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The Cut’s attempted takedown of Priyanka Chopra echoes racism against successful Indian women

The Cut’s attempted takedown of Priyanka Chopra echoes racism against successful Indian women
[Photo: Bollywood Hungama/Wikimedia Commons]

New York magazine’s women’s lifestyle section, The Cut, is not one to shy away from controversy. One recent story, for instance, focused on the disturbing thoughts that haunt new parents, including feeling like you want to hurt your baby. At the same time, the site is generally supportive of women, rather than trying to tear them down with misogyny, racism, and ageism. It tackles difficult, taboo issues—all for the sake of sparking a conversation that might ultimately make women’s lives better.

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But yesterday, The Cut did just the opposite: At around 5 p.m., it dropped a hugely offensive story by celebrity writer Mariah Smith that reeked of sexism, and the internet noticed. By this morning, the story had been “edited” to remove the most offensive content. (You can read that version here.) And at about about 10 a.m. today, the story was completely deleted with the following editor’s note:

Upon further editorial review, we found this story did not meet our standards. We’ve removed it and apologize.

However, this brief note didn’t begin to fully address how offensive and racist the story was, nor did it explain how it managed to get through The Cut’s editors. The story in question—entitled, “Is Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s Love for Real?”—offered a bizarre theory about the newly married celebrity couple whose wedding set social media on fire this week. The sub-headline of the article read as follows: “All Nick wanted was a possible fling with Hollywood’s latest It Woman, but instead he wound up staring at a life sentence with a global scam artist.”

In the story, the author offered nothing to support this theory apart from the fact that Chopra is a self-made celebrity who enjoys the wealth she now has. Smith seemed fixated on Chopra being Indian. She went out of her way to describe the Indian traditions in which the couple partook—including Chopra’s wedding jewelry, the mangalsutra, and the a pre-wedding musical performance, the sangeet. But she didn’t seem to have a larger point to make, other than highlighting the differences between Indian and American customs. And in this context, it seemed as though Smith was saying that being foreign, being Indian, and being from a different culture, is somehow a negative thing in itself.

The story also highlighted the fact that Chopra is a decade older than Jonas, who is 26. The ageist implication here is that the only explanation for the pairing is that Chopra was trying to trick a younger, vulnerable man.

But the worst offenses of the story were racist and misogynistic. Smith devoted a significant part of the story to describing Chopra’s wealth, as if there was something inherently wrong with a brown woman having—and enjoying—her money. Smith linked to this video tour of her home, highlighting that Chopra has an indoor theater that she doesn’t use. A lot of celebrity journalism is devoted to covering the excesses of the rich and famous, but here, coupled with Smith’s emphasis on Chopra’s Indian background, the story reeked of post-colonial racism. In other words, when privileged white men make money and enjoy it, it is normal. But when a brown woman does the same thing, she is painted as—to use Smith’s words—a “scam artist.”

Readers—particularly those of South Asian origin—were pretty offended by Smith. But they are also holding The Cut to account. The internet wants to know how and why New York magazine published this story in the first place, and why they took it down so hastily, without offering much of an explanation.

Read some reader’s reactions here:

We reached out to New York magazine for comment and a spokesperson pointed us back to the editor’s note.

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