When Professional Criticism Turns Personal

There have been various opinions about what has been going on at the Kerala Law Academy. While some have been supporting Dr Lekshmi Nair, others have been criticising her to the extent of denigrating her. Just yesterday, Madhyamam, a Malayalam news daily published a cartoon depicting her with donkey ears, as an animal to be controlled.

Over various charges of harassment, oppression and favouritism, Lekshmi Nair, the principal of the college was forced to step down on Tuesday. The Students Federation of India (SFI) came out with an official statement that the celebrity chef and television personality should step away for five years.

Her acts as an educator may have been condemnable but such a caricature of her persona comes across more as a personal attack. Lekshmi Nair who had earlier written an open letter in the Kochi Post, tried to clear her stand on the issue and charges against her management. She had stated the allegations charged upon her to be ‘far from the truth’. She also expressed whether the problem is about her being a woman or her rules.

Filmmaker Sreebala says, “I found the cartoon to be derogatory. It seemed like she was being tied down for being a woman with free ways than the issue at hand being addressed. I wonder whether a similar cartoon of a man in a similar position will be published. It felt like a personal attack on Lekshmi.” While her acts like calling students by caste names and showing favouritism in giving internal marks are condemnable, personal attacks cannot be justified.

It seems like the original issue of Jishnu Pranoy’s suicide is lost among this hoopla of personal attacks on Dr Lekshmi Nair. Noted journalist and public interpreter VS Syamlal says, “Her depiction as an animal and her costume in the caricature is deplorable. Moreover, the attack seems aimed at her caste and position rather than on her actions as a principal. Madhyamam is a good newspaper with great journalists writing for it. But something like this can malign it. I feel she is being targeted also because of her celebrity status. Lekshmi Nair’s actions as an educator needs to be fully exposed and not critiqued for the way she dresses just because she happens to be a privileged woman with an opinion. I wonder if such a cartoon would emerge had it been a Lakshmanan Nair!”

As a Kochi Post writer pointed out in an opinion piece, Lekshmi Nair has been subjected to body shaming and was accused of wearing make up! But she did not let this affect her. The sad truth about our society remains that though women  are made to believe that they are free to make  choices, every choice including their weight,  outfit even their choice to procreate or not comes under the scanner.

Let someone be critiqued on their actions and not on their looks or gender.




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