An Open Letter in Defence of Expression

First things first. At no point is it legitimate to tell someone that they are being assholes for expressing their points of view within the confines of the law. Especially so, when they are protesting something as vile as sexism. So, no, ASSHOLES, it is not alright… wait, it is fucking idiotic to push them or tell them that they can’t be anti-sexism because they are wearing clothes that you think are not “ok”. Also, dickheads, it is not alright to heckle or shout at them. It is reprehensible that you, after being given the privilege to get basic education think that the response to speech is violence, whether verbal or physical. Grow the fuck up and learn human decency. In case it wasn’t fucking clear, all of this is irrespective of whether or not you agree with them principally or the means they employed.

You feel pissed off, don’t you? What is it? Is it the tone of my writing? Is it the bold and underlined words? Is it the cussing? See, that’s my point. No one likes it when you employ violence in response to what you may consider your right to expression. But given that this is what some people chose to do, I felt obligated to point out the idiocy and the hypocrisy therein.

But let’s now talk about Abish Matthew and the protest his jokes caused. Here we go then –

Some of his jokes were sexist. People may have differing opinions on whether these were caricature and were meant to reflect, through humor, the inadequacies of society or whether such things should be the subject of humor at all. Either way, Abish had a right to his expression. Within the framework of said expression comes the right not to be disrupted. There are ways through which you can make your displeasure/disgust/hatred/problem or whatever feeling you are feeling be known.

  • You can walk out and in doing so tell him he is being sexist.
  • You can also protest him by using placards. Yes, you can.

And therein lies the beauty of expression and its freedom. It creates a dialectic. Either way, you had made your point, viz. – Some of his jokes were sexist. Sexist jokes should not be made.

Up till this point, you had not impeded on his expression. You critiqued it and it was great. But then you decided that he needed to shut up. That he must not be allowed to talk. And this is where the problem lies. Your response to his expression was to want to shut that avenue for him. Admittedly, that is not easy. You are right. He is a comedian making a large number of people laugh and you were in comparison faceless. But even so, to want to curb his expression was the problem. It makes you no different from the self-serving people whose response to the roast was to want it banned.

Please understand that there are always other and better ways to make your point. Ok, not always. But in this case, there were better ways to do the same thing that you wanted. And they would have achieved the same result. You really could have waited to protest. You could have protested differently. Basically, not question his right to express himself. You could have simply walked out and criticized him later. But you chose to do it and in doing so must understand the consequences and the implications of what you said and did.

And it really does not matter whether you succeeded or failed in achieving your desired result. The point is that is what you aimed at doing. Placing your actions under the garb of failure does not take away from what you were aiming to do. If you had just stood with the placard that read “You are a sexist pig” (Credit: Keerthana Medarametla), the message and the effect would have been very different.

And here is the clincher. Inspite of what I have just written, when you did protest, it was an exercise of your expression and while I don’t agree with it, I will go full Jeffersonian on you and tell you that I will defend your right to it. Which is what I am trying to do. You may find my tone patronizing and you may disagree with me but at the very least please consider what I just said and at least really see if there is merit to what I am saying. I really think that there is.

Clarification – I agree that a lot of the jokes were sexist. I just think that there were different ways to go about it. I agree that the protests were fine in principle. Like I’ve said above, the modalities could have been better. Of course, Pearlita, Pawani, Aarushi and Rishika are free to disagree and prioritize other things that they did. My hope through the piece is to just point the danger of a protest, however noble and sound in principle, when it seeks to curb expression.


9 thoughts on “An Open Letter in Defence of Expression

  1. Somil, I completely agree that it could have been better organised and that there were ways which could have portrayed our message differently. It was spontaneous and we just acted instantly.
    As far as I can speak for myself, our intention was not to make him shut up. I would say the same for the AIB roast regardless of how I felt about it. I only wanted to make him and the audience realise that we had a problem with the content and were willing to protest against it. It was meant to be symbolic in the sense that we did not want to walk out and address him after the show, we wanted it to happen then and there.

    I would still argue that our posters and our presence did not mandate him to leave and as far as intimidation goes, had 15-30 people walked up and left in disgust, he may have still felt intimidated and unwilling to perform.
    But again, I can’t deny that it was definitely perceived as curtailing his freedom of expression and that is something unfortunate that came about as a result of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lets cut the crap. Abish Mathhew is not as ‘smart’ (yes I am talkin about looks) like arjun or ranveer, so obviously his jokes would not appeal to you guys. Fuck Feminists and Fuck You. (Yes I dont give a single damn what you all think about me)

      Liked by 1 person

      • @Utkarsh: What a smart response. Only words you could use elegentaly was fuck. I think u picked it out straight out of Oxford. I thought u would argue intelligently but it seems u just did the exactly opposite. Even though I wanted 2 support ur view on the unacceptable method used by few folks, however ur ealy response in an inrresponsible manner gives us all quite a late start.
        #Sarcasm is intended
        #Even thumbs down is more than thumbs up
        #Did u use the only thumbs up option 2 support ur idea. Good one


      • OOOOH!!! OO la la … how many times did you jerk off watching good looks of Arjun and Ranveer? Let’s get some hot looking dude to abuse your mommy while you jerk off Utkarsh! Let’s call Mrs. Sharma Aunty? Now, use some dildo for the job unfinished.


  2. Pingback: Comedian Abish Mathew Shown Middle Figure, Called Sexist Pig By Law Students. How Much Is Too Much?

  3. By no means do I seek to defend the treatment that was meted out to you guys, but I really think you could have done things differently. Curtailing Mr.Mathew’s right to free speech in the manner reportedly done, although well-intentioned, appears a tad bit silly.

    However, the larger question to be engaged with is whether dark humour (in the form of racist/sexist/otherwise inappropriate jokes) really perpetuates this ‘sexist culture’ as you seem to call it. For example, racist jokes on slavery number in the millions. However, understanding and enjoying these jokes requires a tacit acknowledgement of how wrong slavery as a concept is. The same would apply to things like ‘dead baby’ humour, or Holocaust humour. Similarly, the comic validity of sexist humour is to be derived from how wrong people think it is, as in many of these jokes, sexism by itself is caricatured. An acceptance of the premise of gender equality as a normative ideal is required to actually understand and engage with such humour. Therefore, the premise that Mr.Mathew was perpetuating a sexist culture is not one to be taken too seriously, IMO.


  4. Girls, as per the report on and this blog and comments suggest that your friends and campus mates have highly derogatory view about women. Tomorrow they will be lawyers!! What justice they will bring forth !! Shame on guys!!


  5. Pingback: All India Bakchod's Abish Mathew + NLU Delhi's Student Body VS. 5 Girls of NLU Delhi

  6. Pingback: The Year In Review: Cultural Committee | Glasnost

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