Of ‘hate hags’, witch-hunts, and the Orwellian Woman

Written by April 6, 2014 10:48 pm 12 comments

The term ‘hate hag’, used to describe “women supporters of Narendra Modi” in an Outlook Magazine article recently gained currency, especially on social media. Vrinda Gopinath, who authored the article, clearly referred to three women—Madhu Kishwar, Tavleen Singh, and Sandhya Jain—as ‘Modi’s mausis’ (Modi’s aunts).1 Describing these women as what“Libs call Hate Hags or Hacks”, she states that they:

“have swung into the national debate ever since the media’s imbalance in promoting Modi tilted favourably towards him, feverishly affirming their faith on television, Twitter, Facebook and in their columns. They dismiss contrarian, inquiring views as archaic and wimpy; and club those who question them as com­m­unists, feminists, and socialists. They’d love to be hailed as right-wing reactionaries but are now famously known as Modi’s Mausis.”


She further explains how Kishwar—dubbed as ‘Madhu Mausi’—“has taken her Modimania to newer heights of emotional fervour”; how Singh “constructs ‘secularism’ as a dirty word”; and finally, Jain, who “apart from covering [Modi’s] rallies and quoting every pearl that rolls off his tongue…endorses Modi’s views on population control and religious demography, and chants with Modi on ‘Third Front, Third Rate’ and other mantras”. Perhaps, I am too quick to judge her piece (given that ‘a longer version’ of the article appears in print). However, even by the standards of criticisms levelled against Kishwar, or other apologists for the Sangh Parivaar,2 Gopinath’s pieces resonates with the crass tone one would normally find in an amateur, anonymous handle-led blog, and certainly not in a publication like Outlook (However, given Manu Joseph’s equally crass piece on the Tarun Tejpal sexual assault case, it is perhaps not so unsurprising).3

While there’s no problem in writing a sarcastic article on these women, what I found more disconcerting was the over-judicious appropriation and usage of the term ‘hate hag’ by the anti-Modi and anti-BJP voices on social media to target women, especially on Twitter, who are either sympathetic to the BJP and Modi, or themselves are BJP workers. This attack on women—irrespective, or in this case, because of their political ideologies—I argue, is unprecedented, crass and unbecoming. In using the term ‘hate hag’ the risk is in reaffirming a notion of ‘ideal’ woman, whose political views have to be in full agreement with so-called liberal, secular (or religious, fundamentalist) ideal. This is not to say that there are no contradictions whatsoever in women’s support for the BJP, RSS, and the Sangh Parivaar—indeed, these contradictions, I think, are irreconcilable. However, there is a difference in expressing ones disagreement with these, and using a term that is inherently sexist, misogynistic and demeaning to women.

In this essay I critique the term ‘hate hag’ through three broad arguments: first, I argue the term ‘hate hag’ is inherently sexist and misogynistic, and in using the term to ‘shame’ women because of their political ideology, we reinstate another form of a the medieval witch-hunt. Second, I look at the irreconcilable contradictions in the ‘women’s question’ and the Political Right, especially in light of the Janus-faced patriarchy that the BJP and the Sangh Parivaar represent. Here I underscore the role played by real, symbolic and semiotic violence that is directed against women’s bodies and ‘honour’. Finally, I present the idea that the term ‘hate hag’ conforms to the same form of semiotic violence that the Political Right and conservatives use to ‘shame’ women to reaffirm a patriarchal politics. This, I argue, is creates the Orwellian Woman as the ‘other’—that is, the notion that “some women are more equal than other women”, when it comes to being objects of such attacks.

“‘Hate hags’? So what’s the problem? Don’t these women deserve to be shamed anyway?”

As expected, since its introduction, the term ‘hate hag’—not so much ‘Modi’s Mausis’—was widely discussed, shared, and was met with both opposition and appropriation over social media. The way this unfolded, at least on Twitter, was interesting. On the one hand, we had the ardent anti-BJP, anti-Modi (or pro-Congress crowd), who, quite unproblematically, appropriated the term, and used it to deride well-known women BJP-Modi supporters on Twitter (besides the three mentioned in Gopinath’s article). Said this Congress spokesperson:

“Hate Hags perfect term coined by Outlook magazine for NaMo’s women supporters on social media. Sue me now for saying this.”4

Several other anti-BJP/Modi counter-propagandists have celebrated the usage of the term because of its “shock value”. Here’s another example:

"I agreed with most of you points. My simple point is that it became an issue bcos it has shock value in it"

“I agreed with most of you points. My simple point is that it became an issue bcos it has shock value in it”

Some have argued that “such behaviour must be shamed” (a line of thought which could give the Khaps a run for their money).

Attach Shame It is important to attach shame to certain kinds of behavior. The term "Hate Hags" takes the "glamour" out their bigoted behavior.

Attach Shame
“It is important to attach shame to certain kinds of behavior. The term “Hate Hags” takes the “glamour” out their bigoted behavior.”

These counter-propagandists, it would seem, see a war coming. “Political correctness”, they say, is of little use when “the dogs of war are here”.

 

The Dog of War/Political Correctness "the dogs of war are here. And you are worried about political correctness. Please read my blog. Views welcome"

The Dog of War/Political Correctness
“the dogs of war are here. And you are worried about political correctness. Please read my blog. Views welcome”

For these counter-propagandists, it is a case of fighting fire with fire; of fighting hatred with hatred; countering one act of shaming with another. They speak of “shaming” women supporters of the BJP, but fail to see their own language as unbecoming, uncivil, and, ultimately, regressively patriarchal. I lack the space here to undertake an archaeology of the term ‘hate hag’. But let’s rely on the dictionary meaning of the term ‘hag’. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘hag’ as:

  1. An ugly, slatternly, or evil-looking old woman;
  2. Archaic
    1. a female demon,
    2. an evil or frightening spirit;
  3. Witch
‘Cucking Stool, used in the “trial” of witches’ Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cucking_stool.png

‘Cucking Stool, used in the “trial” of witches’
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cucking_stool.png

Thus, by its very constitution the term ‘hate hag’ is demeaning to women, and is inherently sexist.5 By underscoring the ‘internal/external’ ugliness (of women), people who support the term are supporting a perverted logic that assigns ‘value’ on womanhood based on a notion of beauty/ugliness and purity/pollution. This underscores an important point about the insidious function of discipline/punish that’s embedded in the notion of shame and honour (I will discuss this point in detail in the concluding segment).

 

‘External ugliness/internal ugliness’ "Its always inside-out never outside-in" "You do realizing using the term "ugly" specifically denotes a gendered connotation to insults making it inherently sexist?"

‘External ugliness/internal ugliness’
“And the term hate hag is not about external ugliness of these women. It is about their internal ugliness”
“You do realizing using the term “ugly” specifically denotes a gendered connotation to insults making it inherently sexist?”

 

Coming back, it would seem that Gopinath’s piece, and the so-called ‘shaming’ the counter-propagandists engage in, occupy a curious space in this on-going tirade against women expressing their political opinion on media. We are well aware of how journalists and activists have been viciously abused on social media by Right-wing fanatics. A BBC Hindi report revealed how women journalists and activists, like Sagarika Ghose, Kavita Krishnan, and Meena Kandaswamy, who have been critical of “caste and Hindu nationalism” have been singled out as victims of misogynistic attacks online.6 While Gopinath’s piece, and the usage of the term ‘hate hag’, does not use the abusive language of the anonymous Right-wing troll, it still perpetuates a language of misogyny, sexism and hatred. For her and the anti-Modi/anti-BJP crowd, these ‘Modi’s mausis’ are nothing but apologists for the Sangh, who find fault with the “secular, liberal media” on the one hand, and “have all been steadfastly loyal to the idea of their Hriday Samrat, emperor of India, Narendra Modi”. Gopinath’s argument is one which infantilizes these women for their “blind devotion” to Modi, and yet occupies the moral high ground. But it is unclear as to what she’s based her assumptions on. Going by her arguments, there is nothing to indicate that what people like Kishwar, Singh and Jain write about Modi is qualitatively exceptional in its content. Sure, Madhu Kishwar occupies a piñata-esque position, when it comes to “Modi-worship”. Many of Singh’s columns in The Sunday Express, and on NitiCentral are terrible excuses. And, to be honest, I don’t know enough about Sandhya Jain to comment on her. That said, I do know several people, of both genders, who appraise Modi—from enumerating merits in his so-called ‘Gujarat Model’, and admire the vast and burgeoning propaganda surrounding the man. But why single out these three women? I mean, if one is thinking of women insofar as talking about their role in the Sangh’s moral-political economy, there are women in the Sangh Parivaar who occupy a more dangerous role.

The Janus-faced patriarchy and the Women’s Question

On the face of it, it’s not entirely inaccurate to assume that there can be grounds for one to have sympathy with Gopinath’s piece. It is well-known that the Political Right in India produces, harbours, and espouses misogynistic and sexist ideologies, and, by any standard, is a text-book case of patriarchal moral-political economy.7 Women, however, occupy a more tenuous role in this matter: Should they conform to an ideal notion of universal feminism where they condemn all forms of misogyny and sexism?8 Or, does their support of individuals or ideologies put them at odds with these so-called universal feminist ideals? Can the so-called “women’s question” be reconciled by constructing an inner, spiritual domain, free from the trappings of western modernity—and yet, is ‘modern’ in a more functional way?9 If indeed so, are Kishwar, Singh and Jain exemplary in this regard? I don’t think so. For one, none of the three women are being castigated explicitly for ignoring/endorsing a feminist question. In fact, Gopinath’s sole criticism seems to be their hero-worshiping of Modi. She, it seems, couldn’t care less about actual irreconcilable problems and contradictions between equal rights for women, and the inherently patriarchal ideology of the Sangh Parivaar.

Before I proceed, however, let me clarify some things. I am very definitely critical of the BJP-Sangh and Narendra Modi. I have argued elsewhere that the BJP, RSS, and Sangh Parivaar, with Modi as its face, represent a Janus-faced patriarchal moral-political economy, and have underlying fascist tendencies.10 I have also categorically stated that apologists for the patriarchal Sangh—and these includes women “supporters”, as well as members of the Sangh’s women’s wing, Durga Vahini—espouse an idea that is fundamentally inimical to the goal of achieving equal rights for women. There are glaring contradictions in the support women give to Modi. For one, I find it irreconcilable that one can support Modi—no matter how awesome his visions of ‘development’ are—and not be bothered by the violence perpetrated by the Sangh on women: be it the brutal gang-rapes of Muslim women in the 2002 post-Godhra riots, or rapes of nuns in Kandhamal in Orissa during the anti-Christian riots;11 or the Bajrang Dal’s and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) moral policing and beating up of women and young couples; or even the Rashtriaya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s claims that “rapes happen in India, and not in Bharat”.12

Thus, when Modi speaks of the Nirbhaya case, and promises “security” for women,13 does he also promise them safety from the vile, misogynistic elements within the fold of the Sangh? In her article Gopinath doesn’t ask if we expected Modi, or his “mausis”, to speak up after Pramod Muthalik, the Shri Ram Sene chief was inducted, and subsequently expelled from the BJP (Muthalik and the SRS is infamous for the 2009 attack on women in a Mangalore pub) Apparently, Muthalik joined the BJP with the objective of “making Narendra Modi the prime minister”.14 More pertinently, she does not raise any questions about other women within the Sangh’s fold—women who do not enjoy the celebrity-like status of Kishwar, but women who nevertheless believe in, and espouse, the ideologies of the Sangh Parivaar, violently so, if required.

Take, for instance this clip from Nisha Pahuja’s documentary, The World Before Her,15 which examines two contrasting scapes: first, the camp of the RSS’ women’s wing, Durga Vahini, and the assaults on women and couples in public places, and pubs (the latter by the notorious Shri Ram Sene); and second, the selection round of the Miss India pageant. The instructor at the Durga Vahini camp goes on record to say that women are “biologically weaker than men”, and must, therefore, shun any hopes for gender equality. The more shocking aspect about this “brainwashing at the VHP’s Durga Vahini camp”, according to Pahuja,16 is what Prachi, a 20 year-old trainee at the camp, has to say about her father, (and, thus, the moral-political economy he and the RSS represent). Says Prachi about her father:

“In a traditional family they don’t let girl child live. They kill the child. So this is the thing. I get angry; I have quarrels with my dad. But this thing, when it comes in my mind, I feel like crying… he let me live. That is the best part.”

Clearly, if we highlight the issue of women’s rights—and, thus the contradiction of women supporting Modi and the Janus-faced Sangh Parivaar-BJP—what Pahuja’s clip shows is more inimical to the question of gender equality. This, evidently, is what deserves our attention, and perhaps is worth filling column inches. Instead, what we get from Gopinath is a pointless tirade and caricaturing of three women, who aren’t even big names in the BJP. On Twitter itself, several counter-propagandists have highlighted several female members/supporters of the BJP who have espoused a variety of illiberal balderdash—from casteism, to (ironically) misogyny. Incidentally, it would appear that the preoccupation of these counter-propagandists is to find women who fit into the bill of the ‘hate hags’.

‘A random, unverified handle vilifying Dalits deserves to be labelled “hate hag”?’

‘A random, unverified handle vilifying Dalits deserves to be labelled “hate hag”?’
“Now look at this lay. If India had any rule of law this lady will be in jail for vilifying dalits”
“he does it regularly his momma left him on a garbage pile of Dalit Ghetto”
“This Loneranger and Brown Bumby types are typical Demanding Begging Free ka maal Dalit types. Horrible personalities”
“so sad.Now sickos not saying it is job of Filthy Dalit Sweeper. Like thy involved Ram in #delihigangrape”
“you dont even hv guts to show yr Muddy face. seems yr parents taught u to be eternally ashamed to be a dalit”

Before I conclude, let me offer a clarification: While I am critical of the contradictions between the question of violence against women perpetrated by the Right-wing, patriarchal Hindutva organisations and the women who support these ideologies, I am equally cautious about the risk of reducing violence against women and misogyny to the crucible of ‘culture’. This risk is of patronising women, and given the colonial discourse of paternalistic intervention, there is a risk of reinstating what Gayatri Spivak has described as “saving the brown woman from the brown man”. Anthropologist Kamala Vishwesaran, too, highlights this point in the case of refugee women seeking asylum to the United States, where the lands these women come from—usually the Middle East—is seen as inherently misogynistic, sexist and inimical to women’s freedoms. She points that this perception draws from precisely the colonial tension Spivak highlights, and obfuscates (if not entirely erases) the question of violence faced by women in the west, and in United States.17

Thus, to reiterate the question I asked earlier: can there be a version of feminist thinking that emanates from the political Right-wing Hindutva discourse that is in line with the feminist goal of equal rights for women? By relying of the praxis of Hindutva politics in the last two decades—and not merely on scriptures—I am inclined to say I don’t think so. I would, very self-reflexively, say that the ideas women like Prachi and the instructor at the Durga Vahini training camp espouse in fundamentally inimical to the language of equal rights. They are based on an insidious logic of demarcating, and targeting, women based on certain notions they have of the ‘other’. This is based on the double-bind disciplining function of women’s ‘emancipation’ and their ‘punishment’, which can be achieved only by conforming to the hegemonic idea of what is deemed as appropriate in the patriarchal moral-political economy. This is the same notion the French, and so-called liberal western discourse has of the Muslim women.18 And this is at the heart of using the term ‘hate hag’ against women supporters of Modi, and the BJP.

Conclusion: A twenty-first century witch-hunt and the Orwellian woman

In this essay, I have attempted to present two broad critiques of the term ‘hate hag’, which was used target “women supporters of the BJP”. First, I argued that the term ‘hate hag’, etymologically and discursively, is inherently sexist, misogynistic, and demeaning to women—in this case, since it is used to target, and ‘shame’, women because of their ideological standings. Secondly, I stated that there are indeed several contradictions in the sexist, misogynistic, and regressive patriarchal politics of the Sangh Parivaar, and the RSS, and the question of equal rights for women, and their security—and, the patina of Modi’s “development” does little to hide that fact. This also underlines an insidious Orwellian ploy that “some women are more women than others” and thus, the latter are more deserving of abuse, castigation, and so on. Given these two contexts, the effect of ‘hate hags’ is exacerbated as it functions on an insidious patriarchal logic of discipline/punishment, wherein the woman is assigned space in the dichotomy of virtue/wickedness. In other words, it’s perfectly alright that a particular type of woman is the object of misogyny and sexism and violence (semiotic and/or real) since sheher very being reduced to her appearance, or other marker (like her political belief)—represents the other. She may be a woman, but her ‘marker’ (and that she’s casteist/sexist/bigoted etc.), makes her a less equal one.

The language of shaming has universal resonance in patriarchal discourse

The language of shaming has universal resonance in patriarchal discourse
“I have come to the conclusion that the only way to fight them is to attach shame with this behavior. Hate Hag tag does that”


Admittedly, perhaps, I am overstating things, and drawing too many conclusions. In all likelihood, like most things on Twitter, this will probably blow over (if it hasn’t already). Unfortunately, Vrinda Gopinath’s piece will still exist. And I will still live with the memories of the crass, misogynistic and sexist language used by people I follow on Twitter. Probably a good thing, too: a closet misogynist, for me, is more dangerous than an obvious bigot.

Acknowledgements
I am indebted to some of the wonderful feminists I follow on Twitter for their interventions during this debate; to Ketaki for a conversation we’d had long back on women and the Hindutva Right; and, to Nolina, for the conversations we have on feminism and politics, and for her encouragement, love, and support.

End Notes

  1. Vrinda Gopinath, ‘The Monologue of the Modi Mausi’, Outlook Magazine, 7 April, 2014. Accessed from: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?289992
  2. In a Kafila post Shuddhabratha Sengupta refers to Kishwar as “Mausi”, given her own insistence of using “traditional terms”. However, nowhere does Sengupta’s resort to petty name-calling. His usage of sarcasm, too, is not petty mud-slinging. See, ‘Madhu Mausi, Namo Mamu and the Ghost of Uncle Pepper’, Kafila, 18 June, 2013. Accessed from: http://kafila.org/2013/06/18/madhu-mausi-namo-mamu-and-the-ghost-of-uncle-pepper/
  3. Manu Jospeh, ‘What The Elevator Saw’, Outlook Magazine, 7 April, 2014. Accessed from: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?289993
  4. Tweeted by Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19), whose bio describes her as “Spokesperson-Congress, Columnist, Blogger, proud congress”. Tweet on 29 March.
  5. Although, many supporters of Modi are quite proudly, and sardonically, wearing the title of ‘hate hag’—as was with the term ‘slut’, which led to numerous Slut Walks.
  6. ‘Why are Indian women being attacked on social media?’, BBC News Hindi, 8 May, 2013. Accessed from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-22378366. Ghose was abused on Twitter by right-wing chauvinists who called her a “high-class prostitute”; Krishnan, speaking at a Rediff.com discussion when someone with the handle @RAPIST posted abusive comments, and asked where he could “rape her using a condom”; Kandaswamy was threatened with “live telecasted gang-rape and being torched alive and acid attacks”.  These are among the many instances where women are abused and humiliated online, usually by anonymous handles.
  7. I have explained what I mean by the term ‘patriarchal moral-political economy’ in a two-part post on my personal blog, ‘Notes on the Patriarchal Moral-political Economy’. Access Part I here: http://thepositivecynicinc.blogspot.in/2013/09/the-janus-faced-nature-of-patriarchal.html; and, Part II here: http://thepositivecynicinc.blogspot.in/2013/11/notes-on-patriarchal-moral-political_2.html
  8. This also holds true in the case of Islam and feminism. In western liberal circles most debates on Islam and feminism have centered round the ‘veil’, or the hijab or burqa (these terms are used interchangeably). However, many other scholars and academics, like Lila Abu-Lugodh, have argued that this debate reinstates the colonial tension of “saving the brown woman from the brown man” (to use Gayatri Spivak’s phrase), and ignores the systemic oppression of women in Islamic regions due to colonialism, and more recently, the ‘war on terror’. See, Lila Abu-Lugodh, ‘Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological reflections on cultural relativism and its others’, American Anthropologist104/3, 2002. Accessed from: http://webbox.lafayette.edu/~alexya/courses/readings/Abu-Lughod_Do%20Muslim%20Women.pdf; see also, Val Moghadam, ‘Islamic Feminism and its Discontents’, Steal This Hijab, 8 June, 2011. Accessed from: http://stealthishijab.com/2011/06/08/islamic-feminism-and-its-discontents/
  9. Historian and Subaltern Studies scholar Partha Chatterjee has explored this in his essay, ‘The Nationalist Resolution of the Women’s Question’. Chatterjee argues that in the 19th century Bengali bourgeois nationalism, nurtured the idea of the bhadramahila—that is, the ideal Bengali woman, who is formally educated, but also well-versed in the traditional etiquettes of the household. The distinction Chatterjee traces between the home and the outside, ghar and bahir. See, Partha Chatterjee, Empire & Nation: Essential Writings 1985-2005, pp. 116-135, New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2010.
  10. ‘Notes on the Patriarchal Moral-political Economy: Hindutva, Fascism, and the masculine politics of domination’, Accessed from: http://thepositivecynicinc.blogspot.in/2013/11/notes-on-patriarchal-moral-political_2.html
  11. ‘Nun was gang raped and priest brutally assaulted in Kandhamal’, The Hindu, 30 September, 2008. Accessed from: http://www.hindu.com/2008/09/30/stories/2008093058040100.htm
  12. ‘Rapes happen in India, not Bharat, says RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat’, CNN-IBN, 4 January, 2013. Accessed from: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/rapes-happen-in-india-not-bharat-says-rss-chief-mohan-bhagwat/313784-37-64.html
  13. ‘Narendra Modi invokes ‘Nirbhaya’, asks Delhi to vote for women’s security’, Zee News India, 1 December, 2013. Accessed from: http://zeenews.india.com/assembly-elections-2013/delhi-polls/narendra-modi-evokes-nirbhaya-asks-delhi-to-vote-for-women-s-security_893635.html
  14. ‘Sri Ram Sene founder Pramod Muthalik joins BJP ‘to ensure Modi becomes PM’, Indian Express, 23 March 2014. Accessed from: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/sri-ram-sene-founder-pramod-muthalik-joins-bjp-aims-to-ensure-modi-becomes-pm/
  15. Accessed from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi_E2YNWuMg
  16. Pahuja made this point in an interview. See, ‘It’s the brainwashing in the VHP’s Durga Vahini camp that shocked me’, FirstPost:, 22 August, 2013. Accessed from: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/its-the-brainwashing-in-vhps-durga-vahini-camp-that-shocked-me-1052559.html
  17. See, Kamala Vishwesaran, Un/Common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference, New Delhi: Navyana, 2011.
  18. See Endnote 8.
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This post was written by:

- who has written 3 posts on Nirmukta.

Proshant is an independent researcher based in Mumbai, with research interests in culture and identity, gender studies, and AIDS healthcare.

12 Comments

  • The idea that some words are not flattering to women and therefore must not be used seems to imply that women must only be flattered. This is worrying on several levels. I imagine patriarchal men might have an issue with such a sexist protection of women. On the other hand, “feminist” men may actually agree with it and end up patronizing women as requiring special treatment and unable to cope with the world in its natural state – misogynist as it is.

    And men are not specially crude around women, in my observation men tend to use crude language far more often than women. So do women who are not forced to watch what they say. “Chutiya” for example is a term that is usually addressed to a man, but does not demean a woman (unlike the mother/sister variants) – even if the word for “cunt” is used. The metaphor describes a man who loses all sense if he sees a woman who could be pursued sexually. Basically means that the man in question has his brains in his balls and so on and is a fairly powerful insult that uses the male propensity to sexualize women as an insult to the male. The point being that it is a lot of how the male mind works – think fart jokes. To moderate this is to elevate the level of thinking of the population at large – and it isn’t about words used, but prejudice – which is not something I see playing out in this article. There is nothing sexist about criticizing women for their actions described. There are plenty of such articles about men. Try googling Rahul Gandhi stereotypes – or Modi – both based around the testesterone symptoms or lack of them carefully wrapped in politically correct words.

    So when we start drawing lines about what can be said to/about women, essentially we end up saying that women cannot cope with men in their normal state and men must change to be worthy of respect as compatible with women.

    This creates a perception on receptive minds that women need to be patronizingly sanitized. Which in itself is a segregation that society is one thing normally, and another with a woman around or spoken about (lower class/caste women are exempt in practice). It plays right into the hands of patriarchy by turning women into cottonwool wrapped creatures and sets the stage for the next time someone tells you not to go somewhere because those people don’t know how to behave around women.

    High time feminism got out of the lazy brain syndrome and started looking at real issues underlying the conclusions they promote.

    • Parikshit Samant

      You have said it so well Vidyut. Couldn’t agree with you more. I’m personally not a sucker for political correctness. My idea of feminism or rqualosm is rather immature. I have a lot to learn. For the time being I try to abide by ‘do unto a woman as you would do unto a man’. And what you have said above resonates so very well with my idea.

      So would I call a blind RSS bhakt as a self-righteous cock? I probably will. Would I call Madhu kishwar a hate-hag? I think probably yes.

      Where I find it a little difficult to put up with the Outlook piece is that it has been published in a nationally circulated magazine. And any kind of personal abuse whether against men or women should be avoided in public I think.

      But yes I do fully endorse your view that political correctness in criticism of women has an underlying assumption that women can’t cope with a lack of such correctness.

      • Parikshit,

        As for the rule you abide by, is it based on the assumption that men and women are placed on an equal playing field (or even for that matter, men and men)?

        Do you think calling an RSS-bhakt a “self-righteous cock” and calling a liberal, or whatever, a “homo”, or “faggot” or “pussy”, or “cunt”, is on the same plane?

        Do you really think words are neutral, and can be used objectively and without prejudice, or without political consequences?

        The term “gay”, for instance, is widely used as a derision. But using it so underlines a very strong political connotation – one which you may not be aware of. In using that term as an insult, are several assumptions you make about someone who identifies him, or herself, as ‘gay’. As is the same in using insults that emanate from homophobia.

        Words do have a surplus of meanings; but they also have chains of signifiers.

        And that’s precisely the case with “hate hags” (e.g., “shaming them”).

        So, would I call an RSS-bhakt a “self-righteous cock”, and someone like Kishwar a “hate hag”. No. Would I rather criticize the bullshit they’re spewing. But it’s more likely that I will ignore them altogether.

        Cheers.

        • Parikshit Samant

          OK. First a confession. I Dont think I read vidyut’s comment fully before commenting. I blew off the handle. And my apologies for that. I have some reservations about your post but I will refrain from commenting right now. Some other time some other place. Appreciate your taking time to respond. Cheers!

          • No need to apologise, Parikshit. :) Will be looking forward to your comments when you do. Cheers!

    • Thank you, Vidyut, for your comment.

      First of all, we’re not exactly speaking of “flattery” here; we’re speaking of using a term that is aimed to demean/insult/point out (take your pick) a woman based on her political ideology. I wonder if you find that worrying. So, I really don’t see how an analogy with flattery comes into the question.

      And nowhere am I suggesting that women “women cannot cope with men in their normal state”. What is “normal” here? Is there a woman that conforms to any idea of “normal”? In fact, if you notice, I attempt to point out precisely the problems of framing women as “normal/other”. Indeed, it is patriarchal discourse that produces such (hetero)normativity by assigning values on the bodies of women, and men.

      Secondly, I also wrote about how the so-called Western liberal discourse creates that exact category – the woman “in need of protection”. If my arguments were misconstrued as urging the “need to protect” women like Kishwar and Singh, then that interpretation is far off; in fact, I am questioning the basis of targeting these specific women.

      Third, since you highlighted the semiotic properties of certain insults, like “chutiya”, let me use that line of thought. The word “shaming”, for instance, whether it emanates from patriarchal chauvinists, or the ones who use the term ‘hate hag’, functions by assigning worth on a ‘marker’ the woman in question carries. In the case of, say, a Khap Panchayat, it is the “honour” in question; in the case of the right-wing woman, it’s her ideology (and her sexism, castesim etc.). It is, to put it simply, a justification for misogyny.

      Fourth, I am confused as to how you draw the conclusion that this post “creates the perceptions…that women need to be patronizingly sanitized”. In fact, I have devoted a substantial segment countering exactly that perception. I would also add how many women sardonically wore the term “hate hag” to describe themselves (see footnote 5). This, for me, is a politics of resistance – as are other popular movements, like Slut Walk (the merits/demerits notwithstanding). At the same time, calling out such politics is far from patronizing – should you aim towards that conclusion.

      Fifth, I never said that we must draw the line between what can be said to women, and what cannot; I think women are more than capable of deciding that for themselves. I think it’s a different matter to critique a term, or a politics, for its misogynistic and sexist nature. I cannot understand how you construe the critique of patriarchy as one which infantilizes or patronises women. There can be critiques of patriarchy without referring to women, per se, instead focusing on the constructions of masculinity, manhood, and so on. And these, then, can be extrapolated to underscore other questions about gender and sexuality. Queer theory/movement is a case in point.

      Sixth, referring to the Orwellian woman, what I said was, some women, who are constructed as the “other” to the normative, are exempt from criticisms because they are “more equal than the other” (and thus, attacks on the other are legitimated). If you took this to mean that the “normal” woman is “turned into cottonwool-wrapped creatures”, then I am afraid you missed the point. If you notice, in the segment where I talk about the Western liberal human rights regime – or the question about Islam and feminism – I argue a similar point: women’s oppression cannot be reduced to a “cultural” explanation, without looking at historical events, or systemic issues. This is another form of reductionism (in the same way that women’s emancipation cannot be reduced to “greater participation in labour force”).

      To distort (with due respect) Partha Chatterjee’s “nationalist resolution”, the “Orwellian resolution”, too, sustains patriarchal morality; it is double-bind, in that it creates a Janus-faced system of discipline/punishment – the “good woman” is the disciplined body; the “bad woman” (in this case, the “hate hag”) is the one deserving our contempt. It is double-bind precisely because it reduces women’s worth to the crucible of the ‘markers’. Understandably, in the present discussion, the “normative” woman is not defined very well. But perhaps, that is because there really is no “normal/normative” woman, since that category exists solely as a patriarchal construct, and ‘women’ (or even genders and sexualities) are ambiguous, fissured categories.

      What this post does, is it attempts to show how the usage of misogynistic and sexist terms is rampant across the political and institutional spectrum (which is also the larger point I am making about the patriarchal moral-political economy).

      And, your accusation of feminism suffering from “the lazy brain syndrome” is most amusing. Real issues? You’re saying issues of representation aren’t real issues? You’re saying the empirical examples cited aren’t real issues? The usage of a moniker that is, etymologically and discursively, inherently sexist isn’t a real issue?

      While I concede that I am in no position to speak for feminists, I think they’re doing quite fine, your diagnosis of a “lazy brain syndrome” notwithstanding.

      Cheers.

    • Finally, I missed this one out, sorry:

      “There is nothing sexist about criticizing women for their actions described.”

      No, there isn’t. Women can be misogynistic, sexist, bigoted, casteist, racist, homophobic, classisist, or whatever. But does that justify them being called a “hate hag” – a term which itself is sexist and misogynistic? No. That’s the point I made.

  • If / Then

    Long before our Computer Programmers started using the logic of ,
    > If ” this ” > Then ” that ” ,

    our politicians have been using it , for a long time

    Quite harmless logic , which cannot be faulted !

    For example :

    Recently , Beni Prasad Verma – Union Minister for Steel , said :

    ” If > Rahul Gandhi becomes Prime Minister ,

    Then > he will send Narendra Modi to jail for his role in 2002 Gujarat riots”

    Now every programmer – and his non-programmer cousin – knows that ,

    > what is theoretically ” Possible ”

    but ,

    > practically highly ” Improbable ” ,

    can pose no threat to NaMo !

    Another example :

    For the Lok Sabha elections starting today , every political party worth its salt , has published its Poll Manifesto

    These Manifestos read ,

    > If ” We are voted to power at the Centre ,

    > Then ” We promise to give each voter , a 3 bedroom flat , a government
    job , a Maruti car , free healthcare , and admission to school / college of
    your choice , for all your children ”

    Now , does that pose any threat to these political parties ?

    Absolutely none !

    They know they are NOT going to be voted to power !

    So , why be ” economical ” in promises ?

    Promise anything to anyone !

    When voters don’t even bother to ask the party that does assume power ,

    ” What is your Score Card ? How far have you fulfilled your promises ? ”

    Earlier , in Dec 2012 ( before Assembly elections in Gujarat ) , BJP manifesto said ,

    ” If voted to power , we will build in Gujarat , 50 Lakh houses ( of course , for the poor ) in next 5 years ”

    That is 2,739 houses per day

    Or 12,79,113 new houses in the last 467 days ,since BJP came to power !”

    Cannot find these ?

    Go away ! Don’t ask such embarrassing questions !

    We did not expect to get voted to power !

    * hemen parekh ( 07 April 2014 / Mumbai )

  • well written, though i do side with what you wrote at the end “like most things on Twitter, this will probably blow over (if it hasn’t already).” hence reading it to the end was painful, since i don’t really take to twitter kinda exchange (it’s surprisingly like (jnu and general) elections, where you try to capture people’s imagination in highly ambiguous, two line rhetoric), nor make much of it.. i don’t expect it to keep to reasonable standards at all.. in fact, it’s only puritanical high nosed hypocrisy that you don’t see worse on social media.. i read the word hag for teh first time in crime and punishment.. while i agree its a sexist remark, there’s something more about it that catches my attention (perhaps it’s subjective).. it aws used against the money-lender/pawn-broker woman that raskolnikoff later goes on to murder (i sometimes think nothing would be wrong in eliminating kishwar from this world).. unfortunately for the lady, her material prosperity cannot save her from the male privilegfe of the protagonist, but then raskolnikoff gets stuck for the rest of the novel (and his life) in the guilt of having killed, even if a hag, the hag.. and now that i think of it, our popular imagination is filled with hags, whetherit’s dickens or tim burton or mahasweta devi or arabian nights.. once we have etched character type which is inherently based on sexism (but then, is it only in the service of the pmpe?), how does calling it one thing or another make any difference?

    on the question of women as presented by the sangh, i think it’s a highly inconsistent kind of cultural relativism that, at least in theory, claims to give the woman her due if she sticks to her role as exists in ‘our culture’.. therefore, i’m not willing to concede give up a thoroughly libertarian feminist position..

  • It is amazing to see how men react to angry women. If only they were calm about these rapes. “Methinks thou dost protest too much.” Guilty feeling seem to run much deeper in manhood than I would have thought.

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