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Stop with those stupid questions

Published Feb 26, 2015, 4:42 am IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 5:53 pm IST
It’s hard being a woman in Hollywood, or any industry
Madhu Shalini
 Madhu Shalini

“We’re more than just our dresses,” lashed out Reese Witherspoon on the Red Carpet of the 2015 Academy Awards. This insistence from the Legally Blonde actress, known for her brains, gave momentum to a 2014 campaign that aims at encouraging the media and people to look at actresses beyond their clothes and make-up.

The campaign Ask Her More by The Representation Project has been trending on social media over the last few days owing to Reese and other actresses like Julianne Moore. The campaigners even used the hashtag on Twitter to send suggested questions to reporters, in real-time “whenever they risk devaluing the accomplishments of women in Hollywood, and to spark deeper conversations in front of a national television audience”.


The campaign even holds significance in our film Everyone remembers Parineeti Chopra lashing out at an uninformed question on menstrual cycles. When Rani Mukherjee was promoting Mardaani, she was asked about “achaar”.

The problem, and as pointed out by a trending Cate Blanchett meme, is that these questions are borderline sexist. Or simply put, the question is: “Do you do that to the guys?” Tollywood actresses also rue that this is an experience they expect at almost every event.

The young Tejaswi Madivada recounts the horror stories during the promotion of RGV’s Ice Cream. “I was asked many ridiculous questions. Rumours were then doing the rounds that I had a nude scene in the movie. A reporter came up to me and asked, ‘how can you do a nude scene, being a Telugu girl?’ I asked him if Telugu girls were not allowed to do it?” she says. The 23-year-old now hopes that the campaign does really take off and “someone will at least try and think a hundred times before asking such ridiculous questions.”

Madhu Shalini, who played a journalist in Gopala Gopala, jests, “I am glad that the role did not require me to ask any stupid questions.” She goes on to point out the kind of stress these “irrelevant” questions lead to in women. “We are asked irrelevant questions, and knowing that refusing to answer them will also lead to trouble adds to the stress. Actresses are, therefore, forced to answer a question even if it is way out of the context of the event or the interaction. And we often feel cornered and targeted,” she shares.

Taking the example of Julianne Moore at the Oscars, speaking for awareness and work towards Alzheimer’s, Madhu Shalini adds, “Sometimes, we as artistes take up causes or choose to support something because we want to leverage the position we have reached to talk about issues that matter. So I feel that it is also the people or the media’s responsibility to take that intention forward instead of deviating or diluting topics.”

Rakul Preet, meanwhile, says that she has had enough of the fashion obsession. “A lot of time I have been asked — ‘do you think fashion is important to an actress? Are you okay doing a lip lock in the movie? Do you consider other actresses competition?’ etc.”

“Even, when we can’t make it to an event and give it a miss, people start judging us. And sometimes if we wrap up a shoot and just make it in time, we are again judged, saying the actress should have worn a little shorter, or longer clothes, the shoes did not go with the outfit, or how a bun would have completed the look There is a lot of effort that goes behind it, which I guess should be respected,” she says.

Rakul also believes that artistes can be used as agents of change instead of just portraying them as glam dolls. “I guess one should use actors to voice important issues rather than asking ridiculous sexist questions. There is so much happening in the world, why not ask them questions of social importance?” she asks.