A WOMAN | 7 JULY, 2019
Cheers to You Pretty Women! May You Buck This Nasty Patriarchal Trend
No place for independent women in Parliament
There is something sick and sinister, when attacks on women are encouraged and not condemned in the strongest possible language. Rape, assault, abuse, domestic violence, murders in the name of so called honour, are all in the headlines every single day. And perhaps some of this attitude that makes women prey to a nasty patriarchal system despite the so called development and progress was very visible in and outside Parliament House as soon as this session started.
Women Members of Parliament were chased, trolled, sneered at, for being one, independent, two,pretty and fearless, three, happy in themselves. These are traits by the way, the Indian man can barely tolerate in a woman. Women experience this on a daily basis but this time around, as the women were MPs, the ugly display of patriarchal hegemony was evident for all those who cared to see it.
It has always been my contention that Indian men have one of two responses to independent working women. One to subjugate them and thereby feel content that the woman ---fluttering eyelashes et al---sees them as the superior. And two, to attack and ridicule those who do not accept the first attempt through ways and means that are beyond ugly.
Working women I have spoken to over the years all tend to agree that it is the one or the other, with those who insist on their independence and equality in the work place (or home of course) getting the brunt of a response that could be direct discrimination in terms of promotions (remember there is not a single woman editor in chief even today of a big media house, or newspaper); whispers about her reputation; murmurs about her work; and attacks of the kind we have seen these days on the women MPs.
Two young MPs excited at having fought and won the difficult Lok Sabha elections from West Bengal went to Parliament before it convened, excited and enthusiastic. They took photographs of themselves outside the building, in what we call western attire for women but what the majority of men in this country dress in ---trousers and shirts! Instead of appreciating the enthusiasm the media and the trolls ---actually there is little difference nowadays with supposedly news channels transmitting fake news with more ferocity than the trolls on Twitter ---launched a vicious attack on the two MPs Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan. It went on and on, with the pious male MPs sniggering as their women colleagues were hounded by the media for comments, and Twitter raged up a storm.
Then came Nusrat Jahan’s wedding. She married Nikhil Jain in Turkey, and returned to Indian patriarchy again that put her in the dock for wearing sandoor, for marrying a non-Muslim, for not being present in Parliament on the first days, for just being. She gave interviews defending her right to dress as she pleases, marry who she chooses, live as she wants. ‘I am not hurting anyone, this is my choice”. But that did not silence the criticism with Jahan’s views on political issues, and the Lok Sabha contest that she won, being secondary to her being a good looking woman who thus did not have the right to enjoy herself.
Incidentally, the prototype of the Indian woman MP that the men in Parliament love is the MP who sits quietly while the men folk brag, who does not ask for time to speak but accepts whatever is doled out to her by her political ‘superiors’, who preferably serves the five year term without saying more than a word, sometimes not even that, and a person they can trample upon with indifference.
And then of course there was, and is, the amazing Mahua Moitra. A woman who was the vice president of JP Morgan in the United States with her feet well entrenched in what is even now considered a mans world, and resigned to join politics, and how! It was okay while she was in the Congress party, a pretty face not to be taken seriously but not so when she broke away, joined the Trinamool Congress, rose within the party structure as her boss now is also a woman, contested the elections and won. She broke all barriers with her maiden speech, where she said what the rest of the Opposition has not been able to even whisper, took on the treasury benches and refused to be cowed down.
All hell has broken loose since. Moitra has been attacked by all, with the silence of the Opposition MPs most deafening. Trolled mercilessly on the social media, hounded and harassed by the tribe that represents journalism today, she has been holding her own. But not without feeling the pressure that has made her retreat behind walls where she is speaking only to a select few, as her faith in the system per se has clearly been impacted.
Ignorant fools in the profession followed --like the herd they are --the Pied Pipers who claimed that her speech was plagiarised. That she had referred to seven indicators of fascicm from a public document and married it to the Indian situation as many have in different parts of the world, was ignored by the lot and their masters. And they literally chased her for reactions to their ignorance.
At one point, surrounded by cameras, she tried to reason with them, and point out this was not plagiarisation as even the author of the document had tweeted from the US (in fact he has written an article of how he became Internet famous in India as a result) but they were not in a mood to listen. And kept bombarding her with absurd questions, that editors of yesterday would have fired them for.
These women defy the status quo in Parliament. A deadly trait that our men just cannot swallow and accept. Hence the attack on them will continue, and every word and movement of theirs will be watched. This is their lot for the next five years at least, while they occupy positions that the men have always claimed as theirs. After all this is the one reason why the entire political spectrum has resisted the move for 33% reservation for women in the legislatures.
Cheers to you pretty women. May you buck this nasty trend.