PSA: Priyanka Chopra was famous before she married Nick Jonas

How mass culture creates a lack of self-determination in female identities

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Shree Baphna is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

One of my favorite uses for social media is to fuel my endless need for celebrity gossip. There is honestly nothing more entertaining than watching one of those Cosmo or Seventeen videos about celebrities and their personal lives. Their lives are totally and utterly my business, right? Right now, I am highly invested in Jordyn Woods’ drama with the KarJenner family. I live for updates on Meghan Markle’s royal baby — she’s due in April or May, in case you were wondering. As much as I admit my love for gossip, I have also recognized how social media and gossip is toxic and misleading, especially towards women. 

More often than not, gossip posts rub me the wrong way — particularly because they do not present women in the most flattering and fair light. For example, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I saw a post titled something along the lines of “17 Things You Need to Know About Priyanka Chopra.” It was very much a list of important facts about Chopra for the public to know — but only now that she was all set to become Mrs. Nick Jonas. 

As I scrolled through the list, I was struck by how many I already knew. Yet, this post seemed to treat these facts as if they were very recently discovered. Of course, being from India, I grew up with Bollywood movies and have known about Priyanka Chopra since I was a kid. She has been in the industry for years, yet this post was treating her achievements as if they only deserved to be known now that she was marrying a mainstream, Hollywood boy-band sweetheart. The entire piece gave no semblance of credibility to Chopra and her lengthy, successful career  — even though she was famous way before their relationship. It seemed like she couldn’t have an individual identity — her identity was only as meaningful and powerful as the one tied to her “man.” 

Along with having no individual identities, women are almost always accused of being the seductress in any speculated relationship. Take Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, for example. Their performance at the Oscars was all the buzz because the two seemed to be getting pretty cozy during their duet on stage. 

The first question I got asked right after their performance was, “Do you think Lady Gaga is trying to steal Bradley Cooper away?” First of all, I’m pretty sure Lady Gaga is too busy celebrating her Oscar win and planning her next album to hatch a man-stealing scheme. Secondly, did anyone ever think that maybe Cooper is trying to steal her away? Women are often assumed to be the conniving ones in love triangles, which is rather toxic and derogatory. Lastly, this notion of “stealing” is dehumanizing — no human being is something to be “stolen.” I am sure both Cooper and Gaga are responsible adults and not scheming, love-hungry middle schoolers.  

Instances like these assume women to be complementary characters to men. In other words, women seem to obtain their identity relative to males, while not having identities of their own. In this process, one unconsciously labels the woman as nothing more than a side character that cannot exist alone. In Priyanka Chopra’s case, the media has implied her only claim to fame is her marriage to Nick Jonas. In Lady Gaga’s case, the scandalous gossip suggesting she is trying to seduce and steal Bradley Cooper completely overshadows her monumental achievements as an Oscar-winning singer and actress. 

As a result, neither women are depicted as assertive individuals with power, autonomy and individual achievements. Try as they might to change this, it seems like women in general are constantly recognized by their relationships to men. 

This is more than just a well-meaning rant about the treatment of female identities in mass culture. The denial of an opportunity to create an identity of your own is like being denied the right to speak for yourself — personal value, credibility and power are lost. By losing individual identities, women are continuously forced into an inferior position and faced with people who may not take them seriously. 

Shree Baphna is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com. 

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