Let us ban male Chief Guests for the good of humanity
Allow us to explain why.
Once they start talking, they can’t stop
Chief guests, male and female, tend to have this notion that they are the only ones who have faced any kind of adversity in life. They often end up narrating life stories about their “struggle” which in reality, may not even be close to the real problems faced by the masses. But for some reason, male chief guests are the ones most likely to go on about the distress they faced 30 years ago, when the length of their speech is actually causing distress right now.
At a sports event in a girls’ school in Bangalore in 2009, a prominent cricketer began his speech. Girls began fainting after standing in the hot sun, yet he continued. After what felt like many moons, he was told that a considerable number of girls were dropping like flies. He said, “Oh, the girls are fainting!” and continued his monologue about hard work being the key to success.
Sample this. N, an activist, recalls going to Shringeri in Karnataka for a massive rally against the mining in Kudremukh hills. “Most of the people gathered were from all over the state and had given up two day’s wages to be present. And a line-up of major activists and politicians sat under a roof and spoke and spoke and spoke for five hours. The rest of us sat on the ground. First there was blazing sun. Then it rained. Then the sun came out again. We had no drinking water, even. Not one of those men cut their speeches short or even asked us if we were okay. They could only see the mic.” Which brings us to the useful Malayalam word we just learnt for people who won’t stop talking when given the stage: mic vizhungi, a mic swallower.
They confuse motivational speaking with complaining about women
During the last Union elections, students and teachers from a Bangalore college were astonished when an IT bigwig-turned-political candidate addressed the male students and “warned” them with full seriousness that they should make sure the girls do not get ahead of them. Male chief guests often look at all-male spaces as an opportunity to complain about their wives or women in general. Even if the audience includes women, many male chief guests aka MCGs don’t necessarily stop. Imagine a Whatsapp joke turned into a real-life man. That’s your average MCG.
A male professor in an educational institution once told a sexist joke, and then proceeded to lecture the women present that “you need to accept sexist jokes merely because they are jokes to converse”. And some take it a step further. One MCG said that “the highest level of happiness a woman can achieve, is in seeing her husband succeed.”
The way they proclaim it makes it seem like life-changing advice but in reality, it’s just an easy way to prove that they treat a woman as an asset or a tangible object. There are well-known public stories where certain men holding academic positions have made derogatory comments about women such as the infamous Kerala professor who said that women who wear jeans give birth to transgenders, at a health awareness class no less. These are teachers who are meant to be open-minded and not regressive.
They believe that ‘Real Men’ don’t prepare
When you read those headlines that say “rape is caused by girls wearing jeans”, you probably wonder, “Where did this budhisaali politician make this statement?” Turns out, this man was invited to speak at the LPG Manufacturers National Convention when he said this, and the LPG manufacturers were like, do you smell gas?
This could be avoided if chief guests read or thought for two minutes before confidently declaring themselves experts on everything. If that is too much, perhaps the solution would be to go with a prepared speech, or some mild remarks like how hard it is to remember where you kept the gas agency book. No harm, no foul, no turning up in TLF’s Vaanthi section. But MCGs have been told most of their lives that they are awesome just for existing and are never expected to do any damn thing to accommodate humanity. Hence, embarrassment.
They believe women at the event are their return gifts/perks
Some MCGs don’t stop with just talking and making people die from boredom. They are all hands on deck. The fainting-causing cricketer for instance, told assembled teachers that he was very keen to stay on to watch the cheerleading girls. Said girls being necessarily under the age of 16, it neither behooved him to display such eagerness nor the damn school, which moved up the cheerleading event in the schedule so that the MCG could ogle young girls before he left.
Once an activist MCG was invited for a seminar at a Hyderabad college. He acquired the contact details of a few women students from the seminar to hook up with them later. When these women rejected his advances, he lashed back and asked them to be “progressive”, which baffled them. We can’t help but think of disgraced author Junot Diaz, whose list of misdemeanours include trying to forcibly corner and kiss a student who had invited him to speak at an event, and “going off” on a female audience member in a Q&A session after she asked him a question about his book, where he implied she was a prude and just generally yelled for twenty minutes.
If you are appointed the unfortunate woman escorting said guest from the gate to the hall and smiling because that is your job, MCGs sometimes see you as an aperitif. One volunteer at a literary festival complained that even in a 100 meter walk she has been felt up by an infamous Creepy Poet.
Inviting the same boring MCG means you don’t invite cool women chief guests
Let’s be clear. This Chief Guest business is a vicious circle. Once you are a dude who gets invited as a MCG you are seen as worthy and get invited all the time. Meanwhile, the suggestion of a woman who is cool and accomplished may be greeted with furrowed eyebrows. Is she prominent enough? Arrey, call her. Let her dazzle you and then she will be prominent, no? And if you think there aren’t enough cool women speakers, what does that mean? Is it a reflection on women, or is it perhaps that you are just feeling too lazy to think of anyone other than the purana paapis?
They want so much crap
Chief Guest culture in India is a grotesque manifestation of our caste and class problems. And then there are men feeling inadequately feted if the assembled gathering do not prostate themselves and roll 25 times in paryatan around the Chief Guest’s car. Or something. Starting with being late and demanding SUVs to the event, and then drinking only Diet Cokes manufactured in Brunei and served in glasses made out of the horn of the rare Manchurian Ibex, and then wanting SUV and escort back.
One time at a major media event in Mumbai, the former Union minister gave a small clutch of the awards that he was supposed to give (because he came late and left early) and also left with the copy of the list of awardees, sending the whole event into a tailspin. Which was not mean or intentional, but it’s this kind of thoughtless MCG behaviour that makes you think, why would you have chief guests at all? What have they got that you don’t have? Apart from the list of the award-winners, bloody.