Popular TV host and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) member Dindigul Leoni, who had earlier received flak for making insensitive remarks against women, has now been appointed as the head of Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation, which is responsible for publishing, printing, and selling books free to the government and government-aided schools for free of cost. It also sells to private schools at a rate fixed by the government.
While campaigning for his party in March this year, ahead of the upcoming Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, Leoni had drawn a parallel between cows and women and compared women’s body parts with a ‘barrel’. He said, “Women are now drinking milk from foreign cows, which is the reason behind them putting on extra kilos," and made lewd hand gestures to support his remarks.
“In a cowshed, people use a milking machine for foreign cows. These days, women drink milk from foreign cows because of which they have put on weight. Those days, a woman’s hip resembled the number 8 (had curves). When she lifted her child, the little one stayed put on the hip. But now they’ve become like a barrel because of which women cannot carry their children on their hips," he had remarked.
Leoni’s appointment as the head following the sexist comment has now sparked a row. PMK youth wing leader Anbumani Ramadoss urged the government to withdraw its decision. Taking to Twitter, he wrote that there can be no worse insult to that position than to hire someone who has survived to speak disparagingly of women! He further added, “What do a person who talks about women’s waist and hips know about the study? The job of the textbook company is to produce textbooks that develop knowledge. What is the fate of the students who read the textbooks produced under the leadership of Leoni?"
“The government should remove Leoni from the sacred position of head of the textbook institute and hire a qualified educator!" he wrote.
தமிழ்நாடு பாடநூல் நிறுவனம் மற்றும் கல்வியியல் பணிகள் கழகத்தின் தலைவராக திண்டுக்கல் ஐ.லியோனி நியமிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கிறார். பெண்களை இழிவுப்படுத்தி பேசுவதையே பிழைப்பாகக் கொண்ட ஒருவரை இந்த பதவியில் அமர்த்துவதை விட, அப்பதவியை மோசமாக அவமதிக்க முடியாது!(1/3)— Dr ANBUMANI RAMADOSS (@draramadoss) July 8, 2021
Another lawyer going by the name, Kasturi Shankar took to Twitter to slam the move by the Tamil Nadu govt. She wrote, “Dindugal Leoni appointed head of TN textbooks and educational services corpn. Can we expect lessons on DMK ‘history’ DK ‘social studies’, movie ‘numbers’ and womens ‘figures’ ?! (sic)"
தமிழக பாடநூல் நிறுவன தலைவராக ஐ.லியோனி நியமனம்.சபாஷ். இதை விட ஒரு அருமையான தேர்வு இருக்க முடியுமா. Dindugal Leoni appointed head of TN textbooks and educational services corpn. Can we expect lessons on DMK 'history' DK 'social studies', movie 'numbers' and womens 'figures' ?! pic.twitter.com/NRvb254foh— Kasturi Shankar (@KasthuriShankar) July 7, 2021
A party member had reportedly tried to intervene during Leoni’s speech, however, the leader was not deterred by the interruption and went on making disrespectful comments about women’s appearance.
Reacting to Leoni’s remarks, BJP’s Art and Culture Wing president Gayathri Raguramm termed it shameful. “What a shamewhat milk does he drink? Does he know what happens to women’s body post pregnancy or during hormonal changes? @KanimozhiDMK what do you like to say to this kind of male chauvinist? Is this the respect your party people have for women (sic)," she tweeted.