NCW Chief says ‘sexy’ means beautiful and charming. Do you agree?

The Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), Mamta Sharma says ‘sexy’ means beautiful and charming, and only when we take it in the ‘wrong sense’ does it become offensive. To read more and watch the video: Click here. (Thanks for the link Gounder Brownie!)

This is what she said, her exact words in Hindi,

“koi ladki jaa rahi hoti hai, chaar ladke comment kar dete hain, “Badi sexy hai”, sexy ka matalab wo naheen hai, sexy ka matlab hai beautiful hai, khoobsoorat hai, khubsoorat ke alawa charming hai, charming ke alawa… a a a  badi excited, badi khoobsoorat lag rahi hai. Hum uske galat arth jab lene lagte hain, tab hee samasyane paida ho jatee hain… “

Roughly translates to,

” If a girl is going somewhere and four boys pass a comment and say, “She’s very sexy”, sexy doesn’t mean that, sexy means beautiful, she’s charming, beautiful and charming …also very excited, looking very beautiful, when we start taking it in the wrong/negative sense, only then there are problems.”

What do you think?

Do you think ‘sexy’ is inoffensive?

Would you find it as good or as bad if you were going somewhere and ‘four boys’ passed a comment and called you ‘sexy’ as when they called you ‘charming’ or ‘beautiful’? Would your reaction be different if somebody else (a partner, friend, someone known to you) said the same thing?

“Focus on a particular word is misplaced. Any word that is unsolicited or unwanted, which is about, on or to a woman, is an offence. That is the real issue, not just the word,” said CPI(M) leader and prominent women’s rights activist Brinda Karat.  [link]

Mamta Sharma says,

“I would like to clarify that the younger generation is literate and have certain different approach and have come to terms with words like sexy which is not held to be a derogatory remark. But that doesn’t mean anyone can use it,” she said. [link]  

Edited to add this video where she is trying to clarify,

43 thoughts on “NCW Chief says ‘sexy’ means beautiful and charming. Do you agree?

  1. I do believe that sexy can be used in a positive well- intentioned way. Just cause some creeps call women sexy when they are trying to hit on her doesn’t mean that we start objecting to the world per se.
    Cause if we did we even need to object to the phrase ‘hello madam’ cause a lot of creeps use it as their opening line!

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  2. Let’s look to the origin of the word: sexy :

    It is an adjective derived from the word “sex” (+ -y suffix), first used in the early 20th century.
    “Sexy” was first recorded in 1925, originally “engrossed in sex”; and in 1932 as a sense of “sexually attractive”.

    Now let’s see what is the meaning that dictionary say:
    sexy — adj , sexier , sexiest
    1. provoking or intended to provoke sexual interest: a sexy dress ; a sexy book
    2. feeling sexual interest; aroused
    3. interesting, exciting, or trendy: a sexy project ; a sexy new car

    or:

    1. concerned predominantly or excessively with sex; risqué: a sexy novel.
    2. sexually interesting or exciting; radiating sexuality: the sexiest professor on campus.
    3. excitingly appealing; glamorous: a sexy new car.

    I don’t have any problem that persons to find me sexy but truth is that sexy don’t mean just beautiful and charming. Sexy is having always,definitely a sexual connotation.

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  3. This is what sparked off the conversation with my uncle I spoke about in my comment on the previous post. I don’t particularly have anything against the word sexy, I also use it for really good food. But I object to women being called anything, I would be just as annoyed with beautiful, gorgeous or babe!. So even if Sexy means beautiful, then 4 boys saying it to me automatically means they deserve a slap each. I totally agree with Brinda Karat the problem is the boys anything at all not what they are saying. If I asked ‘how does this dress look?’ and my partner says ‘sexy’, I would take it to mean the same thing as beautiful, so no problem with the word as such.

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  4. Sexy is not at all a demeaning word in any case. We often hear “this dress is sexy”, “that song is sexy, even that guy/girl is looking sexy…..all it means is appearing/LOOKING GOOD, ATTRACTIVE…and SEXY to be precise :)…
    Yes it is also used by roadside romeos in situations described in the post, hence it is largely in the context and the manner it is spoken ( and heard – often the listeners take offense to things because they have a twisted mind )
    If sex is dirty in someones mind, then he/she would associate sexy as dirty too. Else there is absolutely nothing wrong in using it in a clean manner, Mamta Sharma is absolutely correct in the manner she has been forthright. Dirt is in the mind of listeners who have made it a major controversy.

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  5. No words or comments are good or bad. They become derogatory only when spoken in a certain context.
    If I was dating a girl and called her sexy, she might actually like it. If I called her that in front of her grandparents, I might find myself single again or atleast would need to explain my inappropriate behavior.
    If I went around harassing a girl saying only supposedly acceptable terms like ‘beautiful’ and ‘cultured’, I should expect a well deserved slap from her.

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  6. group of boys once said to me ‘jeans..jeans’ but it was offensive, is ‘jeans’ an offensive word? No, but the tone in which they said it..the faces they made..the unwanted comment on me made it so. What they actually meant by saying that word in our small town was amply clear… one can keep debating on what the word actually means.. that is completely irrelevant to the situation at hand.
    And yes, sexy is not the same as charming/beautiful. please!

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  7. Let alone sexy, charming and beautiful, if some guys even say ‘hello madam ji’ with that cheeky smile on their face while I happen to pass by them, I would find it offensive because it was unasked for, and because it’s eve teasing.

    First she says,
    “koi ladki jaa rahi hoti hai, chaar ladke comment kar dete hain, “Badi sexy hai”, sexy ka matalab……………”

    Then she says,

    “My remark was made in the broader context since I was addressing the youth. But the same does not imply for strangers or roadside Romeos who use the word sexy to tease girls.”

    She’s contradicting herself.

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  8. well looking forward to all the Thumbs down that i seem to receive here🙂
    I would say the word SEXY has become part of language now. I don’t think it is a offensive word BUT the way it is pronounced .. Or the situation it is SAID in is what makes it offensive..
    A Lady going by alone and four guys saying Sexy to her , she might feel its offensive but if the same lady is with friends and one of the guy friends says You are looking Sexy today , she might Smile and say thank you ..

    Same word two different situation and two different results ..

    but then on a street if someone says Oh sohniyo .. now that is again harassment depending on what the lady thinks of it …

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  9. I believe that ‘sexy’ does have a sexual connotation.

    But, the real point is, when you call someone sexy (unless when you’re telling it privately to you beloved one), you are actually eve-teasing them. And, the same holds true even if you call someone beautiful or anything like that in public.

    As a matter of fact, I almost never call anyone ‘beautiful’ when it comes to looks as I believe that it’s an objectification of a human being, letting alone calling someone sexy.

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  10. Forget sexy I would not want 4 guys I don’t know and have nothing to do with call me anything. I might be the most beautiful woman alive on Earth or I might be the ugliest – thing is I am not interested in knowing their opinion on how I look/act/dress.
    The word sexy – what does it mean – how is it to be used – depends a lot on the context.
    If my partner calls me sexy I would take it as a compliment – if a neighbour “uncle” called me that – I would find that creepy.

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  11. Sexy doesn’t mean beautiful and charming.

    Whether calling someone sexy is offensive or not depends on the context. I’d be okay if my very close friends or my (hypothetical) partner calls me sexy. I might feel flattered.

    It is not OK when “four boys” on the street call a girl passing by sexy and treat her like a object with no feelings which only exists for their pleasure.

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  12. This is a sexy post.. That is how I would often introduce it to any of my friends.. As already mentioned above Sexy food, sexy place, sexy book, sexy anything has become common place now. It is used far beyond the dictionary usages specified and is part of Indian urban slang.

    Not just this word any word, is enough, if the meaning (often very clear from the way it is said) is wrong. Sadly, as Hitch said “80% of Human conversation is non verbal.” The culture that we market so spendidly to the rest of the world and defend by burning up people and destroying property is sadly now just another word. Just like sexy its meaning has changed with the times and people now use it anyway they please.
    😀

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  13. It is not so much as the word that I object to but rather the intent behind that word …. Even words like beautiful or charming can sound offensive if spoken in a leering cheap manner.

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  14. “Hum uske galat arth jab lene lagte hain, tab hee samasyane paida ho jatee hain” – This sentence is what irks me. If a woman feels violated, either by a word or action, the first criticism is – she must have understood it wrong, it was an innocent remark/ action.
    That’s manipulative.

    Why is the impetus on the woman to interpret what is said in the so-called ‘right’ way? If she feels uncomfortable, then you have crossed a boundary. A lot depends on context. In urban India, the word ‘sexy’ gets tossed around friends (sexy bike, sexy exam) whereas in small-town or rural India I would not want to describe something as sexy because they might not get the connotation it it would be a faux pas.
    When four guys on the road say *anything* o grab my attention and ‘impress’ me, that violates the social contract, makes me feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
    And that’s why statements like this don’t make sense.

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  15. I think all of us agree that it is the context in which it is used defines the meaning. And also, who is saying to whom and the relationship between the parties involved would justify the underlying intent. NCW chairperson is best advised to say – it is not that we take it in the wrong sense. It is about being used in the wrong sense breaching what is considered appropriate in the social situation.

    Haven’t we used : it is so f***ing beautiful, etc . But f words are always considered in appropriate. Same thing applies to sexy! It is usage and intent of the person! and not the intent of the person receiving it !

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  16. I agree with most who said the context is important.
    In intimate circles among close friends “sexy” can be complimentary.
    It’s just another modern and additional meaning for a word that meant something else earlier.
    Language evolves.
    I believe this blog is “cool”.
    I am not talking about temperature at all.

    But sexy can be offensive if used in the wrong context and inappropriately.
    Common sense will tell us when it is not okay use the word.
    If in doubt, simply don’t use it.
    However that may be, even if a woman is “sexy” she is never “rapeable”

    Regards
    GV

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  17. ‘Good girls don’t dress up in a manner that makes someone feel they are sexy. She’d make sure except their husband none gets to see her sexy side.

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    • Oookaaayyy. So I am not a good girl. I like to dress sexy (again what I consider to be sexy – for certain people there is nothing sexier than a plump 10 month old crawling around – they just can’t control themselves). I like to look good. It makes me feel good. So what do you think the treatment a BAD girl like me should get? Is being called sexy by random louts on the road punishment enough? Or should I also get groped for dressing in a manner that makes someone feel that I am sexy? Is that bad enough? Or should I maybe also get raped for DARING to dress as I please? That’ll put me in my place right?

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      • I also feel those who have such thinking must be honest with their future partners about their views – this would ensure they get someone who agrees with them, and not someone who is only marrying them because they have to Get Married-Stay Married.

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  18. If I view a sunset or a rainbow I would not reference it as “sexy”.
    I would most likely call it beautiful.
    I am with Alexa on this one. Let’s take the time to understand the definition of the word.
    It is not rocket science. The first three letters spell sex, denoting that the intention is to refer to something(?) someone as an object of attraction.
    When I was in India working I had a brief discussion with an Indian man with regard to the word “pretty”, a word often used here in the West. He was slightly confused.
    As I explained by pointing to objects like earrings or a hairstyle I told him this is what we call pretty. When I asked him what he would call it, he said, “beautiful”.
    While the word sexy may be taken (to be positive or affirming) to some it can also be understood as what we call a “come on”. No need for interpretation there.

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  19. any word can be offensive based on how it is said (and in most cases who says it). A word like charming, lovely, beautiful can be used in as derogatory a manner as slut. Having been brought up in Delhi/NCR – harassment was something we learnt to deal with – I remember middle age men on scooters/cycles/cars – stopping by and saying “vary butiful – chalogiii” (in that typical delhi-haryanvi accent) – so no sexy is not offensive till it is said in an offensive manner with an aim to harrass!

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  20. I think it’s not about the word itself but about how it’s spoken. I live outside India and feel good about myself every time I’m complimented by strangers. I don’t remember EVER being complimented by strangers in India — there, it’s chhedh-chaadh. Even something positive (such as, you look great) is either said in such an insulting/demeaning way or accompanied by such a leering, lustful look that you feel violated. You know your boundaries have been crossed and you feel BAD about having been the target of such a comment.

    Having said that, I think ‘sexy’ is in no way an appropriate adjective to use for anyone who’s not a spouse/girlfriend/significant other. “You look good” communicates how you think *I* LOOK so I take it as a compliment. Telling me that I look sexually desirable to you is a) not a compliment, and b) crossing the line, cos that’s telling me what YOU’D like to do about the way I look. TMI, and even more ridiculous is the expectation that I’m supposed to be flattered here. Who gave you the right to do *any*thing about it?!

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  21. I feel these days we generally tend to use adjectives more flexibly. For example, I have heard some of my friends say: sexy food or sexy place. When one can really say awesome/good food or nice/breathtaking place. The use of the word “sexy” in different contexts than the original one, somehow make it look like that word can be used freely and on everyone, howmuchever good the intention of the say-er might be.
    Frankly, I will end up squirming a little bit if anyone other than my husband calls me sexy. Even if he/she is very good friend, just complimenting my looks. I would much rather prefer “you look nice” by people in general. I feel ‘sexy’ is more intimate, to be used among partners, boyfriend-girlfriends or lovers.
    And the fact that when/how words should be used cannot be generalized, it is best left upto the person on the receiving side, as to how comfortable he/she is listening to these words spoken from particular people.

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  22. I have no issues with the word sexy. I use it for everything…sexy place, sexy party, sexy food etc. Basically, to denote awesome. When my husband or very close friends tell me I look sexy, I take it as a compliment.

    However, like many other commentors before me have said it’s not the word as much as the way it is said. If someone on the street comments on the way I look, he is crossing the line, irrespective of whether he is calling me sexy or beautiful or Ms. World.

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  23. Just another question.
    Is Mrs. Chairman simply giving her own dictionary meaning to the word sexy or is she in fact giving it license and agreeing that it is a good thing. There is indeed flattery behind the comment however I struggle to find merit in addressing food as sexy. I suppose still another compliment.
    Since the questions have to do with the Chairmans interview I would probably want to inquire of her as to when and how she determines that the word when spoken is actually offensive to herself. We talk about the word being offensive depending on who utters the word so I would like know her criteria for determining who is allowed or not allowed to direct this flattery.

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  24. Note here that the word sexy has sexual connotations – whether you “say it like that” or not. Once you make this definition “flexible” and say that it could be inoffensive, you give potential offenders the license to use it on you and turn around and say that they never meant it “that way” – it’s your word against theirs. Especially in the Indian context where street molestation is a huge problem, this is trouble. I’m appalled that the NCW chief should say this for a couple of reasons:

    – koi ladki jaa rahi hoti hai, chaar ladke comment kar dete hain – Are we defending eve-teasing/molestation now ? How is it possible for this scenario to be OK?

    – Hum uske galat arth jab lene lagte hain : She’s making it the woman’s fault for being offended! This is beyond bizarre! Why presume that a woman would be OK by men remarking on whether she is beautiful, or sexy or beddable ? Why is it anyone’s business but her own ?

    – She is reinforcing the male gaze scenario – that a woman is an object for consumption – to be looked at remarked upon on the street, where it pleases a man and she should not misconstrue it!!

    And I’m not buying her later “explanation”. You cannot say stuff like this without having internalized it.

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  25. And I would like to add that women are pretty smart – they don’t need advice on when not to get offended. Women can generally tell when something is wrong, even when the words look harmless (and I do not consider “sexy” harmless). I’d rather the NCW chief give advice to men (particularly the char ladke she makes a mention of) on how not to offend women.
    “Sexy” is not OK for general use – OK for intimate usage. Try calling a woman sexy in the office in the US, and you’ll get hauled up for misconduct/sexual harassment.

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  26. OMG, seriously? Is that what she thinks of today’s lingo? Why is it that the people at the head of organizations that are supposed to be progressive, end up being mentally stuck in the age of the dinosaurs? Throw them all out and bring in new and radical leaders!

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  27. Some one please sit Mamtaji down and explain to her that any adjective can be made to mean completely different depending on who uses it, how it is used, the tone of voice or emotion associated with it.

    For instance an adoring grandma can describe her 3 yr old grandson as ” bahut badmashi karta hai” meaning he is naughty in a good way or even very active.

    The same word if used for an adult can mean something entirely different.

    Even in cultures, where strangers make small talk or say hi to each other while passing by, nobody ever calls anyone sexy. That is tantamount to harassment. For instance someone standing behind you while you both wait to bill your groceries might say ” your skirt is lovely” or I like the color of your shirt” but never “I think you’re sexy”. So I hope Mamtaji does not consider those boys calling girls sexy as making small talk.

    And BTW, there was a song in the movie Khuddar “sexy sexy sexy mujhe log bole” about 10 or 15 yrs ago and the moral police made such a hue and cry about it that sexy sexy was changed to baby baby.

    I wonder if these people really mean what they are saying , or even understand how it makes them look ( with a foot in their mouths) or do these people release statements like these every now and then just to keep themselves relevant. After all, these days if one can’t become famous for something good, then infamy is the way to go for many folks.

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  28. Sometimes I do not understand how poeple at such important positions talk so foolishly. It completely depend on situation and the context in which it has been said. If I call my wife sexy, she might smile but if a roadside romeo does the same thing, he might end up with her sandal on his face.
    How could anyone talk like that? Sometimes I feel we have idiots in prime positions. Police disclosing name of rape victims. Cheif ministers belittling rapes and riots. Government calling gays anti social. What is this place? I can’t recognize this country anymore.

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