During my time, the evening news meetings in the Delhi office of the Times of India (TOI), during which the paper’s front page is decided, were usually an exclusively male affair. It just so happens that the top rung of the country’s largest media organisation is represented solely by male editors. During the approximately two years I worked at the TOI’s Delhi office, I found women editors at these meetings to be rare or few and far between. The subject of the front page was invariably the prerogative of male editors. This conspicuous absence of women in the top hierarchy of a paper that markets itself as a brandforwomen’sempowerment, besides being ironic, would also seem to explain the sexism that so often manifests itself in the main sections of the paper.
Take, for instance, the paper’s recent front page. On 12 April 2016, the TOI ran a story headlined “Kate’s Marilyn moment at India Gate.” Below the headline was a picture of the visiting Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton laying down a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, a national monument dedicated to Indian soldiers who had died in the First World War. In the picture, Kate Middleton is seen struggling to manage her dress as it billows in the strong wind. The caption for the photo read: “It was a solemn occasion as Prince William and his wife Kate laid a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate. Unfortunately, it was also a gusty afternoon giving Kate some anxious moments as she struggled to manage her unruly $1,700 dress reminding onlookers of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic white dress picture. The couple then visited Gandhi Smriti before leaving for a garden party to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday at the British High Commissioners residence.”
The comparison to the “Marilyn moment” is an allusion to Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe’s famous picture from the 1954 film Seven Year Itch. In the image, Monroe is standing on a subway grate in New York City, attempting to keep her white dress down against the force of a gust of wind. It isn’t entirely unreasonable to wonder what possibly binds these two moments together except that both, in their projection of women in white billowing dresses, suggest a voyeuristic glimpse of the bodies underneath. While in Monroe’s case, the deliberate show of her dress was done as part of a cinematic production, Middleton was merely caught in an embarrassing moment–hardly meant for media intrusion, much less sensationalised publicity.