done.

    I saw the video, and, as a feminist, as well as a woman who has struggled for over a decade in India with unwanted sexual advances (some from men around Gere’s age), I WAS OFFENDED.

    Like I said elsewhere, If Gere and Shetty were a couple, no problem. But the fact that he is in a relationship with another woman, and her most likely with another man, what the hell was all that kissing about and what message does that give to Indian men – especially older uncles with grey hair – just like Gere??? Shetty is almost half his age for God’s sake! How many times have women, both Indian and non, already been sexually put upon by old grey uncles in the streets of India? Too many damn times! Gere seriously needed to educate himself on women’s issues in India. Perhaps then he would not have made such a fool of himself on TV.

    These were people doing some event or benefit for AIDS awareness, a serious issue. Gere’s behaviour trivialized that and trivialized Shetty as a serious spokesperson on the issue. Cannot a woman be taken seriously for once without having some old uncle trying to hug and kiss up on her? Are we still living in a pre-feminist era?

    I love it when I see couples in India, young and old alike, married or non, displaying their affection in public. Hand-holding, hugging and some kissing is healthy for people to see – it’s beautiful and joyful — between couples, where it is expected and desired. Shetty obviously did not expect or desire Gere’s behaviour (unless it was pre-planned for publicity, in which case we are all pawns in the game).

    And Shetty’s “this is his culture, not our’s” is pure bukwas. Bull-caca! It is NOT American culture to be sexually harrassed. I never get that here.

    Anyway, as a woman his behaviour offended my feminist sensibilities.

    And as a victim of countless sexual harrassment offenses in India — I feel his behaviour sent out the opposite of the message we women are trying to send to the Lalu’s, Montu’s, Chintu’s, Munnu’s and fat, grey Uncles of India who will see this TV image and think their behaviour with us is perfectly normal and acceptable internationally because some “angrez akhtar” or “hero” did it.

    I think we should all be glad at Richard Gere’s show of affection. I am white and growing up all the girls in my neighborhood had huuuge crushes on him.

    Yeah but now he is an old uncleji and Shetty is still a young woman — big difference. I’m white and I was offended!

    Funny, when my American Desi girlfriend here saw the video she was like, “ooooooooooh the women in India probably loved the romance of it all. Now they can tell their husbands ‘that’s what I want from you’ “

    Whatever — Gere and Shetty are not a couple. If it were Amitabh and Jaya or John and Bipasha or Rai and Bacchan, no problem. But he was a married (or at least committed) old grey man forcing himself upon a young woman who probably is also committed elsewhere. Not cool at all, tongue or not.

  28. Only in India would some outdated statute be used to target couples showing affection in public, even if it was for the fun of it. I am 30 years old and have traveled to a few places in this world and can’t think of any other “democratic” country where a kiss in public is illegal and a punishable offense.

    If you want to catch up with the Modern Age, I would suggest that you have a “national kiss in public day” and show the damn “legal establishment” to see how many people they can actually prosecute for this crap. How do you like them apples.

    Also, I am sick and tired of Bollywood and the legal crap that goes with kissing in bollywood films.

  29. One more thing I’d like to add;

    I feel that Shetty downplayed it to show solidarity in the international film industry. She’s an actress with international aspirations. I’m sure she’d love to do a Hollywood film, and to critique Gere’s actions might be a harmful move for her career.

    I would have liked to see her address the issue from the perspective of international sexual harrassment laws and women’s rights. That might have put both Gere and India in their places!

  30. chachaji and fsowallah, I don’t see that there was any alternative to a third party bringing suit when SS was not really in a position to do anything much about it.

    Except that this particular lawsuit appears to have named her as a defendant, too. They are both supposed to be at fault. And while AMFD said her smiling about it later makes her less credible if she filed suit, she could still try, depending on her own calculations of publicity, winnability, etc if she wants to.

    If it were Amitabh and Jaya or John and Bipasha or Rai and Bacchan, no problem.

    I don’t know if we want to restrict consent or implied consent – to PDAs – only to married or engaged couples – the issue is whether he forced himself on her, not whether they are married or are a couple. But it’s more interesting to run counterfactuals and hypotheticals – to see the outrage then. Amrita already ran one with Gere and Sharon Stone – we know he wouldn’t have done it, she wouldn’t have let him, and if it had happened anyway, he’d have hell to pay. So if that’s true, then why is it different with a different SS?

  31. Gah!! Some indian people are just so backward regarding this “obscene” incident.You know it’s true!!!I can’t believe it is getting so much press.This actually reminds me of the time, my boyfriend and I were sitting in a park in Bangalore, enjoying the surroundings in a seemingly secluded area, when he nonchalantly kissed me on the cheek. A local man appeared soon after and admonished us for such behaviour. He wondered why we were kissing near a playground where the children could have seen.(lol!!) I swear we must have been doing horizontal tango in his eyes. Remember kids: In India, Kissing=Sex=Pleasure=Very very bad

    This in my opinion is India’s number one social problem; it’s non-comfort with mutual desire and the joyous display thereof.

    If more Indian couples, married and non, showed more PDAs and actually stood up for that instead of paying off cops with 100 rupees and cowering sheepishly in front of elders, maybe there would be less sexual harrassment of women on the streets? It appears to be a country which represses healthy expressions of mutual desire and it comes out in the form of non-mutual harrassment.

    Indian kids need to grow up seeing their moms and dads sitting side by side on the couch holding hands while the family watches TV. They need to see women and men eating together instead of seperately (men first), as mentioned elsewhere. They need to see their dads showing appreciation and affections to their moms.

    I think if Indians grew up seeing healthy forms of love and affection expressed between the sexes, that they would be much more comfortable with PDAs, the concept of mutual and concentual desire, etc, and less repressed and frustrated in matters sexual, which eventually come out in perverted ways.

    For alot of conservative, traditional people, even sex between husband and wife is almost taboo! I have heard even it is deemed shameful for a wife to express desire to her husband or instruct him in pleasing her.

    Shilpa could’ve taken the oppurtunity to address these issues and rally the cause of Indian women.

  32. This in my opinion is India’s number one social problem

    The problem you describe is very real, but when we raise it to ‘number one social problem’, let’s remember that it is largely an urban middle class problem. The problem does not exist, in the particular form you frame it – among very rich or very poor people – or in the rural areas. There are other related problems – misogyny, male privilege, etc – so it’s by no means an ideal situation, but the particular repression of sexuality – in this form – is an urban middle class phenomenon. And there are regional variations – I don’t think Kerala and Punjab are the same in this regard.

    The scary thing is that as the ‘development’ bandwagon goes into the rural areas, and tribals and other indigenous peoples are brought in to its ambit, and develop middle class ambitions, they too might buy into repression of sexuality, subordination of women, etc.

  33. This in my opinion is India’s number one social problem; it’s non-comfort with mutual desire and the joyous display thereof.

    PG,

    As usual you have outdone yourself with your posts. So this is India’s number one social problem eh? Not rampant casteism in the villages, not absymally low levels of literacy, not large rural unemployment and not the emerging urban-rural divide. Tres Interessant.

    For someone who claims “to have spent 10 years in India and has been mercilessly pawed by grey-haired older gentlemen and who never once misses an occasion to point out this fact, maybe you could put a little more thought before you gurgitate the first thing that pops into your head onto this board.

  34. I don’t know if we want to restrict consent or implied consent – to PDAs – only to married or engaged couples – the issue is whether he forced himself on her, not whether they are married or are a couple.

    Your right, that’s the real issue.

    Until I read the comments on this thread I never would have considered what Gere did sexual harrassment – I’m still not sure if I do.

    I am so used to seeing such things on American TV. Why is it people are saying he wouldn’t have done it if it was Sharon Stone? As others have pointed out in U.S. awards show this stuff happens all the time – Adrien Brody and Halle Berry. PG would you consider that instance (if you happened to see it?) sexual harrassment in America’s context?

  35. Until I read the comments on this thread I never would have considered what Gere did sexual harrassment – I’m still not sure if I do.

    It’s the moral equivelent of a wedgie. I mean, technically a wedgie is a form of physical assault, but if you view it in context, it’s clearly meant to be taken lightly and with a sense of humor.

  36. although, upon further reflection, the wedgie was used as a form of social control…a method upon which the powerful (popular, athletic males) maintained hegemony over the powerless (studious, nerdy males). The fact that it was a joke was really what mede it so effective, as it allowed for plausible denial and thus was rarely punished by authorities.

    o god, has fannon been right this whole time.

  37. Thanks for the comparison, but maybe the comparison isn’t really needed b/c like a wedgie, a kiss by itself can be taken as either sexual assault or a joke or something else, depending on context.

  38. I think if Indians grew up seeing healthy forms of love and affection expressed between the sexes, that they would be much more comfortable with PDAs, the concept of mutual and concentual desire, etc, and less repressed and frustrated in matters sexual, which eventually come out in perverted ways.

    I completely agree!! Human beings naturally want to show affection toward each other and repressing that desire, comes out in different forms such as the interesting phenomenon of seemingly heterosexual men holding hands and carrying on the way a boy/girl couple would. Why is affection in public between two men accepted and an opposite sex couple not?

    Any whoo, I think I am going off subject, but I just like to say that if Shilpa was offended by the behaviour of Richard, it is between them to deal with and not in the court system of india. That said, if an american movie star like George Clooney wants to make out with an Indian woman on national tv, I will gladly volunteer. (lol!!)

  39. The problem you describe is very real, but when we raise it to ‘number one social problem’, let’s remember that it is largely an urban middle class problem. The problem does not exist, in the particular form you frame it – among very rich or very poor people – or in the rural areas. There are other related problems – misogyny, male privilege, etc – so it’s by no means an ideal situation, but the particular repression of sexuality – in this form – is an urban middle class phenomenon. And there are regional variations – I don’t think Kerala and Punjab are the same in this regard. The scary thing is that as the ‘development’ bandwagon goes into the rural areas, and tribals and other indigenous peoples are brought in to its ambit, and develop middle class ambitions, they too might buy into repression of sexuality, subordination of women, etc.

    I disagree. I resided in a small town, much smaller than Agra, even Aligarh. Small, traditional, religious holy site — mostly rural until recently, even now still considered “rural”. The people there, even though the more “well off” ones, would not be considered “middle class” by Indian urban center standards. Sexual harrassment there was as common as public urination (shows you how common it was!). Basically, as common as aloo paranthas for breakfast in the morning and aloo subzi for dinner in the night.

    Contrary to what you said, I have experienced less sexual harrassment in India’s urban centers. My friends (Indian women and others) report the same.

    PG, As usual you have outdone yourself with your posts. So this is India’s number one social problem eh? Not rampant casteism in the villages, not absymally low levels of literacy, not large rural unemployment and not the emerging urban-rural divide. Tres Interessant. For someone who claims “to have spent 10 years in India and has been mercilessly pawed by grey-haired older gentlemen and who never once misses an occasion to point out this fact, maybe you could put a little more thought before you gurgitate the first thing that pops into your head onto this board.

    You’re a man. You have NO idea what it’s like to be a woman in India. No idea. I stand behind my words “one hundred and ten percent!”

  40. Human beings naturally want to show affection toward each other and repressing that desire, comes out in different forms such as the interesting phenomenon of seemingly heterosexual men holding hands and carrying on the way a boy/girl couple would. Why is affection in public between two men accepted and an opposite sex couple not?

    In some of those cases they are temporarily homosexual, a type of socially forced homosexuality until they get married. There is a scientific word for that – when genders turn inward because of lack of oppurtunity with the opposite — can’t remember. But it is common in societies that employ segregation of the sexes. People from such societies will verify that for you. After marriage (to the opposite) the same gender lovin declines or stops completely.

    I have seen mothers and sons carry on in such ways that would be considered “borderline” to most on this website — again, in the same type of segregated society.

  41. In some of those cases they are temporarily homosexual, a type of socially forced homosexuality until they get married. There is a scientific word for that – when genders turn inward because of lack of oppurtunity with the opposite.

    I don’t want to threadjack here, but I have to take a quick side-trip to queer-theory-land in response to this (yes, it’s where I’m happiest :) .

    Human sexual behavior is incredibly varied, and our categories of classifying it incredibly recent, historically speaking (the medical/psychiatric definitions of homosexual and heterosexual, and the social identities of gay, lesbian, etc. have been around for less than a hundred years). These categories also do not hold true in different places around the world. The U.S., for example, insists on labeling a same-sex PDA like hand-holding as necessarily linked to same-sex sexual activities. That same PDA does not mean the same thing in other cultures, obviously. The meaning we give to certain acts changes across places and times.

    I guess what I’m saying is don’t assume. I doubt that any same-sex-lovin’ activity happening between men (or women) anywhere in the world is “socially forced.” I understand that there are social environments that are more conducive to same-sex activity (prisons, boarding schools, etc), but no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head and saying, “Hold hands, you two! Okay, now when you’re alone, get biz-zay!”

    I guess what I’m saying is be suspicious of any “scientific word” that seeks to explain human sexual behavior, especially one that simplistically labels same-sex activity as some kind of “inverted gender” bullshit brought about by “lack of opportunity with the opposite,” as if opposite-sex sexual activity is the baseline from which all else is measured and people are incapable of desiring certain sex acts all on their own. We can’t be put in boxes, people! We’re too damn freaky.

    Having said that, the Gere ass-grab/cheek-lick was not cool. Physical touching of any kind, freaky or un-, should be consensual, and this seemed more like an unpleasant surprise that Shilpa couldn’t get out of without shoving his ass off the podium. And that wouldn’t have been lady-like, right? I think that women often feel they can’t react as they’d like to inappropriate touching, since the response would be akin to the wedgie defense (it’s just a joke! it’s no big deal! don’t be so uptight! etc.).

    Speaking of power dynamics and physical inappropriateness, someone upthread mentioned the inappropriate Bush/Merkel massage from a while back. Did anyone else catch the Reid/Pelosi Vulcan shoulder rub at the Democratic press conference last week? The Daily Show had a funny about it. She’s not your 9-year-old niece giving a good-citizenship speech, Reid, she’s the Speaker of the motherf**king house! Jeez. Insecure maroon.

  42. I guess what I’m saying is don’t assume. I doubt that any same-sex-lovin’ activity happening between men (or women) anywhere in the world is “socially forced.” I understand that there are social environments that are more conducive to same-sex activity (prisons, boarding schools, etc), but no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head and saying, “Hold hands, you two! Okay, now when you’re alone, get biz-zay!”

    This does not apply to prisons. Most “homosexual” activity in prisons are due to rape or coerced sex. Human Rights Watch have investigated this.

  43. Avi, you’re absolutely right. “Prisons” was a bad example. Dammit! I was specifically trying to avoid issues around non-consensual activity, and I went and put my foot in it anyway.

    So yeah, in arguing against the phrase “socially forced” (as opposed to “individually forced”), my brain had a slight aneurism and I put ‘prisons’ down as an example of a sex-segregated environment. Disregard, Mutineers! Not that there isn’t some consensual same-sex activity happening in prisons, but, as Avi said, forced sex in prisons is rampant, and is horribly underreported and underrecognized. It is a human rights issue, and has no place in my argument about hand-holding men getting it on in India or elsewhere.

  44. I don’t want to threadjack here, but I have to take a quick side-trip to queer-theory-land in response to this (yes, it’s where I’m happiest :) . Human sexual behavior is incredibly varied, and our categories of classifying it incredibly recent, historically speaking (the medical/psychiatric definitions of homosexual and heterosexual, and the social identities of gay, lesbian, etc. have been around for less than a hundred years). These categories also do not hold true in different places around the world. The U.S., for example, insists on labeling a same-sex PDA like hand-holding as necessarily linked to same-sex sexual activities. That same PDA does not mean the same thing in other cultures, obviously. The meaning we give to certain acts changes across places and times. I guess what I’m saying is don’t assume. I doubt that any same-sex-lovin’ activity happening between men (or women) anywhere in the world is “socially forced.” I understand that there are social environments that are more conducive to same-sex activity (prisons, boarding schools, etc), but no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head and saying, “Hold hands, you two! Okay, now when you’re alone, get biz-zay!” I guess what I’m saying is be suspicious of any “scientific word” that seeks to explain human sexual behavior, especially one that simplistically labels same-sex activity as some kind of “inverted gender” bullshit brought about by “lack of opportunity with the opposite,” as if opposite-sex sexual activity is the baseline from which all else is measured and people are incapable of desiring certain sex acts all on their own. We can’t be put in boxes, people! We’re too damn freaky. Having said that, the Gere ass-grab/cheek-lick was not cool. Physical touching of any kind, freaky or un-, should be consensual, and this seemed more like an unpleasant surprise that Shilpa couldn’t get out of without shoving his ass off the podium. And that wouldn’t have been lady-like, right? I think that women often feel they can’t react as they’d like to inappropriate touching, since the response would be akin to the wedgie defense (it’s just a joke! it’s no big deal! don’t be so uptight! etc.). Speaking of power dynamics and physical inappropriateness, someone upthread mentioned the inappropriate Bush/Merkel massage from a while back. Did anyone else catch the Reid/Pelosi Vulcan shoulder rub at the Democratic press conference last week? The Daily Show had a funny about it. She’s not your 9-year-old niece giving a good-citizenship speech, Reid, she’s the Speaker of the motherf**king house! Jeez. Insecure maroon.

    Lizzie, some of those men engage in temporary homosexual activities due to the fact that they can’t have gfs. Some of those men are genuinely gay. I’m making a distinction. And it’s not the hand-holding I’m talking about. That is just part of the culture. I’m talking about other forms of affection between these men.

  45. Uh.

    Lizzie, some of those men engage in temporary homosexual activities due to the fact that they can’t have gfs

    That’s kind of an odd way to describe a rather more turbulent set of emotional and physical circumstances. I mean, I am fairly certain that most heterosexual men don’t engage in homosexual activities “because they can’t have a girlfriend.” If that were the case, quite a few frustrated souls on Shaadi.com would be hanging out in Dupont Circle, looking for love in all the dark places.

    To clarify: rape is generally a power move that involves sex, not sex that lacks romance.

  46. Of course there is a distinction between having a gay identity and engaging in same-sex activity during temporary periods of one’s life. What gets me ruffled is the “scientific” push to explain the wonder that is human sexuality and human desire in simplistic, A = B terms, when it is often, as Salil said, “a more turbulent set of emotional and physical circumstances.”