Why Do We Still Tolerate “Dirty Jokes” On Appearance Of Women Politicians?

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Arrest Randeep Hooda is trending on social media, after an old clip of the actor, making sexist remarks against Bahujan Samajwadi Party leader Mayawati went viral. Hooda can be seen making derogatory remarks about Mayawati’s appearance in the video and this hasn’t gone down well with many on social media. What’s even more disturbing is that the comments seem to have been made at an event by a news channel, where neither attendees nor the host take a stand against Hooda’s remarks.

Responding to Hooda’s comments on the video, activist and Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation leader Kavita Krishnan tweeted, “That’s how caste based sexual violence has always worked, by simultaneously projecting Dalit, Adivasi women as ‘ugly, dirty, repulsive’, and ALSO as overly sexualised, & sexually ‘available’ to all. Think Surpanakha, as an example of how this dual strategy works.”

In the name of telling a “dirty joke” Hooda proceeds to call Mayawati so unattractive that no one would want to have sex with her twice. Yes, while on camera, a celebrity went on to body-shame a Bahujan female leader, delivering a below the belt blow, while those around him howled or nodded politely.

This isn’t the first time Mayawati has been targetted with sexist remarks for her “appearance”. In 2019, BJP MLA Surendra Narayan Singh had called her “shaukeen”, adding that she gets facial done every day. “She has no right to say anything about our leaders. Her hair have turned grey but she colours them to look young. She has turned 60 but still her hair are black.” Read more on that here.

Body shaming, remarks about looks, appearance, clothes, sex life are primarily reserved for female politicians in our country. Of course, there is a deeply casteist tone to this joke, seeping in the privilege of the well-off lot that surrounds Hooda in the video, but I won’t comment further on that, apart from acknowledging it. Being a privileged woman, I can’t even imagine the oppression and shaming women from underprivileged sections of society have to endure and what it does to their well-being. Hence, I am not the right person to hold the mic on this specific subject.

However, one does wonder, would Hooda have made a similar remark about a male politician? The question isn’t whether or not do we approve of a politician or their brand of politics, but how we choose to oppose them. Almost every female politician that I follow on Twitter is fat-shamed or slut-shamed by trolls, simply because she belongs to a party they do not approve of. They are often at the receiving end of rape threats, are subjected to inappropriate jokes, and mind you, this behaviour isn’t limited to digital spaces. Even in parliament, election rallies, or during television debates, women are subjected to commentary that intends to shame them, purely on basis of their gender.

The colour of their underwear, the way they laugh, what they choose to wear, their weight, skin colour, nothing is spared. Read more about sexist remarks on women politicians during elections here. What about their political views and ideology? What about their competency? Those who resort to making sexist remarks against women politicians could care less about such parameters.

Only time will tell whether or not Hooda will face legal repercussions for his “joke”, but what needs to change isn’t just celebrity behaviour. Randeep Hooda is just part of a bigger problem which is our attitude towards women, and mainly women from underprivileged sections of society and our understanding of beauty and female sexuality. Nothing gives Hooda or any other person for that matter, the right to deem another person “ugly”. No one has the right to make comments with sexual overtones on women politician. Besides when a person does that, the commentary ceases to be about women politicians and politics, but more about their deep-seated biases that were handed down from generation to generation and continue to move on in family WhatsApp groups.

The views expressed are the author’s own.