“Assault on my character will not be tolerated,” said a political spokesperson while admirably shutting up a sexist comment by another male panelist on a national television debate last week. She has also posted that a complaint had been registered with the National Commission for Women against the man’s remark. One would think that this deliverance of justice is a step in the right direction to curb sexism, bullying and patriarchal predominance. However, as she did, an old video of hers resurfaced where she could be seen hurling a volley of abuses at an older male panelist, calling him an “uncouth vagabond” and more garishly, a “sadak chhaap buddha.” She called him an “absolutely senile old man” who was “just counting days on earth anyway.”
It’s an old video dated 2019, and perhaps one that re-emerged only in retaliation to last week’s incident. And while she should be fully supported for calling out sexism, without any kinds of counter-arguments, the resurfaced video sheds some light upon an issue that often goes undiscussed – that of reverse sexism and ageism that men face.
This brings up many questions and points that should not go unnoticed. What if the above situation was reversed? What if the said woman had been at the receiving end of these words spoken by a man? Is a personal attack for a difference of opinion justified when a woman throws it at a man? Shouldn’t a man outrage if he is insulted as a woman does when she is? These are complex questions with complex answers, but ones that need to be addressed.
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Sexism and Ageism Are Concepts Related to Patriarchy
First off, it should be understood that all the evil social ‘isms’ – sexism, ageism, casteism, classism – are not gender restrictive. That men drive these prejudices forward is the common perception, since they form the bigger half of the majority and most of it is aimed at women. Granted. But it is also true that anyone can be a sexist, and in a bid to bring down someone, attack them rudely based on gender or age or any other social identity.
Just like being a feminist is not the prerogative solely of women, the blame for perpetuating sexism too doesn’t always fall on men.
Sexism, ageism, these are all offshoots of their great grandfather – patriarchy. And patriarchy is not a men’s only club. Women too, consciously or subconsciously, believe in and propagate these problematic stereotypes. As women, we have also internalised certain things like – a man should be the dominant decision-maker in the family, or that a man shouldn’t cry, or that a man ageing/balding is an ugly thing.
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“Why Don’t Feminists Call Out Women Who Insult?” We Do.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a believer in the defensive retort misogynists and sexists often give to justify their abhorrent behaviour that falls along the lines of, “ladki kare toh sahi, hum kare toh galat?” The essence of these is best subsumed within Divyangna Trivedi‘s videos that went viral earlier this year, where she spoke of “equalism” as a counter to “feminism” which she, and worryingly thousands of her followers agreed, was in itself a “sexist” concept because it had “fem for female” in it.
I wholeheartedly disagree with this flight of fancy the young influencer took, and invited all her fans and followers to take with her. The basis of feminism rests upon upliftment of women to come at par with men, and there’s nothing remotely sexist or “pseudo” in it.
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But incidents such as the one that the said political leader was involved in is what inspires “equalism” loyalists and those against “today’s feminism” to justify their absurd arguments. They will now cite that politician’s old video, and with puffed out egos, ask “why are the feminists not saying anything against this now?”
Well, here I am talking about it, raising a voice against it. Because feminism does not mean selective outrage against sexism.
Shouldn’t A Man Raise His Voice When He Is Insulted? Of Course, He Must!
It’s not just me, but several others on social media too, who have a conscience to condemn this old incident of a woman’s bad-mouthing out. People have been outraging against it since the video re-surfaced online. A user wrote, “Thanks to Nupur Sharma for educating the Indian children and youths on how to behave with their parents and grand parents.” Another user wrote, “Utterly disgusting!”
And the politician’s comment was truly that. Without any regard for an ethical debate or the customary reverence for another panelist, she continued to deride him for his age, looks, almost cursing him with death. The worst part is that the TV anchor let this happen. But TV news debates in India have practically become shouting matches, and expecting mature discussions on them is futile.
Also Read: News Debates Or Shouting Matches: Do We Need This Television Sport?
Whether people are calling her out for an old video because of political agendas or for general bad behaviour is irrelevant. The problem of ageism and sexism is not restricted to that one debate. The question it begs is that if women have the spine to stand up for sexism, then shouldn’t it persist on all occasions of wrongdoing? While we raise a voice against patriarchal conditioning, shouldn’t we also be careful to choose our words wisely when speaking to other people? And if as women, we do insult a man, then shouldn’t he have equal rights to outrage against trolling?
Reverse Sexism Is Common, Women Can Be Sexists Too
Reverse sexism is more casual and common than we think it is. And it can dart in from any side of the gender spectrum, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a man every time. But every time it happens, it should be called out. Rudeness as a personality trait should not be allowed to fester and cause detriment to other people, especially on national TV.
And this is the reason why we need feminism more than ever, because it seeks to amend all those hidden discourses that women and men have internalised over decades that stem from patriarchy and its subordinates like age-shaming and sexism. A patriarchal society works in favour of no one – it casts judgment upon women who are independent, it criticises men who cry and shames queer people for their identity.
We need to call out wrong every instance we get, no matter the person’s gender or identity. Because development can never come by pulling someone down. It only happens when we extend a hand to raise people up.
Views expressed are the author’s own.