What is the meaning of the word 'socialite?'

Thursday, 15 May 2014 - 6:15am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Do you take offense when someone calls you a socialite? After Hrs explores the multi-layered meaning of this abused word...

Why does the word 'socialite' in India have such a derogatory connotation. I've always come across society men and women, who'll happily give their inputs for a story but beg me to not address them as 'socialite'. "Call me a homemaker or a bibliophile or a fashionista or a philanthropist but not a socialite". According to the dictionary meaning of the word, a socialite is an individual who goes to fashionable places. In India, it is synonymous with someone who gets featured on Page 3 day in and day out, who is rich, spends a fortune on a designer bag and whose only claim to fame is the Mr Money bag she married. What people don't understand is that some of these glorified creatures run several businesses, raise money for charity, take care of their families and are involved with myriad philanthropic activities. Also, their work requires them to be in the press all the time to convey the right message across.

Notwithstanding all of this, some are quick to hurl phrases like 'champagne communists' or 'limousine liberals' who discuss poverty and global warming in exotic settings.

The common refrain in India is, 'oh she's a socialite! She must be a floozie or a bimbette'. Let's speak to some of our known faces to understand why the word has such a demeaning connotation.

Rukshana Eisa, Grooming Expert
If someone just called me a socialite I'd take offense because I feel a working woman can also be a socialite. In India, it's used negatively and sadly the notion is, 'Oh she's always on Page 3'. Usually people think of Page3ites as dim wits but they don't understand that some of them are quite busy and important women and whose work needs to be written about. It's the part and parcel of the job.

Kalyani Chawla, VP Marketing, Christian Dior Couture
Yes I do get offended but request a tag of "a hard working socialite"! I don't personally care really as the perils of my job require me to be attending events etc which are invariably in various mediums in the media. But I do advocate the fact that if you as a socialite and celebrity can put a message across, which definitely reaches out to a larger audience, one should do just that sincerely for a cause.
This whole Page 3 culture in India is most times paid for, has diluted the image of personalities who now shy away from wanting to be part of it.

Aarti Surendranath, Producer
I take offense to that. The social media got its awakening a little late in India. Everyone was not ready to understand the other aspect and people got judgmental. There were some people who got clubbed together whose behaviour pattern was not not complimentary and you got judged because of that. I call it 'inverted snobbery'. People who're dying to be in press say, "I don't want to be in press." These intellectually superior kinds say things like, 'you people are a lot like that or 'your' type of people or you must be used to all the scandals." It's become a weird judgmental situation.

Roohi Jaikishan, Entrepreneur
In a broader sense I understand why it had a negative connotation because it denotes that's ALL one does (referring to the meaning in the dictionary). As for me, my life is far more fuller, honestly if it's a person's perception that I am a socialite so be it.

Bhavana Pandey, Luxurista
I think there's a lack of the understanding of the meaning of the word socialite. How many people bother checking the dictionary meaning? To a layman a socialite is a person who does nothing but attends parties and has amenities to live the good life. It's like calling someone a blonde whose hair is blonde which doesn't necessarily mean she's dumb.

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