How Women Leaders Are Breaking Into Political Sphere of Power
A few years ago Priyanka Gandhi Vadra while speaking at a rally in Rae Bareli said that “this country and its people do not need a 56-inch (now a famous Modi metaphor) chest-thumping leader, what it needs is a leader with a big compassionate heart.” Both Modi and Priyanka are in a bid to woo their voters and in this quest they did not shy away from encashing upon the prominent gender stereotypes in politics just like the symbol of hammer and sickle.
And ever since Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s official entry in the Indian politics has been announced, she has been subjected to an immense media scrutiny and peeving eyes of her political opponents. Her formal entry into the world of Indian politics has created such a storm, that so many people are not able to conceal their bafflement or discontent, and, in reflex are barging her on with insensitive and grossly sexist remarks.
These responses have created huge ripples in both, the political spheres and the media, which is behaving like a Christmas pantomime. Some of the political opponents have ridiculed and abhorred the debut of Mrs Vadra like anything. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “It shows that Rahul Gandhi has failed as a politician and now Priyanka Gandhi is like crutches to him.” It’s a statement which bluntly suggests Mr Gandhi has failed to deliver a promising political career and in order to compensate this he had to bring forward another counterpart and that too a female.
It’s a statement which bluntly suggests Mr Gandhi has failed to deliver a promising political career and in order to compensate this he had to bring forward another counterpart and that too a female.
At a lit fest in 2014, Rajdeep Sardesai stated Priyanka Gandhi does politics like an ‘item girl’. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy claims that she suffers from bipolar disorder and is prone to attack anyone, therefore she is highly unfit to be in public life. And in another statement, another BJP MP called her nothing but a ‘chocolate face.’
And to add to this massive collective verbal assault, somewhere in a parallel universe exists the world of twitterati and social media warriors, who are already in full swing posting their bigotry comments.
All these misogynistic reactions and judgments on her formally joining politics, exposes the deeply embedded sexism in the mindset of politicians, which might take millions of years of evolution to break.
It’s not just this side of the globe that the backlashes of attacks are swung open in full flow on women joining politics. Moving few continents away in the US, we have Kamala Harris. Ever since she has announced her candidacy to the US presidential elections in 2020, she has managed to churn out a storm on Twitter.
Twenty years ago, she dated the Mayor of San Francisco, who was also as he claimed married that time. A while ago in a recent interview he confessed about not only dating her but also influencing her career growth in some profound ways. This revelation has brought down her image like a crumbling cookie, it’s not just the cupboards of skeletons being dug out, it’s like the entire wardrobe that came crashing down.
Some of the reactions, which followed, were obnoxiously brutal i.e., “prostituting her way to the top, what a great feminist!” by Tyler Zed on Twitter on January 27, 2019 or being called nothing but a gold digger; this rampant backlash and shock on Harris’ dating choices is coming from the same people who had elected Trump as their president, known to be utterly sexist and who has been passing cruel misogynistic comments from time to time quite effortlessly. This hate storm against her completely pushed her achievements to the background and has dimmed her career highlights and her potentials in her run to the candidature of the presidential elections.
This rampant backlash and shock on Harris’ dating choices is coming from the same people who had elected Trump as their president, known to be utterly sexist and who has been passing cruel misogynistic comments from time to time quite effortlessly.
Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Suffragette Movement, which revolutionised for women to not only have the right to vote but also confirmed their participation in active politics. In her autobiography in 1914 she wrote, “men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it. They have decided that it is entirely right and proper for men to fight for their liberties and their rights, but that it is not right and proper to fight for theirs.”
The political sphere is mostly about power, an attribute traditionally seen as the natural domain of men, any woman stepping onto this domain has to make sure that she is subordinate and or in harmony with the men in power.
Coming closer, to the home front, women and politics go hand in hand as long as they come across as subordinate to their male counterparts as a bahu or a beti, as its quite evident from their campaign posters of the women candidates, as they endorse themselves to have just stepped out of Ekta Kapoor serials, as Indian sentiments are primarily ruled by projecting their women as reincarnation of Goddesses and the women entering the public discourse have to conform to these standards. They have to be ethically and morally flawless.
Coming closer, to the home front, women and politics go hand in hand as long as they come across as subordinate to their male counterparts as a bahu or a beti.
If they wish to survive in this concrete jungle of politics, they have to be subordinate to powerful men or else face the wrath of patriarchal monopolies. For example, it was quite recently, when politician Smriti Irani, known for her firebrand speeches, announced at an event that she “will quit politics the day PM Modi hangs his boots.”
It reassuringly reasserts the fact that the women have to play second fiddle to their male colleagues. Or if you do wish to stand apart amongst these hordes of men you need to prove that you are one of them, the way Indira Gandhi steered away from being called out as a ‘dumb doll’ to earn the title of the ‘The Iron Lady of India.’
The game, which is called the identity and gender politics, is tough to win after all.
Smita Mishra is a writer, theatre actor and a thinking butterfly who is curious about one phenomenon called life. The views expressed are the author’s own.