Veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai was severely censured on social media on Thursday for asking international tennis star Sania Mirza a casually sexist question on live television.
Mirza, who released her autobiography Ace Against Odds in Hyderabad on Wednesday, was on Sardesai’s show on India Today TV to promote the book. He began the 10-minute interview by asking her why she was writing an autobiography at the age of 29 instead of the usual 60s. Mirza responded with verve, saying she has been fortunate enough to write the book at a young age.
But towards the end, the interview took an odd turn, with the TV anchor wondering about Mirza’s plans for motherhood and “settling down”.
“Amidst all the celebrityhood, when is Sania going to settle down?” Sardesai asked. “Is it going to be in Dubai? Is it going to be in any other country? What about motherhood... building a family... I don’t see all that in the book, it seems like you don’t want to retire just yet to settle down...”
Mirza called him out a smile: “You sound disappointed that I’m not choosing motherhood over being number one in the world at this point of time. But I’ll answer your question anyway, that’s the question I face all the time as a woman, that all women have to face – the first is marriage and then it’s motherhood.”
Realising his error, Sardesai immediately apologised to the sports star, even going on to admit that he would have never put that question to a male athlete. “I framed that question very badly,” he said, expressing regret repeatedly.
Nonetheless, the interview elicited sharp criticism from Twitter.
Sardesai reminded everyone that he had apologised.
And Twitter acknowledged the mea culpa.
A few months ago, actor Sunny Leone too had experienced sexism on national television. Senior journalist Bhupendra Chaubey, in a combative interview, interrogated the porn star-turned-film star on her past. Leone stood up to the harsh line of questioning and answered Chaubey with as much dignity as possible, earning herself admiration from all corners.
Recently, Hollywood actor Jennifer Aniston wrote a blog, decrying years of scrutiny of her figure and persistent pregnancy rumours. "For the record, I am not pregnant," she said. "What I am is fed up." The powerful essay criticised the media for the constant objectification of her.