When voicing a public opinion on social media, it’s naïve to not expect some kind of backlash. After all, it is the internet, where everyone has an opinion. Most of the time, these differences in opinion are resolved anything but peacefully – look no further than Diljit Dosanjh and Kangana Ranaut trading barbs over the farmers’ protest. But rarely, a celebrity being called out issues an apology. This can either represent a genuine moment of contrition, or a spell of hand-waving to sweep away the latest controversy. And when Vikrant Massey, the star of web series Mirzapur, was criticised for using sexist, misogynistic language, his apology seemed to fall into the latter category.
Massey made the slip-up while tweeting about the government’s decision to cancel the winter session of Parliament. He wrote, “We can have massive election rallies, a brief Monsoon session during the peak, but no Winter session...Why? Cos we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Dainty little princesses!!!” It was that final parting shot that he felt necessary to deliver that offended people. Using princesses as a derogatory term was obviously demeaning to women, who called him out for his language.
Of course, something as trivial as the contents of Massey’s tweets are hardly the most pressing issue for women’s rights in a country like India, but the insignificance of his comments doesn’t mean they are unproblematic. On being called out for regressive language, an apology is an acceptable response. Being silent is another option. Both would help calm the situation and mollify critics. But Massey chose a third option: the passive-aggressive non-apology, where he wrote “Meanwhile thank you for restoring my faith that Twitter is a shit-hole & misinterpreting something, said by someone you don’t even know.”
A man defining what constitutes misogyny is a paradox in itself.
While Massey might have found it annoying that his conversation about politics had been hijacked by an education on the nuances of sexist language, his petulant response was unexpected. As a male actor, Massey should have known better than to turn around and attempt to mansplain misogyny to a group of women on the internet, where they encounter creeps, stalkers, and trolls daily. Rather than treating it as a learning opportunity, Massey chose to get outraged by the outrage he had caused himself.
Given the level of abuse women face online, it’s really ironic that Massey happened to get so worked up over the response to his tweet. After all, many of the people entering his replies to point out his error were, by the standards of Twitter, courtier-like in their civility. However, even when faced with coherent, well-written counterviews, Massey decided to call Twitter a “shit-hole”. Who knows how he’d react to the kinds of disgusting messages women receive online on a daily basis?
A man defining what constitutes misogyny is a paradox in itself, so perhaps Vikrant Massey could listen more closely to the many women gifting him knowledge on Twitter. Or maybe, just stick to discussing politics the next time.