Opinion Op Ed 23 Jul 2016 Shobhaa’s Take ...
Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com

Shobhaa’s Take: Misogyny dominates our thinking

Published Jul 23, 2016, 12:46 am IST
Updated Jul 23, 2016, 12:46 am IST
A male politician who sells tickets for crores is called at worst a ‘fixer’
Dayashankar Singh, who was sacked as the Vice President of BJP in Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: Facebook)
 Dayashankar Singh, who was sacked as the Vice President of BJP in Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: Facebook)

Dayashankar Singh is history. To the average Indian, he is a nobody. Had he not hit the headlines for calling Mayawati a “prostitute”, he would have remained a nobody — another political flunkey currying favour in Uttar Pradesh. The newly-elevated vice-president of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh has lost his job and an FIR has been filed against him. All these are technicalities. Ten days from now, the chances are that Mr Singh will be forgotten. Ten months from now, he may even be forgiven. Ten years from now, he could become the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. After that? He may find himself the Prime Minister of India.

That’s how twisted our political scenario has become. Calling a woman a prostitute (“vaishya”) is the fastest, cheapest, easiest route taken by men like Dayashankar to derive political mileage. And there are thousands of Dayashankars floating around in India. Though why they put down prostitutes always makes me wonder. Female sex workers are patronised by men. Some of these men are like Dayashankar — quick to condemn women, once their business is concluded. Sex workers are bought and sold by men, who profit from the trade. Men representing every social class in our society patronise these professional women, who offer their services for a fee.

 

Countless politicians are known to regularly visit brothels and add to the trade. Others order “room service”. Nothing remains a secret. Delhi’s pimps are a familiar sight, networking smoothly through crowded “sabhas”. If Dayashankar can brazenly call Mayawati a “vaishya”, he should also have the guts to name a few “bhadwas” in public life. A male politician who sells tickets for crores is called at worst a “fixer”. Nobody identifies him publicly as a pimp. Pimps feel insulted when they are compared to politicians! Ditto for prostitutes. Arun Jaitley acted swiftly in this case and offered an apology to Mayawati. By sacking the party’s state vice-chief immediately, the BJP bosses proved they are shrewd enough to mollify Mayawati’s massive base of supporters, given the looming elections and the all-important dalit vote.

 

Had that not been the case, I doubt anybody would have taken action against the loutish Dayashankar. Insulting single, powerful women by labelling them “prostitutes”, “randis”, whores and sluts is an old, old game. Every successful woman has to deal with a few “prostitute” slurs during her career. This is not restricted to India alone. But that’s hardly the point. Widespread misogyny dominates our social thinking. It is so ingrained, one wonders whether desi men are born with a misogyny gene (Siddhartha Mukherjee — please crack this code). The hostility and hatred displayed towards women who don’t “need” men for their success, is so exaggerated that it is almost palpable — whether in a boardroom or in Parliament. In Ms Mayawati’s case, it acts as a double whammy, since no matter what her personal achievements have been, her rise to the top is attributed to her relationship with political patron Kanshi Ram. Kanshi Ram has been dead for years. Does that matter?

 

Today’s “fallen woman” is anything but an object of pity or derision. So, to call anybody a “prostitute” and imagine that to be the worst insult on earth, is laughable. Times have changed radically. Prostitutes have their own space, place and dignity. Every woman has the potential and capability to rise above her predetermined “destiny” and make something of her life on her own terms. Nothing can keep Ms Mayawati down. Absolutely nothing. Least of all a nonentity called Dayashankar. Melania Trump’s case is different. But the misogyny she faces is the same. Forget the speechwriter’s gaffe and the plagiarism charge. As Melania’s pitbull of a husband Donald Trump gloated his wife’s “borrowed” speech received more global coverage than all the other news stories put together. Here’s the thing: Melania’s past and her spectacular good looks are there for the world to gawk at. If Trump does make it to the White House, she will be America’s “hottest” first lady — Trump’s most powerful trump card.

 

When leaked pictures of a nude Melania during her modelling days were leaked to salivating viewers by Trump’s rivals, the tactic totally backfired! Those tantalising shots did more to boost Trump’s ratings than all his bizarre pronouncements. America too has changed. And how! Young American voters are impressed that Trump has managed to bag such a gorgeous-looking wife! He himself flaunts her shamelessly and compares her to the less well-endowed wives of rivals. That’s Trump — a man capable of flogging any and every asset he possesses — a trophy wife included. The Kennedy era was different. The average Joe would not have accepted a luscious mistress/wife like Marilyn Monroe in the White House. Even the Bill Clinton era proved to be prudish when it came to a certain cigar-smoking incident at the Oval Office. Melania Trump is not Monica Lewinsky, but the common factor here is raw sex appeal, and its effect on voters.

 

A female BJP spokesperson made things worse for the party, which was still reeling from the crude Dayashakar remark, when she rudely wondered on a television panel whether Mayawati was a man or a woman, saying she herself was not sure. This comment was as offensive as Dayashankar’s. Will the lady also lose her job? Unlikely. There is a hierarchy evident in political misogyny, believe it or not. Either way, the targeted women are the real winners. Mayawati’s popularity has soared after the “prostitute” putdown. And I am sure Melania Trump is hard at work wondering what to wear at her husband’s inaugural ball. Take that... all you Dayashankars of the world!

 

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