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A recent case of trolling of the Mizoram chief minister’s wife sitting in a ‘meeting’ reflects a chronic patriarchic mindset of the society at large and the men in specific.
Women in general face everyday sexism and misogyny, be it in private or public space. But what about the women who are the wives of politicians, wives of those holding important positions in administrations or governance, and wives of ministers and heads of state?
These women are at the same time in the public and private space, and are at the receiving end of sexism and misogynistic abuse in various forms and at different levels. They often become soft targets for those against the politicians – the husband – by rivals, cynics or critics – bearing the burden of being “the wife”.
A glaring case of sexism and misogynist happened when last month the wife of the Mizoram CM was trolled for sitting next to her husband (at their residence) while he was in a meeting with some important officials, who were visiting guests – US officials on a two-day visit to the state for strengthening cooperation in tourism, education and health care.
Media reports mentions that the US officials visited the CM at his residence. The picture of the said meeting at the CM residence where the ‘wife’ was seen sitting next to the CM – was mischievously posted on social media with a note questioning whether it is ‘appropriate’ for the wife of the state chief minister to be present during discussions when officials visits the chief minister.
The social media post questions – “If the US Ambassador to India and the US Consul General are on an official visit discussing official matters, is it appropriate for the wife of the Chief Minister to take part in the discussions?” It also stated that this has been happening for years with the former CM as well and that it was ‘not appropriate’ for the wife to be present in official meetings/ discussion.”
Obviously, the social media post generated a lot of interest- by 2 days of the post there were more than 100 reactions and comments.
Most reactions and comments are ridiculing and abusing ‘the wife’, with insensitive sexist remarks. I happened to be one of the commenters, saying the post and the picture is misogynist.
And the immediate reaction and response to my comment goes – “what a lunatic comment” … “ She the is craziest person here”. Some tried to explain that this (the Facebook post) was not misogynist and it is a misunderstanding on my part.
Most opinions were that ‘the wife’ of a state CM should not be part of any ‘official’ meetings and discussion regarding the state of Mizoram. Or for that matter ‘wives’ of any officials or high ranking public figures should not be hanging around their ‘husbands’ during office hours or official matters most importantly ‘official meetings’ – the reason being that wives are ‘not official’ – a non-entity in public affairs.
The rightful and ‘appropriate’ place of/ for women in the society – the north-east Indian tribal society in specific – is considered ‘behind her man’ – the father and brothers before marriage and the husband after marriage. “Man is the head of the family” is the ultimate law is not supposed to be questioned. That women are supporters – the backbone not the head. Women are not supposed to ‘peep’ and ‘interferes’ in the matters concerning a ‘man’s affairs’- office work, socio-political matters.
As for ‘the wives’ of politicians, ministers, head of states, or high ranking officials- it is even more important that ‘the wives’ must keep away from ‘public affairs’ – official matters- for they are not ‘official’.
Thus, in the above case of the Mizoram chief minister, his wife’s presence in meetings – high profile meeting-important discussion is considered inappropriate.
What is appropriate and what is not appropriate is being discussed and decided by – obviously the men-led patriarchal society. That the accepted norm is that a woman – including wives of high ranking officials or head of states- must confine themselves to the role and responsibility of playing second fiddle to their man – the husband. That they must merely play the role of ‘arm candy’ and show up only where it is culturally and socially appropriate. That a woman’s place in the private and public – is to support the husband – not come in front but stay behind.
Chief Minister ’s Wife – what’s her name?
The social media post did not even consider it important to mention her name. Media reports too did not find it worth a mention that the visiting US officials held a meeting with the state CM at his residence where the ‘wife’ is also present.
Her identity is ‘chief minister’s wife’ – not more than that. And that her role should be restricted and limited to being ‘the wife’- stay behind the curtain and not show your face in official meetings, not even in your own official residence where you should be the hostess. That a woman even if she be a politician’s and chief minister’s wife – is not supposed to or is expected to be interested in ‘political affairs’.
The Mizoram News Facebook page post reflects the fact that the men of the community are extremely uncomfortable with the presence of a woman in the high profile meeting. The picture – mischievously capturing the ‘wife’ looking at her mobile phone, saying that the woman in the picture is neither interested in, nor would have anything to contribute to the discussion. This also reflects the prejudiced mindset that a woman is not considered ‘intelligent’ enough to take part in the affairs of the state and official discussions!
Clearly, it’s a long way to women’s empowerment and women in decision making.
Image source: YouTube
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Independent journalist writing on/ of north-east India and engaging with women groups in the
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