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From ‘hormonal outbursts’ to admiring utensils, women in the eyes of the Gandhis

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-03-2017 Rajyasree Sen

If you went by what various members of the Gandhi family seem to think about women and girls, you’d really feel sorry for our lot in life. Between those damned “hormonal outbursts” which we need to be saved from and our affinity for spending time only cooking and washing utensils and admiring the said utensils—it’s quite the sad existence.

Rahul Gandhi, while addressing a rally in Jaunpur, said “Jab Obama ji ki patni America mein apni rasoi mein kuch pakaye, patilon ko dekh kar kahein sundar patila hai, aur patile pe likha ho ‘Made in Jaunpur’.” (When Obama’s wife is cooking food in the kitchen, she will admire the utensils and say what beautiful utensils. And then she will see that the utensils are engraved with the words: ‘Made in Jaunpur’.) What an image of domesticity.

In the evening, his aunt from across the political divide, Maneka Gandhi, minister of women and child development, chose to air her views on curfews at hostels in an interview to NDTV: “As a parent who’s sending a daughter to a college—or a son—I would expect her and him to be protected. And perhaps one of the protections is against themselves. When you are 16 or 17 you are also hormonally very challenged. So to protect you from your own hormonal outbursts, perhaps a lakshman rekha is drawn. It really is for your own safety.”

To show that she’s not just regressive about gender but also community, when asked if this same safety can be achieved by tightening security at women’s colleges, she said, “No, not by two Bihari gentlemen at the gate with dandas (sticks). It has to be solved literally by giving time limits for everything.... Give them (boys) two nights to go to the library and two nights for girls—if you want to go to library, that is.”

Now I get what Gandhi Jr. was trying to do at his rally. He referenced a famous international leader who the locals may know and painted a picture he thinks they can identify with. Maybe in his world, he does indeed believe that wives of political leaders spend time cooking and washing utensils. There’s nothing wrong with that. His own mother, who is now Congress party president, has said in interviews that she used to handle the kitchen for the entire family while Indira Gandhi was alive. But still, one would hope that in 2017 a man whose grandmother and mother have shown that they are as able politicians as anyone else, will not give examples such as these even while playing to the crowds. He’s been campaigning with the Samajwadi Party’s Dimple Yadav, whose stump speeches would be the envy of most seasoned politicians.

Rahul Gandhi during a rally ahead of phase 7 of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in Jaunpur on Sunday. Photo: PTI

However much leeway we may want to give him, this is the classic example of a man thinking a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Even if she happens to be the wife of the former president of the US. Rahul Gandhi’s views do impact the people who attend his rallies. It’s a subtle way of reinforcing a stereotype. And is it too much to hope that our educated politicians refrain from doing so?

But as Congress veteran Sheila Dixit told us, “please remember Rahul is still not mature, his age does not allow him to be mature”. The same sadly cannot be said about his aunt, Maneka Gandhi.

Who knew young women had to be protected from themselves and those damned “hormonal outbursts”? That all we want to do is jump on the first boy or man we see and therefore must be locked up for our own good.

Really, Ms Gandhi? Why not just say that women should be made to wear chastity belts, which will be unlocked by wardens when we turn 21 years of age—and that too under government and parental supervision. After all, how else can we control those damned urges which are always being triggered off by our hormones and chow mien intake and affinity for jeans?

This is a female politician. A single mother. She comes across as a progressive person. But it seems that all our politicians are cut from the same cloth. They all spout the same regressive misogynistic tripe at some point or the other, irrespective of their gender.

There’s no point hoping that our politicians will evolve. All one can hope for is that Rahul Gandhi gets a dressing down from his mother and sister when he reaches home. And that Maneka Gandhi gets to work on those Made In India chastity belts for the lust-ridden young women of India. These are our elected representatives. Since this is our lot in life, all we can hope for is that the chastity belts are comfortable and the kitchen is ventilated.

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