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Mithibai College stood in all glory with a roof of blue pom-poms on the second day of Hashtag’16, the media festival for the Mithibai College and Harkisan Mehta Institute of Media Research and Analysis. The fest was amazingly organized, and everyone looked so dedicated to what they were doing! We were invited to attend the “Journalism of Courage” event as part of our collaboration with the fest.
The air in the seminar hall where “Journalism of Courage” was to be conducted had a sort of seriousness which the event demanded. Only five contestants were chosen to speak, after a tooth and nail sort of prelims, where they all had to submit a 350-word summary of their article in the first round. If selected, an expanded 1000-words version of the same was to be given, which in the end, had to be crowd pulling and, therefore, had to get the most number of likes on our very own, “Facebook.”
The excitement was, therefore, too much to take. The main event was judged by the veteran social and political writer and journalist Dilip D’Souza. Most of the contestants (all women, by the way) were very keen on the big question, the state of the women in our country, and had a fresh new perspective on each side of the argument they had taken.
The first contestant came in with the most talked about issues of the times, the culture associated with rapes. The appropriation of the victim and the misogynist statements related to it were mentioned. There was a particular air of anger with which she spoke, which reflected in her words, her mannerisms; these elevated her confidence and gave her topic the right impact it deserved. She ended on a questioning note about why our country has one of the highest state crime rates globally, especially against women, and how this makes her question every man on the street.
The second contestant turned out to be the exact opposite of the first regarding her elocution. The confidence was, in no way, any lesser, but her attitude and her style of speaking were very casual, very calm. She made her speech sound more like an everyday conversation and thus, kept the audience engaged. She had one of the most impressive starts. It dealt with how women are considered Gods in our country and then, very easily, swayed us into the real topic of her monologue, how we love deforming the very same women by throwing acid at them like its colors at the Holi festival.
The variation in personalities didn’t just end here. The third one came with a very confident yet relaxed vibe. The firmness with which she spoke of her ideas made it seem like she was there to change the mindset of every person in the room. And why wouldn’t she? She was talking about the sexualization of women in the media. One of the best lines from her speech was, “If ‘sex sells’ is your argument for having bikini-clad women in men’s magazines, why don’t we have half-naked men in ours? Why do we have to watch the bikini-clad woman?” and another interesting line was “You’re not just giving a false goal to your daughter to become a fair, beautiful woman, but you’re also giving your son false expectations for a future wife, which is unattainable because she doesn’t exist!”
The other two contestants had very different perspectives of society. While the fourth one talked about our acceptance of the differently-abled in our nation, the fifth spoke of the dark side of feminism. The former’s speech clearly stated her passion for the content and concern for the ones it was about, while the latter dismissed the stereotypical feminist vibe that always demands men to take all the blame. Both of them clearly pointed out our flaws in the teachings of good and bad.
After an hour full of fantastic speeches and varied ideas came in the judge Dilip D’Souza, who, unlike the other judges, opted for constructive criticism rather than only appreciating the effort of the participants. In our personal chat with him about the event and the face of journalism and the society as a whole today, he said,
“Anger doesn’t take you very far in journalism, but the fire must be there. It keeps you going. The generation today has a lot of it and a lot of opinions. I might not agree with all of them, but it’s exquisite to hear about it. It’s important that they’re aware. In the end, journalism is all about getting your story across. There would always be people who’d think that it’s all about creating a hype, but the ones who do that aren’t respecting the art of it. And you must believe in what you sell; you do your research right. And that is why, as the recent events are turning out, I see a lot of hope and creativity in young individuals. I’m glad that they, at least, have some ideas, even when I don’t agree with them.”