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As we march into the twenty-first century riding on the wave of feminism, it is worth examining some of the threads on Quora dabbling in sexist comments on female politicians.
The novelist Rebecca West wrote this nearly 100 years ago, “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” Her statement rings equally true today.
For many people, it seems that the very idea of women in politics is like gulping down a heady mix of cocktails. A woman marching down the corridors of power trying to effect a policy change and working for the betterment of society is a surreal entity to these folks. At least, that’s the impression I got from following some ahem…interesting threads on Quora about female politicians.
I came across this user on Quora who wanted to find out the most beautiful female politicians in India and the answers to this query look like a page straight out of Kingfisher’s calendars. It seems that a very prurient part of men’s curiosity is satisfied by asking this question, but they need to grow up. Women in politics are there because of their interest, their passion to bring a change, their ability to lead and their acumen. They are not in politics to be objectified for their glamorous figures.
A resounding no to this question but a few responses go on to justify this also. Women are less visible in our armed forces or in leadership positions or even voicing their opinions on political issues. Some feel this may be a sign of their not being patriotic enough for the country.
To all those who think that visibility is a criterion for patriotism, let them remember that countless women have sacrificed their lives for this great nation. It is the patriarchal structure of our society which is keeping women in the shadows. It is the enduring love and patriotism for this country which encourages women to send their sons and daughters to the borders to fight for their nation. They do not need to thump their chest and shout a war cry to prove that they are patriotic.
This query and its responses are about female politicians in general and not specific to any country but If you read it right, you will be as shocked as I was. The reasons given for this phenomenon are equally weird. Female politicians are fewer in number and usually, hold less prominent positions than men, so fewer incidences of adultery among women get reported. Biologically they are the ones who will have to face the problems associated with unwanted pregnancies, so they tend to be more careful.
Women face harsher consequences for sexual misdemeanors than men so that also acts as a deterrent. It is almost as if everything that a man does, adulterous behavior included, somehow gets more glorified than when a woman does it. As a woman, I would never aspire to be at par with men in this aspect but the general perception of society towards both men and women for the same mistakes are widely divergent and frankly, quite disturbing.
There are a few genuine concerns also raised by users regarding women’s involvement in politics. But I feel there is a general undertone of sexism that runs though many of the responses to these too. People are concerned about why women’s involvement in politics is low or what are the qualities that make them more suitable than men in politics. However, they are looking at these issues through very sexist lenses and so the rationale given for these sound biased and just reinforce the existing patriarchal norms.
As there is no or little change in the mindsets of people, there is little change happening in terms of actions taken to encourage women. All these further impede women’s progress in the political sphere. Below is a list of few such queries:
“Why is women’s active participation in Indian politics less than that of men? What measures can be taken to increase the number of women in Indian politics?”
Women’s low participation in politics is primarily because of gender bias and not because they do not have an aptitude for politics. The stereotype however is that women are emotional and irrational creatures, and so not considered fit for politics. In reality, as in other fields, most women have a heavy workload with housework and family duties, so there is no time for politics. Money and muscle power carry a lot of weight in the political theatre today and women have less of both.
Because of the patriarchal nature of our society, there is a general lack of belief in the validity of opinions shared by women. With nobody listening to them, it becomes difficult for them to influence others. Educating the masses, especially men, and making women financially strong is important to remove the bias against women and increase their involvement in politics.
What are the qualities in women that make them more suitable than men in Indian politics?
To the above query raised by a user, the popular opinion is that women taking part in politics is more the outcome of feminism than the result of any real qualities shown by the female contestants. Some feel that it is like a game, whoever plays it the best gets the role. Whatever the reason may be, the outcome is that today more women are participating in politics and that is good for our society as it makes more women involved in the decision-making process.
Although women today are holding important offices across different arms of the government, yet women’s overall representation in politics remains low. The situation is getting better with time though. In the last ten years, India has got a female President, Defence Minister and Foreign Minister, all great accomplishments for a strongly patriarchal society like ours. But a lot still needs to be done to bring about a change in people’s perception towards female politicians so that multiple issues of women empowerment can be addressed properly.
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I have worked in the financial sector as a banking executive and in the field
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