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What’s So Shameful About Being A Bar Dancer Anyway?

Posted: December 10, 2020

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Why is the labour of a bar dancer any different from the labour of a shopkeeper? After all, both are valid ways of earning. 

Sonia Gandhi, the incumbent President of Indian National Congress and a member of Lok Sabha, turned 74 on 9th December, 2020. She had decided not to celebrate her birthday to express solidarity with the ongoing farmers’ protests, but what happened online only exposed the misogynistic mindset of many. 

From early in the morning, a shameful hashtag #BarDancerDay started doing the rounds on Twitter, in an attempt to shame the Congress President. And why? Because she had allegedly been employed as a bar dancer in her youth. 

In the mainstream political arena, even today, women politicians or activists are meted out a deeply misogynistic treatment. Their opponents betray their ingrained patriarchal notions when instead of offering constructive criticisms to these women politicians, they resort to sexist jabs or defamation or character assassination.  

This attack intensifies for women who dare to challenge those in power. For instance, earlier this year when the pregnant student-activist Safoora Zargar was booked under the draconian UAPA, a social media campaign was launched by Hindutva right-wing elements to malign her name and question her ‘character’. 

Even the most powerful women leaders fall victim to this hateful tactic. From Mayawati to Mamata Banerjee, to AAP leader Aatishi, almost all female politicians have been subjected to incessant sexism to undermine their politics. The most concentrated of such efforts have been aimed at Sonia Gandhi.  

Why #BarDancerDay? 

In our society, there is a history of shaming women seen as public performers. In earlier times, women who were employed in acting roles were also looked down upon in this Brahminical patriarchal society. So, this attack on Sonia Gandhi stems from a mentality that restricts women from being in touch with their agency. Since independent women are invariably sexualised and objectified, the Congress President found herself the target of extremely distasteful and problematic comments and tweets.  

The question to ask is, what is wrong with being a bar dancer? In this capitalist society, every individual has to sell their labour for wage and survival. Therefore, the labour of a bar dancer is no different from the labour of, for example, a shopkeeper. Both ways of earning are completely valid. In addition, every individual has the right to choose their own profession without the fear of stigmatisation.  

However, in this deeply patriarchal society, women who are perceived to be in touch with their sexuality, instead of being appreciated for breaking shackles, are demonised. Therefore, women employed as bar dancers are shown in a negative light, but the same rules do not apply for men who frequent the bars which employ women dancers. Men shamefully ogling and objectifying the women are not seen as a problem. “Boys will be boys” is what even our lawmakers have to say.  

The derogatory hashtag betrayed another harmful stereotype that many people in India harbour – the characterisation of white women as ‘loose’ and ‘easy’. Even today, many consider that white women are easily available, disregarding their autonomy and dignity. 

Anyone who opposes Sonia Gandhi or her party has the right to constructively criticise her, and demand for her to act as a better and more effective opposition leader, without stooping to new lows and attacking her in the shameful way that they did. 

Image source: Wikipedia

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An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional

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