A Tamil magazine that sparked public outrage by dubbing women wearing leggings as immoral said on Thursday the controversial cover story was meant to create awareness but activists rejected the defence and demanded an unconditional apology.
In a telephonic conversation with HT, editor of Kumudam Reporter G Gubendran justified the article, saying it was a topical issue after a government-run medical college directed its first year students not to wear leggings.
“Such directives exist in private engineering colleges but when a government college sought to enforce such a ban, we intended to explore the issue. The write-up gives the pros and cons and differing views,” he said.
“We have no intention to insult anyone.”
But women rights groups rejected the explanation, demanding the weekly apologise for commodifying and insulting women in its cover story (loosely translated ‘Obscene leggings: youth is crossing the line”) that also carried images of women that were described as obscene.
A young television reporter described it as the newest low in Tamil journalism, a sentiment echoed by many of her colleagues.
“What do we wear? We wear anything, there is a problem, whether it is jeans or a sari. They have used pictures where women are made to look indecent. I strongly feel the women whose pictures were taken must take tough action against the magazine,” said P Manaswini, a student at the Women’s Christian College.
But Gubendran contested this, saying they didn’t advise or suggest anyone to not wear leggings or indulge in moral policing.
“We have only pointed out different views and concerns expressed by doctors on what problems could be caused by leggings,” he told HT.
“Please read the complete article and come to a judgment rather than be taken in by the criticism.”
The development comes a couple of days after a storm of criticism on social media about a purported list of restrictions for female students issued by a Chennai-based engineering college, that said women couldn’t have Facebook or WhatsApp accounts, talk to boys, celebrate birthdays, among other things.
Senior journalist Kavita Muralidharan and others have launched a campaign to force the Kumudam management to apologise. “Kumudam magazine apologize for your story insulting women and be responsible,” Kavita said reflecting the sentiments of many women journalists. A similar online petition is also ding doing the rounds
DMK Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi also said she condemned this type of moral policing masquerading as journalism.
Describing the write up in the Tamil magazine as a clear case of objectification of women, the daughter of DMK chief Karunanidhi said, “I hope social and political media organisations realise the modern Indian woman is not someone who suffers silently.”
Film star and Congress leader Khushboo also condemned the pictures but said women needed to be cautious about the kind of dresses they wear so that they don’t get unwanted attention.
“Sometimes wind does blow the dresses and presents an awkward picture. This is the reality,” she said.
“But if the magazine says dressing of women titillates men, that’s nonsense as there have been molestation of fully-draped nuns and even of two-year-old girls,” Khushboo said.