“You gotta separate the movies from the man,” you’ve told me at dimly lit bars and parties, cigarette dangling out of one corner of your mouth, conviction dripping out the other.
Generally, you’re a smart person. So I’ve allowed it.
“Haan he’s made some mistakes, but he’s changed,” you’ve insisted in passing. I know you to be intelligent and conscientious, so I’ve given you the benefit of doubt.
“Array, itni intellectual kyun ban rahi ho? Bhai is bhai,” you’ve declared when pressed. I’ve seen your Facebook timeline, peppered with progressivism and other evidences of a thinking mind, so I’ve assumed you have your reasons for defending what you defend.
But year after year, the evidence keeps on mounting that Salman Khan isn’t really a man worthy of any respect.
And you keep on insisting that the pile of trash he's on is a pedestal.
So dearest Intelligent Salman Khan Fan, my most bewildering, mystifying, perplexing pal – let’s chat.
It’s time for you to reckon with what we’re talking about when we talk about Salman Khan.
When you defend Salman Khan, you’re defending wilful, unrepentant misogyny.
It’s 2016, after all, and even idiots know not to invoke “rape” in vain. In the last four years, words like “Nirbhaya” and “Uber” and “Stanford” have been claimed by incidents that’ve changed us all.
In 2016, it takes a staggering lack of respect for women to have dismissed that global din, and to still be the kind of person who thinks the biggest problem with an insensitive rape comment is that it may end up in print. In other words: create a PR problem.
And it’s not like his violent attitude toward women is brand new information. Remember when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s parents reportedly lodged a complaint against him because he was mistreating their daughter?
Before you comment that that was a decade and a half ago and that he does charity work now and, really, he’s a good, good man, consider this: apparently, he still hasn’t understood the extraordinarily basic concept that violence against women is, y’know, not chill.
When you defend Salman Khan, you’re defending a man who seems almost completely incapable of repentance, intelligent introspection, or personal growth.
And if you believe Khan's displayed misogyny has no real consequences, consider how his fans talk to and about women on Twitter. (You'll probably get a good glimpse just by going through my mentions once they've found this article.)
And it's not just about women, Intelligent Salman Khan Fan. When you support Salman Khan, you’re supporting a nationwide culture of placing influence and money above the just course of the law.
You’re defending the kind of cowardice which prompts a man with power to not only deny his crimes, but to then throw several other people – drivers, law enforcers, civilians – under the figurative bus to save his own V.I.P. skin.
If we can assume that where there's smoke there's fire, then when you celebrate Salman Khan, you’re celebrating an ego so fragile and a goonism so thorough that careers have ended (talk to Vivek Oberoi), threats have been issued (talk to All India Bakchod), and contracts have been compromised on (talk to Arijit Singh) because of it.
When you celebrate Salman Khan, you’re celebrating a brand of machismo that finds slaps (think Dabbang), stalking and harassment (think Wanted), and upskirt (think any of a host of dance numbers) to be “romantic”.
When you defend Salman Khan, you defend the toxic breed of masculinity which manages to muster respect for “sisters” and “mothers,” but not for women who can’t be processed as either.
(Think about it: Arpita Khan is the safest woman in India because of her brother’s fierce protectiveness over her, while the rest of us would be much safer if he hadn’t had a platform for two decades.)
When you – a smart person – defend Salman Khan, you’re validating millions of other people's decisions to idolise sexism, violence against women, violence against animals, violence against other men, toxic machismo, all paired with a devastating lack of apology, regret, respect for the law, repentance, or growth.
And I know you’re smarter than that.