Katrina, Ranbir, and the omnipresent phenomenon of mansplaining

This first appeared on: https://feminisminindia.com/2017/06/27/katrina-ranbir-mansplaining/

 

Actors Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor gave an interview to VJ Xerxes Wadia of MTV Insider as part of their promotional tour for their upcoming film Jagga Jasoos. And as Buzzfeed points out correctly, the interview is quite evident of Ranbir ‘mansplaining’ Katrina’s role and contribution to her.

Mansplaining is a modern term for when a man tries to explain something condescendingly or patronisingly, especially to a woman.

Their romantic history, individual acting skills and personalities aside, Ranbir Kapoor clearly shows that he thinks of himself as a superior to Katrina. He also denies her the space to let her speak about her own character even though she has spent far more years in the film industry than he has. In the video, when Kaif is trying to explain the relation and personalities of the two lead characters played by her and Kapoor, he unabashedly interrupts her. When she calls him out on his behaviour, he claims she’s not doing a good enough job of explaining it. He dismisses her by saying that he’s the producer, therefore he knows better.

Towards the end, Kapoor also somehow assumes higher moral ground by saying that he wants to “better” Katrina as an actress, a star and a human being by giving what he has to offer. He says that she did the same for him during one of their earlier films, Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani, thereby implying that he has progressed far more than she has since the 2009 filmVisibly annoyed but keeping her demeanour calm and professional, Katrina Kaif represents what many women undergo on a daily basis.

Women from many professional fields have, in recent times, spoken out about the mansplaining that they encounter. Veronika Hubeny, a theoretical physicist recently had her own theories mansplained to her during a panel discussion at the World Science Festival. American actress, writer, producer and director Lena Dunham had a man comment on one of her Instagram images that she wasn’t cupping her breasts the right way in order to enhance her cleavage.  Such experiences are not exclusive to celebrities, although such episodes concerning famous women are easier to observe due to photographic and video evidence. Buzzfeed had compiled a list of mansplaining experiences by ordinary women, which they called ‘Mansplaining Horror Stories’ in their signature hyperbolic editorial style.

‘Horror’ may not be the right term for such experiences, but instances where the professional woman’s credibility and value for her opinion are undermined could be perceived as something which affects the woman’s confidence and efficiency.  Speaking up about this has also backfired on women in some recent cases. Australian senator Katy Gallagher was targeted by US alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos and internet trolls for speaking against mansplaining.

Sweden, which is considered a fairly progressive nation in terms of women’s rights, set up a helpline where women could report mansplaining. As it happened, more men ended up calling than women: some to learn more about the phenomenon of mansplaining, and some to mansplain why this was a bad idea.

Dr Elizabeth Aura McClintock, in an article on Psychology Today, explains that while the term ‘mansplaining’ may be new, it has been occurring for centuries. She links this to power play, where the more dominant person is the one who interrupts more often. She says that having a label for such a common phenomenon of gender inequality is a good idea, since it helps to identify this behaviour and make it more visible.

Media and gender equality may not be the most compatible, but the observance and analysis of every little behaviour of celebrities and politicians has brought behaviours like mansplaining into public dialogue. Even though women may not be able to counter mansplaining every time it happens to them, recognising it is a first step in arresting it. Until that happens, we can only keep an eye out for it, and refute any Ranbir Kapoors that try to take over your personal narrative.

 

 

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