The last thing one could have thought about caring for on the occasion of her big political debut is a focus on her clothes. Had Priyanka Gandhi been a man starting a political career, the coverage would have been about the educational background, professional and social work and perhaps about the family life. But guess what the media is busy talking about? It’s Gandhi’s clothes and her looks. How she wears her hair like her grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has been mentioned on almost all new channels and even on social media numerous times since yesterday. But this isn’t where the conversation stopped. One leading daily went ahead to carry a collage of Gandhi in different attires to showcase how she was confident, cautious and capable.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Priyanka Gandhi has taken up an official role within the Congress party, marking her debut in active politics.
  • However, a leading daily couldn’t find anything else to talk about, other than her dressing sense.
  • Since ages, female politicians in India have been catering to these stereotypical views, on how they should dress.
  • Talking about their clothes shifts focus from the politics of female leaders, thus weakening their image.

Is Gandhi entering politics or walking the runway for a fashion label? It is one thing to call a woman capable or confident and another to pin those qualities on her dressing sense. The photographs not only trivialise a woman who will for sure emerge as a prominent politician in the coming years, they are also reflective of a stereotypical view of the media.  Look at how the photograph of hers in a western outfit is labelled confident. While the one in a saree is tagged as capable and in a salwar kurta they call her cautious. What are they trying to say? That only women who wear western clothes are confident? Or that a female politician is only capable when she wears a saree?

It is one thing to call a woman capable or confident and another to pin those qualities on her dressing sense.

Since ages female politicians in India have been catering to these stereotypical views, on how they should dress, just as there is no escape for male politicians from kurta or half jackets. No matter what they wear at their homes or on vacations, when women enter politics, they trade their western clothes for ethnic ones, especially khadi sarees. I mention this because this perception plays a big role in why people thought it was okay to talk about how Gandhi dresses.

Women in politics are well aware of this mindset and it reflects in their dresses.

Our society still has a tendency to associate the way a woman dresses with her characters and qualities. A woman who dresses in western wear is confident and urban. While the one who wears sarees is traditional hence by default sanskari and brimming with goodness. One who wears short or “revealing” clothes, on the other hand, are vulgar, debauch and characterless. Women in politics are well aware of this mindset and it reflects in their dresses. Never have I ever seen a female political figure step out in minis, not as if they have never worn western outfits in their lifetime. Or were born draped in a saree.

Also, focusing on dressing sense keeps us from knowing about relevant things. We are more interested in reading about her political views, her campaign strategies, her vision for India and what all strategies she plans to implement via her party to bring down the growing inflation rate, unemployment among youth, etc. Focusing on the way she wears her hair or how she dresses is keeping us from all these answers.

It is unkind to all the female politicians, when newspapers and people talk about everything but their politics. It weakens their image and puts them forth lukewarm politicians to the electorate. We do not elect leaders for what they wear. Which is why it doesn’t make any sense to reduce the conversation on Priyanka Gandhi’s big debut to what her clothes say about her.

At a time when we are looking at general elections in barely two months and our politicians want us to focus on a woman’s clothes, than relevant social issues. Gandhi’s choice of clothes seems to have become a political agenda for the opposition. Recently, BJP MP Harish Dwivedi said to media, “Everyone knows that when Priyanka Gandhi is in Delhi, she wears jeans and top but dons saree and sindoor when she comes to the constituencies.”

Picture Credit: STP

Also Read : Priyanka Gandhi enters politics, debuts with a role in Uttar Pradesh

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

Get the best of SheThePeople delivered to your inbox - subscribe to Our Power Breakfast Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook and on YouTube, and stay in the know of women who are standing up, speaking out, and leading change.