Let me tell you how debauched and vain I am. A great artist made an illustration of me, more accurate a likeness than even photographs. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. So I stared at it for ages, admiring her talent and by extension admiring myself. After say three or four hours of such self-absorption, I suddenly felt like there was something phallic about what I had thought was my hand in the image. “You idiotic girl,” said the friend I showed it to, not unfairly. “That’s a parrot.” I looked again, and so it was.

Another time, I showed a different piece, one I had found charming, to that friend. “Isn’t it cute how the mommy cat has boobies?” I squealed. They were paws, of course. Paws. So I felt quite relieved when the same friend recently shared with me one of her own creations, in which the feminine divine was unmistakeably rendered in a vibrant, semi-abstract style that emphasised Her distinct anatomy: heavy bosom, yantra-style yoni and all. I was quite relieved that there was no room for me to misinterpret those symbols with the ramblings of my dirty mind.

All this occurred to me when, for the first time in many years of being a customer, I saw the Myntra logo in a way that I could never again unsee. The e-commerce retailer has long used a stylised letter M, in orange and pink hues, as its branding. It still does, except that the exact placements of the colours have now changed. One person who looked at the logo and perceived the M as a naked woman with her knees open (that’s the can’t-unsee image that everyone who’s heard of this case has now seen, mostly for the first time) decided to file a lawsuit.

Why Avesta Foundation’s Naaz Patel decided to invest her effort into going after this logo instead of into, oh literally anything else, is baffling. Joining activists who are working on getting marital rape criminalised, having the Nirbhaya fund be well-utilised, pressuring online platforms to take cybercrime more seriously, and other major issues? Nah. An innocuous, colourful M was the problem more “offensive to women”.

That’s not a dirty mind. That’s an idle one.

 Like I said earlier, I totally understand how she saw what she saw. But some things simply lie in the eye of the beholder, and knowing the difference between when something is offensive and when one’s mind is just making a Freudian joke is important. Not to mention time-saving and energy-efficient. 

There’s also an un-funny, even frightening, component to this entire incident. It shows how progressive values can be misrepresented in opportunistic ways. Patel’s conservatism should not be mistaken for feminism, but it will be. 

The pettiness of a case like serves as a distraction from what truly matters. I would rather have the old Myntra logo back, even if I will always see a provocative image in it, than a new one that is nothing more than a symbol of how regressive thinking was given such weightage in India’s courts, while much more meaningful battles, legal and otherwise, continue to languish unattended.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on February 4th 2021. “The Venus Flytrap” appears  in Chennai’s City Express supplement.