While it is common for political leaders to spout nasty remarks against each other, fat shaming female politicians is plain sexist. Recently, Bihar politician Sharad Yadav was caught on camera ridiculing Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje during a campaign rally in the latter’s state. He said, “Vasundhra ko aaram do, bahut thak gayi hain, bahut moti ho gayi hain, pehle patli thi.” (Let Vasundhara rest now. She is very tired. She has gained a lot of weight, earlier she used to be thin.)

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • During a recent campaign rally, Sharad Yadav fat shamed Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
  • Had Rajasthan’s current chief minister been a man, would Yadav have made similar comments on him?
  • Such an approach among public figures instigates our society to use body shaming as a weapon against women with agency.
  • The electorate of Rajasthan deserves a more relevant discussion on upcoming elections.

Had Rajasthan’s current chief minister been a man, would Yadav have made similar comments on him? Would he have “joked” about a man’s weight gain during a rally and expected a laugh out of his audience? It shows how most male politicians in our country have little or no respect for female politicians. To take down someone as seasoned a politician as Raje, all Yadav could come up with was body shaming.

Yadav shifted the conversation from her governance to her appearance, and one cannot understand how that was relevant during a campaign rally.

However, one is not surprised to hear such comments from Yadav, who is notorious for making controversial statements all the time. Last year, he was under fire for saying that the honour of a vote is more important than the honour of a woman. But this was not some interview. This was a campaign rally aiming to lure the voters away from Raje, the leader of the current ruling party in Rajasthan.

Instead of pointing out where Raje fell short as a chief minister, Yadav chose to body shame her, and that says a lot about the state of politics in our country.

Also, body shaming a female politician amidst a public gathering seems to tell the public that despite so much political experience behind her, Raje is a woman at the end of the day. And it is okay to make jokes about a woman’s weight anytime, anywhere. Such approach instigates our society to use body shaming as a weapon against women with authority and agency. It is a time-tested way to demean a female achiever, to shift the spotlight from her work and virtues, to her appearance.

No voters go to rallies to listen to a critique on the weight of a political leader. The electorate of Rajasthan deserves a more relevant discussion on upcoming elections. They don’t stand sweating under the sun, to know what physical transformation a female leader has undergone, since her youthful days. They want to know what the politician holding the rally is bringing to the table. What he thinks of the current government’s tenure, and of its policies. What all has been done and not done, and needs to be done by the next elected government.

It is pointless to stray away from critical topics during a campaign and pass snide body shaming remarks, even if it is for fun.

Sexism in politics has always affected the perception of female politicians among the common crowd. Despite being hard-working, sincere and tactical, many women do not get the respect they deserve, both from their peers and their voters. It is still a struggle for them to be taken seriously. Issues such as sexist remarks and body shaming play a big role in this. However, we the voters are more responsible for this state of affairs, than Yadav and Co.

It is about time we ask ourselves, why do we let people degrade women’s appearance at all? Why don’t we put our foot down, when politicians stray away from relevant issues like development and infrastructure, and rather make sexist jokes? Because these men are products of our patriarchal system, just like us. They are able to hinder us, because sexism and body shaming is very commonplace in all echelons of our society. Fat shaming of women is normal, and nobody bats an eyelid, whether it is a housewife or a chief minister at the receiving end of such remarks. So if we want our politicians to stick to a relevant script, first we need to get rid of the culture of body shaming. Only when our politicians realise that the public doesn’t entertain such sexist humour anymore, will they stop. Only then will the focus be again on the politics of female leaders, and not their appearance.

Also Read : Savitri Bai Phule Resigns From BJP; Why You Should Know About Her

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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