From Smriti Irani to Kanimozhi: Sharad Yadav's 'compliments' are as sexist as his jibes

Sharad Yadav, the veteran politician has been a misogynist's gift that keeps on giving. His latest comments about the complexion of women are hardly that astonishing.

Sandip Roy March 17, 2015 18:27:37 IST
From Smriti Irani to Kanimozhi: Sharad Yadav's 'compliments' are as sexist as his jibes

Sharad Yadav, the veteran politician has been a misogynist's gift that keeps on giving. His latest comments about the complexion of women are hardly that astonishing. Nor is it surprising that he doubled down on his offensive 'compliments' of South Indian women despite coming under fire. And when challenged by HRD minister Smriti Irani -- who said in Parliament, "I appeal to the gentleman (Yadav) not to make comments on colour of skin of women in this manner. Very wrong message is going." -- immediately and offensively retorted,"I know what you are."

This is, after all, the man who famously launched an attack on stalking in Parliament by invoking time honoured traditions of Bollywood romance.

From Smriti Irani to Kanimozhi Sharad Yadavs compliments are as sexist as his jibes

HRD minister Smriti Irani and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav.

"Who amongst us has not followed girls?" asked Yadav, rhetorically no doubt, during discussions on harsher penalties for rape in the aftermath of the Delhi bus gang rape. That Yadav, a politician of long standing, could not distinguish between "following" and stalking was itself noteworthy. But then his equally venerable compatriot launched the "boys will be boys" defence of rapists while arguing against the death penalty.

And a while before that he had lashed out against the bob-cut women when he wanted to argue against the women's quota bill.

In that light, the Janata Dal (United) leader's staunch defence of his dusky comments is hardly suprising. "Why is there a song ‘mera gora lele, shyam rang dede’? What did I say that is wrong?" wondered Yadav. Especially because Yadav probably thought that he was paying them a compliment when he said, "The women of south are dark, beautiful, their bodies...their skin ...They aren't made like this here. They know dance.."

The point is that he stands in Parliament and is happy to discuss women as if their main purpose in life is to be Bollywood bimbos – good for dance, a little romantic stalking, eye candy for men. Objectification, in short.

In a land of fairness creams galore, his comments are hardly egregious because they are about complexion. He has millions of Indians for company who care deeply about the complexion of women and plenty of film stars who happily endorse fairness creams and earn enormous amounts of money for doing so.

The point is that even after a woman Prime Minister, a woman President and countless women MPs, Yadav’s remarks (and his doubling down defence indicate) that women are just not taken seriously. Politicians like Yadav think of Parliament as a men’s space and look at the likes of Smriti Irani and Kanimozhi at best with paternalistic dismissal.

Yadav was actually speaking about the government’s proposal to hike FDI in the insurance sector when he wandered into topics of a different hue. When Kanimozhi protested that this was irrelevant to the topic at hand, she was told, "He was only paying you a compliment."

Even if that is true, it was a completely needless gratuitous compliment. And Yadav is hardly the only politician who does not realize his misogyny can come in the candy coating of a compliment. The roads in Bihar we were told by Lalu Prasad Yadav would be as smooth as Hema Malini's cheeks. Chhattisgarh PWD minister Brijmohan Agarwal followed suit and compared his state’s roads to the Dream Girl in an ad. MP Congress leader Kantilal Bhurya rued that the state’s roads had potholes and bumps like octogenarian BJP leader Babulal Gaur’s cheeks instead of being smooth like -- yes you guessed it -- Hema Malini’s cheeks.

Bhurya thought he was being witty but hardly realized the actress-turned-MP would hardly appreciate being reduced to a cheek model by her political peers. And all of us remember the Abhijit Mukherjee’s sneering remarks about dented and painted women.

But this is almost worse than downright no-bones khap panchayat style misogyny that demands that women stay at home in the kitchen or not be allowed cell phones. This misogyny is harder to root out because it comes disguised as a compliment. That is why Yadav is doubling down and that is why he learned no lessons from the brouhaha over his stalking remarks. And that’s why other than Derek O’Brien signaling him to stop talking and Kanimozhi protesting he didn’t face an uproar while making the remarks.

At a time when we are up in arms about a BBC documentary on India’s Daughter, it’s sobering to spend a little more time thinking about India’s clueless sons instead. And Yadav’s defence actually invoked Mahatma Gandhi when he said, "There was also a dark man — Mahatma Gandhi who drove the whites (goras) out of the country."

It’s dark times indeed and perhaps given how his name is taken in vain by the likes of Yadav, Gandhi would not be that displeased with his birthday being dropped from the official roster of holidays like the controversy in Goa right now.

Yadav said not all Parliamentary discussions have to be "serious". That’s true and his track record suggests Parliament should stop taking Yadav seriously.

That would only be fair for man who is completely in the dark anyway.

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