'Beautiful' Face and 'Tainted Husband': Sexist Indian Netas and Their Obsession With Priyanka Gandhi
Come elections, and sexism is served in different varieties. Take your pick.
So it's not really a surprise when the news of Priyanka Gandhi actively joining politics makes headlines, the natural reaction is, sexist with a capital S. "She's very beautiful. But other than that she holds no political achievement or talent," quipped Bihar minister Vinod Narayan Jha when he asked what he thinks about Gandhi's stint. When a politician thinks 'beautiful' is a 'talent', the argument pretty much rests there.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi has a major problem with Priyanka because she resembles her grandmother, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. "If a person could become as capable as someone else merely by resembling him or her, by now we would have had many more Virat Kohlis and Amitabh Bachchans. Duplicates do not work in politics. Priyanka Gandhi might resemble Indira Gandhi, but there is a big difference." The resemblance that the politician is talking about is how Priyanka looks, it's got nothing to do with her politics.
When talking about female politicians, first comes the face, and then comes the husband. Sushil Modi followed the same route. After he was done comparing Priyanka's face to Indira Gandhi's, he went on to compare their spouses. "Feroze Gandhi was a good orator and an upright parliamentarian who had the guts to speak against his powerful father-in-law Jawaharlal Nehru," he said. In comparison, Priyanka's "businessman husband's irregular land transactions are spread across two states and he is facing probes". In the end, Priyanka Gandhi was reduced to "a woman with a tainted life partner".
This is now. But Priyanka, whatever her capabilities her and that's yet to be seen, is very much aware of the misogynistic political world. Two years back, when Priyanka was posed as one of the star campaigners of Congress ahead of the Assembly Elections in Uttar Pradesh, BJP MP Vinay Katiyar was not impressed. "There are many other girls/women more beautiful than her who are star campaigners. There are heroines, there are artists, they are more (beautiful)," he had said.
A month later BJP leader and union minister Mahendranath Pandey had called her a “special utensil” of the Congress, brought in to impress Uttar Pradesh voters before the assembly election.
But why just limit it to the politicians? In the last two days, folks on Google have searched a lot about 'Priyanka Gandhi'. They have also checked on her drinking and smoking habits. This is the third step on how to judge a female politician. Once you are done with her face, and her husband, you need to find how 'immoral' she is. Of course no 'Google' search on any woman is complete without looking up for 'hot' and then filling up the XX name. That happened in Priyanka Gandhi's case, too.
But Priyanka isn't an exception. The obsession with the 'looks' of female politicians, what their wardrobe consists of, and who their brothers and fathers are very much the reasons why we still have way more male politicians than we deserve. Whether it comes to media's listicles on Indian female politicians who “direly" needed a fashion makeover or how much Hillary Clinton smiled, or Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam calling Smriti Irani “thumka laganey wali” during a live television debate back in 2012 summarises the global problem of misogynist politics.
Priyanka had then laughed off Katyar's sexist jibe, saying, “If that’s all he saw in (her) colleagues who are each strong, brave and beautiful women who have battled through all sorts of hardships to get where they are, then he makes me laugh even more. Because he exposes the BJP’s mindset towards the better half of the population of India."
Perhaps, laughing is the only way to react.