If Marathi and Hindi film actor Sonali Kulkarni’s speech on most modern Indian women being lazy left me shocked and enraged, her apology post left me deeply saddened.
I’d shared my thoughts on her problematic speech in an earlier article. So, I’ll share why I felt Kulkarni’s apology post was more damaging than her speech.
If her speech made her an overnight hero among MRAs, sexists, and people who were awed by her dramatic words, then her apology post made her a legendary saint.
Did Sonali Kulkarni issue a ‘non-apology’ apology?
Sonali Kulkarni’s apology post was a stark contrast to her outspoken speech on most Indian women being lazy. The apology was diplomatic, conditional, and vague.
She states being a woman; she did not intend to hurt other women. First, being a woman doesn’t make one a champion of women’s rights. Feminism has less to do with gender as much as a sense of fairness, equality, empathy, and justice. We’ve known women, just as men, who are misogynists because of conditioning. But Kulkarni insists that being a woman, she’s a massive supporter of fellow women sharing warmth for them.
While she admits trying to ‘think’ in her capacity, she wants to share her warmth with not just women, but with mankind. She adds it will be strengthening if women with their vulnerabilities and wisdom shine as fair and able beings. She adds that by being inclusive and empathetic, we can build a healthier, happier place.
While at the outset, this message by Sonali Kulkarni seems noble, the fact is women have been the ones who’ve been excluded for eons in history to date. Men have robbed the credits of inventions by women, whose voices have been suppressed and faces hidden for centuries. The gender ratio is skewed in our country when even today female foetuses are aborted and girl babies dumped in the trash.
India is the only large country where more girls die than boys, according to UNICEF. We have a long way to go if we want to become a developed country where the gender ratio is skewed towards women.
So, Ms. Kulkarni, who should be playing fair and being inclusive?
It’s also interesting to note her deliberate language in the apology post. She talks of inclusivity and ‘mankind’ in the same breath, instead of humankind. Ms. Kulkarni, you started the fire. By calling most modern Indian women as ‘lazy’, you started the victim naming, blaming, and shaming.
Your logic that women should work to ‘support men’ is also ideologically flawed. The Universe wasn’t created to ‘support poor men’. It’s bad enough we hear terms like ‘It’s a man’s world’ and with more accusatory, demanding statements like “most women are lazy” and they ought to earn to ‘support men’ like Kulkarni’s, it now feels like women are obliged to support men and their existence and survival in the world. Isn’t that the same line of thinking and whole purpose of the dowry system as well? To help support men in taking care of their spouses who couldn’t earn?
Kulkarni apologises, from the bottom of her heart, if unknowingly she may have caused pain. Not before reminding us she doesn’t thrive on headlines and nor does she want to be the centre of sensational situations. There’s more back-patting as she declares herself as a die-hard optimist who strongly believes life is indeed beautiful.
Why does Kulkarni’s apology note read and feel like politician talk? Insincere, safe, and evasive. One that fools the public at large, and draws their claps and ardent loyalty.
I’d like to remind Ms. Kulkarni again said that she was the one who started the fire (read sensational news) and if she’s implying that her critics are the ones looking to hog the headlines, that’s another subtle or sneaky form of victim shaming again.
An apology post or PR exercise?
In an interview after her apology note, when asked if women took her speech in the wrong context, she says the references in her speech were for ‘few’ women. She doesn’t state how she was wrong, as she called out ‘most’ modern Indian women as ‘lazy’, which led to the confusion in the first place, and the eventual outrage.
This apology note seals and makes Kulkarni right all the way.
It’s not surprising that Kulkarni’s post got massive support not from her fans alone but from her earlier critics like Sona Mohapatra, too. Ms. Kulkarni turned all negative press into positive press overnight with her conditional apology that makes her a national martyr of some sort for the cause of men. Mohapatra absolved her, stating we wouldn’t expect men to apologise even when they’re wrong.
Because Kulkarni’s apology note is so vague about why she’s apologising or how she’s wrong, people are unanimously asking Kulkarni to backtrack her apology. And how if there’s anyone who should apologise, it’s the ‘lazy’ women and not her.
I’d like to remind these great blind followers of hers that –
Kulkarni’s half-assed apology post is worse than her vile video.
Did she address the criticism? NO.
Did she ask men to not take dowry and share the household and parenting responsibilities? NO.
Did she even mention the patriarchal system? NO.
Was her post safe? YES. To appease both men and women this time around. Ms. Kulkarni, please don’t apologise ‘IF’ you think you hurt women. Apologise because you got your facts wrong. Apologise for making sexual harassment a casual joke. Women want appreciation for a job well-done at the workplace, not for their looks with lecherous ogles.
The worst part of Sonali Kulkarni’s pretentious apology post is claiming her intent is right. If her intent was truly right, she’d make a balanced speech and not demand saying, “I WANT taalis for this woman-bashing.” She’s only and only white-washed men to date.
Nice try, Ms. Kulkarni! You can do way better by telling your male fans to do better for women’s lives. Ask them to educate themselves on the latest statistics on gender inequality in India.
The truth about India’s gender inequality
Bharat mein ‘bahut’ saari auratein ‘aalsi’ or ‘privileged’ nahin hain.
Sonali Kulkarni surely needs to get down from her ivory tower and see the ground reality. The amount of toil & labour women do daily at meager wages. Bharat was built on the backs of hardworking women.
So, Ms. Kulkarni, apologise because you really mean it and for making a mockery of women. Not for getting respects and salutes from your scores of indebted male fans. Play fair.
In this context, I’d like to quote a male lawyer who responded to my tweets, even though he usually refrains from writing on Twitter because he’ll be bombarded with abuses in my notifications.
“Life of dignity and freedom can only be assured when we make the institution of marriage more egalitarian. There are few things which need to bear in mind. First, women got equal inheritance rights in 1956 and daughters were made coparceners in 2005. So not even hundreds of years have passed and to ask immediately to compete with men is a bit too harsh.
In Punjab, there’s a common notion even today amongst parents that after her marriage, girls belong to the husband’s family. So what’s the point in educating her because whatever she’ll earn belongs to husband and her family?
Majority of people are not aware of Section 15 of Hindu Succession Act, if a woman, through her skill or will or other means, becomes an owner of property. The property devolves in absence of children and husband in favour of the heirs of the husband. And her parents get nothing out of it.”
A mere 23% of Indian women have financial planning and investment knowledge as per a Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) survey. There is also a gap in accessing financial services by women. Rajsri Rengan, Head of development, Banking & Payments, India & Philippines, FIS says,
“One major factor is India’s patriarchal culture that emphasises on women being the primary caregivers and homemakers coupled with social norms that often restrict women’s mobility, access to resources, and financial decision-making power. Financial constraints discourage them from owning mobile phones, especially smartphones, or accessing the internet and other digital financial services. Another factor is the dearth of targeted financial education and awareness campaigns that are tailored to women’s specific needs and challenges.”
Sonali Kulkarni’s apology post has made things even tougher for women than it already is
The impact of Sonali Kulkarni’s speech and apology post has done enough damage already, with both going viral and shared across social platforms. It’s the larger collective of women who will face the brunt of it for a long time.
As someone who’s active online, it’s devastating to see women being taunted as ‘fake feminists’ or those spreading ‘misunderstood feminism’ and what not.
Knowingly or unknowingly, Kulkarni has given ample ammunition for many faceless sexist trolls to have a field day online as they witch-hunt women for sharing news and their thoughts on gender inequality. We know how misogyny is amplified on social media thanks to the anonymity factor and lack of stringent regulations. In real life, Paromita Bardoloi cities its implications.
Anyway, if Kulkarni’s is wise, inclusive and empathetic as she claims, she can do us women a favour by fact checking her rants before making them public. There’s nothing wrong with having an alternative viewpoint and stating how few women are lazy, instead of generalising it to most women. Also, I believe if toxic masculinity exists, so does toxic femininity. But that’s a discussion for another day and it’s not relevant here.
Sonali Kulkarni’s message is important but…..
There is no dispute that we need more women to not just enter the workforce but thrive on top.
India ranks at 135 out of 146 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2022, a slight improvement in rankings from 2021 when it ranked 140 out of 156 countries. India also fares poorly in economic participation, which includes the percentage of women in the workforce and wage equality for similar work, ranking 143 out of 146 countries.
While Sonali Kulkarni’s message that women need to join the workforce is fine so far, it goes downhill after that. From ignoring the lack of support system for women at home and workplace, sexism and pay gap at the workplace, implying sexual harassment at the workplace as women’s delusion, to the basic premise that women need to earn ‘to support men’, Kulkarni takes the easy route of victim shaming women as ‘lazy’.
Sonali Kulkani’s husband is Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO of Alt Balaji and IIM A almnus. She comes from an elite, wealthy class, with the best of PR behind her. It’s dangerous to use that influence to spread half-truths & make the lives of common women even tougher than it already is. It reeks hypocrisy and privilege when a CEO’s actor wife labels most ‘Modern Indian Women’ as ‘lazy’ and ‘greedy’. Women like Sonali Kulkarni have all the wealth, power, and fame to make toxic speeches and have their PR make them look like saints. It’s a sad state of affairs.
With power comes greater responsibility. Sonali Kulkarni and her tribe have proven otherwise.