The BJP’s attack on Somnath Bharti’s misogyny reveals its own sexism
Protesting against the sexism of the AAP’s Somnath Bharti, revealed during his impromptu raid on the home of two Ugandan women in Khirki Extension last month, BJP MLA R.P. Singh thought it fit to offer him bangles and lipstick. The fracas took place in the Delhi assembly on Thursday. Bharti, of course, has much to account for. But the BJP’s protest reveals its own patented brand of misogyny. The bangles are meant to convey a putdown, implying that a person not cut out for a particular job should just stay home, do the “woman’s work”. This is a crude and regressive stereotype. Yet the BJP saw nothing amiss, with the leader of opposition in the Delhi assembly, Harsh Vardhan, insisting the allusion was “not meant to be derogatory”.
The BJP’s tone deafness should not come as a surprise. After all, this is the party that unabashedly promotes and trades on an image of chest-thumping masculinity of its prime ministerial candidate. Narendra Modi is the “vikas purush” with the “chhappan inch ki chhaati”. Women, in his speeches, are found shopping or raising the malnourishment rates by going on diets. He promises to improve their lot, one cooking-gas pipeline at a time. A similar machismo feeds into the BJP’s support for Section 377, which outlaws and criminalises sexual orientations that lie outside the pale of the traditional heterosexual relationship.
The BJP is the leading party of the opposition, one that is positioning itself as the main contender for power at the Centre. It should know that in a country where women’s issues are slowly but surely acquiring a new public visibility and salience, this unreformed sexism will not serve it well. It sorely needs a more evolved gender politics.