A woman cannot get away with even a mere laugh in today’s world. There is no solidarity even among her own gender who are quick to sit in judgment and agree she got her just desserts. Chauvinism still rampant however much we try to pretend it doesn’t can only be rooted out once mindsets change. Years and years of entrenched patriarchy cannot be wiped out that easily. All we seem to be doing is brushing it under the carpet whenever it raises its ugly head, says Sreelata, as part of the Special Feature, exclusively for Different Truths.
Renuka Chowdhary should know she is not alone. She can take heart from the fact that she is in good company. History is replete with examples of how men in power and even out of it have sought to ridicule, mock and shut up women who have tried to invade their space.
Indira Gandhi was mocked for being a ‘Goongi Gudiya’ – dumb doll – till she showed them that she was the only ‘man’ in the cabinet. The first ever lady to run for president in the US of A, Victoria Wood Hull was called ‘a witch’, a ‘harpy’ and in fact ‘Mrs. Satan’ if you please. Scroll down to Hillary Clinton 136 years later to find nothing has really changed. Clinton has been referred to in every demeaning way possible including being ‘Schlonged’ by Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential elections. Meaning badly beaten if you want to be kind. No guesses as to who used this vulgar sexist verb if ever there was one. Yes, it was Donald Trump. She was like Renuka also called out and mocked for her ‘cackling’. Be it Margaret Thatcher or Theresa May, Khaleda Zia or Sheikh Hasina, Aung San Suu Kyi or Benazir Bhutto or Sonia Gandhi they have all had their share of insulting – name calling. Sexist slurs and mocking references are par for the course for anyone, especially in the political field.
So Vice President Venkaiah Naidu’s patronising advice to ‘Go see a doctor’ for being ‘Loose, dark and unruly’ whatever that means shouldn’t actually surprise anyone least of all Madam Chowdhary, who despite all odds has managed to occupy a place among equal – men – in the nation’s House of Lords. No mean feat that.
The wiki write up on the Vice President says he is known for his ‘quirky alliterations and similes’ and a few panelists on our hysterical electronic channels state that he is known to talk ‘like that’. So if they are to be believed we take it that when he told Renuka to whatever, he wasn’t actually saying you have a mental problem or asking her to go see a Psychiatrist instead it was just a poetic smack on the back. Even so, that leaves us wondering whether everyone who laughed out of turn in Parliament was being sent to the doctor to be checked out for a problem.
So then let’s now find out what the honorable Vice President could have meant by the rest of his remarks, shall we?
The Oxford Dictionary describes ‘loose’ as ‘not firmly or tightly fixed in place; detached or able to be detached, (of a garment) not fitting tightly or closely, not close’. So a mocking cackle or uncontrolled merriment is now for the unknowing a ‘loose’ laugh that is not firmly fixed in place. A delicious new add-on wouldn’t you say?
Let’s take ‘Dark’ next. Was he referring to Madam Renuka’s colour? Nah. Couldn’t be. Was he hinting at perhaps something more sinister? Like a new ‘shadowy or ‘murky’ note in her jollity?
Maybe. Wasn’t she, after all, mocking the PM’s tall claims?
Ah yes then there is ‘unruly’ and the good old dictionary says it is ‘disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control’. Therein lies the crux of the matter.
How dare she laugh especially when the PM – the highest authority of the land was speaking? Doesn’t matter if another hundred male voices were sloganeering in rhythmic crescendo over the laugh that pealed out into the hallowed portals of Parliament House which has certainly seen more vituperative disruptive behavior than a mere mocking laugh. It was another matter also that the PM in his abundant wisdom brought the chauvinistic House down with his spontaneous no doubt but ugly reference. But then you see when push comes to shove double standards abound – slurs and condescension – especially for women politicians are run of the mill.
While a man can get away with anything including murder – think the brave Joan of Arc killed aeons ago as a witch – a woman cannot get away with even a mere laugh in today’s world. There is no solidarity even among her own gender who are quick to sit in judgment and agree she got her just desserts. Chauvinism still rampant however much we try to pretend it doesn’t can only be rooted out once mindsets change. Years and years of entrenched patriarchy cannot be wiped out that easily. All we seem to be doing is brushing it under the carpet whenever it raises its ugly head.
The fact that women have not only fought and won the right to participate on equal terms in every field including politics but are also managing to stay the course much to the discomfiture of their male counterparts is saying a lot for the courage, determination, and steadfastness of ladies like Renuka Chowdhary. So mock them, ridicule them, laugh at their laugh. After all, if you demonize them enough and cast aspersions on their mental capabilities, who would in their right senses support or maybe even vote for a brave Rani Lakshmi Bai? Most men are scared witless of self-assured women oozing confidence. They would much rather have demure Sati-Savitris applauding their every move.
Subconsciously isn’t that what this has all been about?
Photos from the Internet
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When computers hit the scene, life changed for Sreelata Menon. A Masters in History (Mumbai University) she was with the Onlooker and world Trade Magazines before teaching History to undergraduates and doing a stint in an advertising agency. A web content writer, she wrote blogs on freelance writing, and current happenings for online and print publications. Author of ‘Freelance Writing for the Newbie Writer’ her books also include Guru Nanak and Indira Gandhi for Penguin-Puffin.