Misogyny Of The ‘Liberals’

by Shefali Vaidya - Apr 29, 2017 08:28 AM +05:30 IST
Misogyny Of The ‘Liberals’Misogyny of the Liberal 
  • On Friday, 28 April, Livemint carried a piece by author and journalist, Manu Joseph on ‘women in the right wing’. Here, Shefali Vaidya responds and explains why Joseph’s piece was just misogyny by another name.

‘No one is more arrogant towards women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility’, said feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir about men who objectify women. She might have been talking about Manu Joseph, the self-professed ‘liberal’ writer who has written a piece about ‘Women in the ‘right wing’’ in Livemint.

Livemint is an Indian daily business newspaper published by HT media Ltd, a Delhi-based media group which also publishes Hindustan Times. It is interesting to see that Manu Joseph chose to peddle his utterly regressive, misogynist bilge at the same time Hindustan Times is running a much publicised campaign, #LetsTalkAboutTrolls. The campaign is supposed to talk about how independent women with political opinions are abused and objectified for daring to express themselves fearlessly.

Hindustan Times need not have looked far to find trolls. They have a perfect specimen of a troll on their payrolls in Manu Joseph.

I was shocked to read the utterly sexist and misogynist column written by Manu Joseph about ‘Right Wing Women’. There are so many things wrong with this piece that I don’t even know where to begin.

It is an article that peddles cliche after cliche and reduces women supporters of the BJP and the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi as starry-eyed cheer leaders who are supporting Prime Minister Modi only because they have ‘a crush on Modi, and bitter personal experiences with some liberals’.

Joseph makes sweeping generalisations about all 'women in right wing’ based on his conversation with three women, two of whom he names. One is Amrita Bhinder, a Gurgaon-based advocate and the other is Shilpi Tewari, an architect and a ‘social media figure’ as Manu Joseph condescendingly refers to her.

The third woman is not named, but her description doesn't leave much for the imagination. She is described as a ‘a fiction writer and co-creator of one of the most popular Hindi films in the last five years’. Joseph then goes on to build a shallow, superficial narrative around the conversation he had with the three women. He makes them out to be some kind of adolescent fan girls of the Prime Minister than strong, articulate, adult women who can think for themselves.

He refers to Amrita Bhinder’s twitter spat with journalist Barkha Dutt briefly, when Dutt threatened to sue her for one of her tweets. Joseph mentions snidely that ‘Bhinder, of course, made the most of it. Her response to Dutt’s threat received nearly 5,000 retweets’— trying to make her out to be some opportunist who is in the game for cheap publicity. He displays even more thinly disguised contempt for the third woman, the unnamed screenwriter, as he mentions that ‘she is so awestruck by its most famous bachelor, Modi, that she does not take his name. She only refers to him as “Prime Minister”. “Say ‘Modi,” I tell her. “The Prime Minister,” she says'.

Note the sly references to ‘most famous bachelor’, like that is the only reason why any woman could admire Narendra Modi.

Every single line of the article is a textbook example of objectifying women, turning them into some kind of sex-starved amazons with glazed eyes, who look at the PM with unbridled lust in their eyes.

Joseph comes up repeatedly with gems like ‘She (Shilpi) is not among those women who would be terrified that Modi knows where she lives’. He also tries to make Bhinder appear like some kind of a crazy conspiracy-theorist when he mentions an episode of a possible hack on her phone. ‘Who is doing this?’ (I ask her) ‘She says that Pakistan’s spy force, ISI, has set up a network in India to intimidate people like her, “even though I am a nobody”.

All three women, Bhinder, Tewari and the unnamed scriptwriter are portrayed as fickle, easily-led women, who ‘“knew nothing about politics” till they had either a run-in with the PM or had a couple of altercations with ‘liberals’.

There is a deliberate negation of any nuanced views. Manu Joseph reduces all three women to crude caricatures, women with little policy understanding and independent thinking.

I personally know all the three women interviewed by Joseph and they are nothing like the shrill, easily-led, fickle women that Manu Joseph makes them out to be. All three are smart, articulate, strong women who have arrived at their ideological position after a long journey that has involved significant thought and assimilation of all that they have seen, reasoned, experienced and assimilated.

Manu Joseph makes sweeping and sexist generalisations like ‘they adore Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ without any basis to it. Much of the article is pure speculation. Apart from these three women, Joseph talks about unnamed women he has met, ‘modern and sophisticated’ as he calls them, ‘who are developing very conservative views about how young women should be, views that would bring a smile to the face of Sushma Swaraj’.

Joseph’s piece is symptomatic of the average left-liberal intellectual’s inability to understand why so many strong, independent, intelligent and articulate women are choosing to turn their back at leftist ideology and are moving towards the right.

What he doesn’t understand, Joseph mocks, trivialises and dismisses. He doesn’t understand 'right wing women', so he objectifies and infantilizes them, just like any other male chauvinist would do.

This article is proof that scratch a little below the collar, and every self-professed liberal male in India is an illiberal, insecure, sexist, misogynist at heart!

The writer is a freelance writer and newspaper columnist based in Pune.
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