We Can't Overlook Priyanka Chopra's Infuriating Beautycon Response

And we shouldn’t be surprised, because she’s been problematic for a while now

Katherine Singh
(Photo: Getty Images)

It’s not a good time to be Priyanka Chopra. On August 10, the actor and newlywed got into a confrontation while speaking at Beautycon.

Chopra was called out during a Q&A period by YouTuber Ayesha Malik, who accused the actor of being a hypocrite after a February 2019 tweet about the India–Pakistan conflict. At the time, Chopra tweeted, “Jai Hind” (“Victory to India”), and used the hashtag #IndianArmed Forces.

Chopra’s February tweet came on the heels of India and Pakistan—countries which both have nuclear arms— launching airstrikes against each other, which brought the countries to the brink of war, according to BuzzFeed News. Seeing her tweet as a response to the airstrikes, some social media users accused the actress of encouraging nuclear war.

The conflict between India and Pakistan is extremely complicated. The countries are currently involved in a dispute over the region of Kashmir; a conflict that stems back to 1947, when India and Pakistan won their independence from Britain, and began to vie over who would control the region. While Delhi and Islamabad now control separate areas, there has long been dispute between the two, especially in the “Indian-administered Kashmir.” On August 5, India revoked Article 370, which gave Kashmir significant autonomy for the last 70 years. Amidst a TV and social media blackout and strict limitations, people in the region have taken to the streets in protest; facing tear gas from Indian troops, according to Al Jazeera. Global News reported that since 1989, some 70,000 people have died in clashes between militants, civilian protesters and Indian security forces.

“It was kind of hard hearing you talk about humanity because as your neighbour, a Pakistani, I know you’re a bit of a hypocrite,” Malik said at the panel. “You are a UNICEF ambassador for peace and you’re encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan, there’s no winner in this. As a Pakistani, millions of people like me have supported you in your business…”

And, instead of hearing Malik out, reflecting on her concerns, acknowledging the harm that the tweet may have even unintentionally caused, and responding thoughtfully, the actor essentially brushed it off.

In response to Malik’s comments, Chopra chose to belittle her concerns, referring to Malik’s impassioned question as “venting,” then chastising her for “yelling” at the actress, saying: “The way you came at me right now, girl, don’t yell, we’re all here for love. Don’t yell. Don’t embarrass yourself.” Oh, and she also just sat by while security snatched Malik’s microphone out of her hands—which isn’t empowering, supportive or feminist at all.

It was a flippant answer and one that left *a lot* to be desired. And people on the internet were not happy once they caught wind.

But, should we really be surprised? This is far from the first time the Bollywood heavyweight has disappointed. From literally singing pop songs about being “exotic” to making insensitive casting comments that pretty much put her on ScarJo level, Chopra has been building a portfolio of problematic behaviour. But the Beautycon comments was on another level because Chopra’s response was actually the worst—and seriously harmful.

Sorry PC, but you’re being *super* hypocritical

Only moments before her confrontation with Malik, Chopra spoke up about the need for women to support each other. Speaking to the “cat fight” narrative often hoisted on female co-stars when they work together, Chopra commented on the fact that a lack of roles for women causes them to compete with each other for the one coveted spot. She noted that it’s something she’s trying to no longer do.

“The more opportunity we create for each other, the more sisterhood will grow,” Chopra said. “…We need to be empowered by each other, by people who are in positions of power, by putting women in positions of power.” Later, she added: “I realized many, many years ago, the more I champion women in my own small way, maybe I’ll be able be able to create a world, around me at least, where women run the show. Because we kinda do it really well.”

…Seriously?

To have Chopra espouse her support for women and female empowerment, only to then turn around and completely disallow another women from speaking up about her concerns and her truth, merely because they don’t fit with Chopra’s views or squeaky clean image? That’s some serious bullshit.

Sounds like maybe she should take some of her own advice?

Her comments weaponized niceness

In line with the idea of women supporting women, Chopra used the interaction with Malik to heavily imply that she was the victim in the situation. Later in their interaction, Chopra chastised Malik for “coming at her,” telling the woman: “The way you came at me right now, girl, don’t yell, we’re all here for love.” While guised under friendly language and niceties, Chopra’s comment is anything but nice; insinuating that by challenging her on her political beliefs and support of the military, that Malik wasn’t being supportive of women.

FYI,  feminism doesn’t mean blindly supporting women just because they’re women. Women can be problematic too, and challenging someone on their political allegiance and beliefs—especially when it can be seen as harmful to other people—doesn’t make you not “here for love.” It makes you a critical thinker.

To top it all off, Chopra’s instruction for Malik to “not yell,” especially considering she’d had a microphone taken away from her, was patronizing AF. And don’t get me started on the use of “girl.” Ever have a guy tell you that you were being “aggressive” or to “calm down” when you trying to have a discussion and get a point across? Yeah, this is pretty much the exact same thing.

Not to mention the whole thing was super condescending

Seriously, Chopra needs a new dictionary. One of the most infuriating parts of the exchange was her continuing use of the word “venting” to refer to Malik’s concerns, asking the latter: “Are you done venting?”

Yes, Malik was visibly angry and emotional—and her tone reflected that. But to refer to her comments as merely “venting” dismisses the seriousness of her concerns, and insinuates that Malik is overreacting to a very real humanitarian crisis. In framing Malik’s comments this way, Chopra belittles her feelings as nothing but the ramblings of a woman who needs to get stuff off her chest; and not as a dialogue that Chopra *could* thoughtfully engage in.

And, TBH, it shows us who she really is

As much of a fan as I am of Chopra’s Bollywood work—and although I want to support her as one of *very* few visible South Asian women succeeding in Hollywood (shout out to Mindy Kaling!)—I’ve had a hard time seeing Chopra as someone who is real with her fans. From her measured interviews to her romance with now-hubby Nick Jonas, I’ve always been wary of her performative niceness. And this recent encounter did nothing to reform that.

“Of course it was problematic,” Amrita Rajan, a Bangkok-based freelance journalist and podcast producer, says of Chopra’s response. “What you saw was the entitled Bollywood star, the persona she usually hides under piles of reliability and giggles when she’s in the United States. She was condescending, flippant and dismissive.”

Rajan is the co-host of Khandaan: A Bollywood Podcast, which covers current events in Bollywood; and has critically looked at the industry—and its stars—for years. The lifelong Bollywood fan wasn’t thrilled with Chopra’s response, but she wasn’t super surprised, either. “Anyone who’s followed [Chopra] over the course of her career knows certain things about her,” she says. Including the fact that she’s usually unwilling to back down. “You don’t go up to Priyanka Chopra at a public event, confront her and expect her to be apologetic or be caught on the back foot,” Rajan says.

And, politically, she’s in a tricky spot. “I don’t think she’s going to come right out and express her political ideology,” Rajan says. “Because she has to walk a fine line between her career in Hollywood, where it pays to be a liberal, and her career in India where it’s currently extremely hard for a celebrity to express liberal views without coming under terrible attack by [right wing] trolls.”

So, in conclusion:

Related:

Reminder: Priyanka Chopra Is Not the Only Option to Play Ms Marvel
Celebs Need to Stop Flippantly Saying They’re Running for President
The Cut’s Takedown of Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas Was Not OK

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