Sunny Leone Embodies Exactly How To Combat Misogyny In Today's World - Homegrown

Sunny Leone Embodies Exactly How To Combat Misogyny In Today's World

“I’m wondering whether I’m being morally corrupted because I’m speaking to you.”

- Bhupendra Chaubey to Sunny Leone. 

Let’s put things in perspective before we begin. At 34, Sunny Leone has accomplished far more than most people. She’s been a lauded adult entertainer in the US, rocket-launched her Bollywood career via Big Boss, and ever since Mahesh BHatt’s Jism 2 in 2011, her four-year-long career has seen her acting in several films across Indian languages. All this and more has earned her a spot on the perfectly reputable Forbes top 100 celebrity list in India, not to mention her throne as the most searched person on Google in India for the fourth consecutive year.
Why then, is it so unfathomable to imagine that she has no regrets about the course her life has taken? And why does an Indian journalist so desperately want her to be apologetic for her ‘past actions’, just so that he can feel slightly more comfortable in the presence of a woman who has complete agency over her choices, especially her professional ones?

[Watch Sunny Leone's interview with Bhupendra Chaubey here.]

These are just the most basic questions you’re likely to be left with post watching Bhupendra Chaubey’s interview with Sunny Leone on CNN-IBN’s ‘The Hot Seat.’ Hiding (completely visibly) behind the pretense of ‘the country’s’ views and ‘married Indian women’s’ views, the ‘journalist’ began a 20-minute long excruciating mission to get Leone to admit she regretted her past as a porn star. Constantly interrupting her to achieve his goal, the only saving grace quickly became Leone’s incredible poise and objectivity while responding to his clear discomfort in the presence of somebody with a past like hers. A much better reflection of the kind of moral fabric he's been thread together with, than the one she has. When a veteran news anchor is so visibly confounded by the fact that someone does not ‘regret’ their career in porn, the need for better role models, professionals, not to mention an understanding about women's issues has never been more apparent.
Here’s almost every excruciatingly sexist question he asked, and comment he made to her over the course of the interview, as chronicled by Catch News.
1). What is your greatest regret?
2). Do you get upset by the fact that you generate a lot of curiosity and/or when people say something nasty about you?
3). Kapil Sharma has said that he cannot have you on his show because of "family audiences". Does this upset you? (Sunny Leone has been on Kapil Sharma's show multiple times.)
4). Are you upset when there is resistance or inhibitions about you?
5). Do you think Aamir Khan would work with you? You would like to work with Aamir Khan, but would Aamir Khan like to work with you?
6). Do you think your past will continue to haunt you?
7). Is your past behind you?
8). If I could turn back the clock, would you still do what you did?
9). How many people would grow up thinking of becoming a pornstar?
10). A member of parliament, in his speeches, has held you responsible for corrupting Indian morality. How do you deal with that?
11). If Sunny Leone is becoming brand ambassador of New India, is that a dangerous trend to have?
12). There are lots of married women who look at Sunny Leone as a threat to their husbands. You Do you not care about all this?
13). Is Mastizaade about two boys and two girls wanting to have sex or is it about love?
14). Everyone wanted me to ask you nasty questions. You arouse extreme curiosity and extreme hatred. How do you deal with it?
15). There are some viewers who believe your identity remains that of your past, which is of your association with pornography. They believe that you're lowering the level of the fine art of cinema. Is that a just criticism?
16). So what is it about, Sunny? Is it just about the money?
17). Do you look at yourself as an artist?
18). Are you an item girl? I think the appropriate label for you would be ‘item girl’
19). Do you look at acting as a serious profession?
20). Do you believe that your body will ultimately take you everywhere?
21). Since you have come to Indian cinema, the number of people watching porn has increased proportionately to the extent that we are now the world's largest consumer of porn. Can you respond to that?
22). Am I being morally corrupt because I'm interviewing you?
23). All this negative talk about you. do you believe that this controversial nature will keep you going?
24). Will we see movies from Sunny Leone in the future where Sunny will be dressed up in a saree, covered completely?
25). Does script matter more, or is there umm, any other part that attracts you?    
As you can see, it’s something of an exaggeration to call this an interview at all, but there is a silver lining. People have come out in thousands supporting her against the journalist's supercilious questioning and as Scroll put it, "It's never a good sign when the interviewer is getting more press than the person being interviewed." Chaubey's responses have been less than appeasing too. The larger theme of his blog is as condescending as his interview. "I am only seeing positive feedback for her. So Sunny, you did well! It doesn’t matter that I was convinced at the end of the interview that you were an extremely brave woman to have dealt with your past in the manner in which you did. It’s the viewer that counts. Whether it's you or me."
There are a couple of things Chaubey got right, however, even if it was probably to his dismay. When he pointed out Sunny Leone might be becoming the brand ambassador for a new India, given the overwhelming support she has received for her genuine, collected responses, this India seems less ‘dangerous’ as Chaubey stated and more inclusive than ever before. Especially for women who can embody feminism without even having to prove their stance verbally. It's this that Leone accomplishes best in the interview. Rather than get even remotely defensive as we all tend to, she held her own, and suggested people's viewpoints will always be a reflection of them, not her. It's a lesson everyone, especially the media, could stand to learn from because objectivity and grace can go a longer way in changing people's mindsets than rabid wars of words ever will.   He also time and again brought up the fact that Sunny caused a lot of curiosity and controversy. Though his tone suggested this was derogatory, the truth of the statement is exactly what’s got everyone talking about this issue at all. In our office itself, opinions on whether Leone deserved the title of being a ‘strong, powerful feminist,’ was pretty hotly contested. Everyone agreed the journalist was out of line, but a few stopped short of seeing Leone’s composed, thoughtful responses as the very definition of an empowered woman rather than the workings of a good PR team. Others suggested that it’s just an ‘urban’ perspective of the word and there are women struggling with far more real issues than being attacked unethically by the media. There's a problem this difference highlights, that begs to be investigated.
Feminism can be embodied in so many different ways. A woman can wear her sexual liberation on her sleeve, and still reserve the right to say no to a man’s advances. There's nothing stopping a former porn star from being a feminist icon. An urban, upper class woman’s definition of misogyny might appear trivial in comparison to the grave injustices a rural, lower-caste woman faces everyday, but the fight still needs to be fought. The fight for equality is not mutually exclusive, it needs to be more inclusive. At the basis of everything is the need to accept that there is no one-size-fits-all feminism, and most of our opinions are nothing if not a reflection of our own securities or insecurities. A sentiment that Leone reiterated beautifully throughout this debacle. “Your thoughts are your prerogative, I can’t change them,” she smiles. And in the midst of thousands of conflicting voices, neither can we. But we do hope that it catalyses the start of it.
In the meantime, we hope Chaubey focusses his energies on finding a good toupee rather than interviewing people who are far beyond his limited understanding.

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