Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and Indian National Congress (INC) Leader Kamal Nath called Minister Imarti Devi an 'item'. Ahead of pending elections in Madhya Pradesh to be held this November, INC minister Kamal Nath takes a cheap jibe at political candidate Imarti Devi who is from the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) from Madhya Pradesh. Serving as a Minister of Women and Child Development in Madhya Pradesh, Devi has a political career spanning over two decades.
Kamal Nath calling Imarti Devi an 'item' is not an isolated incident of a male politician being misogynistic to a female politician.
#WATCH: Our candidate is not like her... what's her name? (people shout Imarti Devi, who is former State Minister) You know her better and should have warned me earlier... ye kya item hai: Former Madhya Pradesh CM & Congress leader Kamal Nath pic.twitter.com/eW76f2z8gU— ANI (@ANI) October 18, 2020
Women in India Politics Face Online Hate and Abuse Depending on Social Status
A research conducted by Amnesty International finds out that women in Indian politics are prone to receiving more threats and slurs than their counterparts in US and UK. Furthermore, women who belong to marginalised castes received 59% more caste based abuse as compared to other women. Hence, where women stand in the large social, economic and political framework determines the kind of misogyny they will receive.
Devi being called 'item' even has casteist connotations. Upper caste men, historically, have treated Dalit women and their property. They had access to their bodies for sexual exploitation. In urban spaces, Dalit women have often been seen in entertainment spaces where their bodies are objectified for the upper caste male gaze. These forms of objectification are violent because Dalit women and their bodies are reduced for entertainment. This is where the term 'item' comes. The act of Kamal Nath calling Devi an 'item' has a long history of upper caste men reducing Dalit women to "items" and Nath does the same in the space of politics.
Misogyny Attacks Women Personally
There is a trend of women being attacked personally from they way they look, to families and their personal lives in online and offline spaces. The attacks are often angry, full of rage and is done with an attempt to show women "their place". And, which place that might be is what one wonders? Patriarchy and flag bearers of patriarchy, upper caste men, do not like women occupying spaces of power and taking up space. It is a direct threat to the sustenance of patriarchal systems. Hence, when women occupy powerful positions in traditional patriarchal set ups they are often subjected to misogynistic slurs, abuse and threat. It is an anger and rage which screams how dare her occupy space.
There is a common saying which goes as when they cant go for your work, they will go for you. Nath calling Devi an "item" is an example of that. He says it in a provocative manner to get cheers from (male) audiences and seems to suggest he is one of them!
Views expressed are the author's own