New Delhi: Actor Siddharth’s tweet on badminton player Saina Nehwal became the source of controversy, sparking outrage over the sexist undertones. The actor has now issued an apology, but the tone and tenor of his statement shows it is anything but an unconditional apology.
On January 5, Saina Nehwal had tweeted her concern over the “security breach” incident when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy was stopped for 15-20 minutes on a flyover in Punjab’s Bathinda as the road was blocked by protesting farmers.
Retweeting her post, Siddharth wrote, “Subtle cock champion of the world…Thank God we have protectors of India. Shame on you #Rihanna.” He deleted his tweet following an uproar.
Severe backlash ensued, calling out the blatant sexism in his tone. The National Commission for Women in a statement said that the comment by the actor is “misogynist and outrageous to the modesty of a woman amounting to disrespect and insult to the dignity of women on social media platforms.
Speaking to India Today, Saina Nehwal said, “I’m not sure what he meant… I used to like him as an actor but this was not nice. He can express himself with better words but I guess it’s Twitter and you remain noticed with such words and comments.”
Following the uproar and trolling on Twitter, the actor on January 11, issued a public apology.
However, this was far from what an apology should look like.
He starts with what seems to be an unconditional apology, which is what Nehwal deserves but eventually makes it about how it’s on people that they didn’t get his “joke” right.
He insists that it was wordplay and humour that he intended, but the “joke didn’t land.”
If indeed he saw meaning in why people were offended, would one still go on to defend their statements by veiling them in harmless humour? It is odd that he still doesn’t possibly see all that was wrong with his choice of words or their implications. If in fact, the apology is only issued to cool down sentiments, and not because there’s been some actual introspection, the apology actually serves little purpose.
In spite of a heated argument over it, and the internet pointing out exactly what was wrong with the statement, he still makes the apology about himself and his well-meaning intentions.
Regardless of intentions, what he doesn’t acknowledge is the effect of his comments in the first place. One might have the noblest intentions in the world, but if they aren’t perceived in the same light by the receiver or the audience of a social media platform in this case, what good do true, well-meaning intentions even hold?
As pointed out in this report, the actor has made sexist, misogynistic remarks in the past too.
After his open letter of apology, Nehwal reacted saying, “I don’t even know why it went so viral. I was surprised to see myself trending on Twitter. Happy that Siddharth has apologized.”
While it does appear that the tweet and the apology didn’t seem to matter too much to her, there is a larger picture to look at. That tweet, in the public domain, is offensive to all women. It’s crass language and an unhealthy way of arguing over differences. Secondly, celebrities who enjoy a fan following in thousands, do have an extra responsibility, as them sending out such messages have the potential of setting a dangerous precedence.