Dear Ram Gopal Varma, Women Drink and Domestic Violence is Real. They Are Not Connected

Artists are often remembered for and by their work. But filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma seems to be going out of his way to ensure he is only remembered for one thing - sexism.

The filmmaker who has over the years revealed himself to be a rampant misogynist and women hater, did it once again after governments across states opened liquor shops on Monday after over a month of closure. Taking to Twitter - seemingly the filmmaker's current medium of choice for spewing venom - RGV shared a photo of women queuing up outside a liquor store.

"Look who’s in line at the wine shops...So much for protecting women against drunk men," he tweeted as the caption of the photo.

Now, one does not need to be a gender expert or gender violence activist to tell RGV to shut the hell up.

Ram Gopal Varma ka Sexism

The limelight hogger that RGV is, the tweet obviously had context. It wasn't until gender activists and women's rights experts started raising the issue of a potential increase in domestic abuse cases with the easy availability of alcohol amid lockdown that the filmmaker decided to pitch in his two cents.

This is hardly surprising because let's face it, RGV makes no balls about opening up to the world about his often deeply problematic views on women.

Remember that time when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and Varma launched into a random, racist and sexist rant where he compared Michelle Obama to Melania Trump and decided the latter was hotter? He went on to say that Obama's faces turned "blacker" after losing to Trump but let's keep that for another article on racism and Ramu.

In 2017, activist Vishaka Mhambre even filed a complaint against the filmmaker for his tweet on International Women's Day requesting all women to make men happy the way Sunny Leone did. Classic RGV to reduce objectify all women while also taking a dig at porn actors and Bollywood's Sunny Leone, who the filmmaker seems to have been quite obsessed with at the time. He even tried to piggyback on Leone's popularity with a suggestively-titled short film "Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chahti Hai" in the same year while tweeting multiple offensive puns and one-liners at her expense.

Oversimplifying violence

As an artist living in a country that records numerous cases of violence against women of all ages and as an artist who often exploits voyeuristic themes and women's sexuality to sell his movies (Read the 2018 God, Sex and Truth adventure), Ramu should know better than to boil down women's safety to a photo of eight women standing in line to buy their own booze in a country that lists domestic violence as the top crime against women.

And it would be incorrect to say the Varma is naive to the reality of nature of violence against women in India. His acute understanding of the virulent, hyper-masculine underbelly of Indian crime which made early films like Satya a treat must surely bring with it the awareness of how women across social strata, who make up the other half of the same world he understands and depicts, fare in the country.

In 2013 following a gang-rape in Mumbai, Varma had written a column in The Times of India in which he called rape a "disease".

"A criminal commits an act of a crime either because he can't control his urge, which is psychological, or because he thinks he won't get caught, which is partly due to ignorance and partly due to overconfidence... A criminal is just a carrier. One might say that a criminal is a human being and has a rational mind, but no rational man would ever take part in such a horrific act such as rape," he wrote.

How then does he ridicule activists today who are asking for a deeper introspection into a closeted matter like domestic abuse that costs hundreds of women their lives in the country each year? Even if one is to assume that the filmmaker does not understand the causal or cultural linkages between alcohol and violence between intimate partners, it is hard to imagine that Varma does not have at his disposal the means to educate himself.

If he can tweet a photo of women standing in line outside of a liquor store -- ONE photo, mind you, out of the sea of images and videos that flooded from across the country depicting a clear majority of men among those queuing up outside -- he can also Google the hundreds of studies that show the directly proportional way in which alcohol affects aggression and domestic violence against women.

If words don't suffice, let's throw some numbers. As many as 3,78,277 crimes against women were committed in 2018, according to data published by the National Crime Records Bureau. Domestic violence topped the list with the maximum number of cases.

A 2010 study of low-income couples in Mumbai found that instances of violence against wives and children by heavy drinkers 6.5 times higher than in those who drank socially.

Implying that women drink means they are not beaten by men who drink is an oversimplification of domestic abuse and in the same genre of arguments as Women who go out at night can't complain about getting raped".

But RGV cares not about gender discourse. He would rather provoke some feminists and milk some likes from the #NotAllMen brigade on Twitter because let's face it. It's easier to grab headlines through provocative tweets aimed to outrage than through progressive films that could actually affect change in mindsets.