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Ramesh Jarkiholi’s comments about DK Shivakumar being ‘impotent’ for not fighting with him proves why toxic masculinity still thrives!
The Karnataka Water Resource Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi recently resigned after his name surfaced in what is being called the ‘sex-for-job’ scandal. Jarkiholi allegedly coerced a young woman into a sexual relationship in exchange for a job at the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited. Various developments followed after a ‘sex’ CD featuring the minister was released.
What then surfaced was an audio clip between the victim in question and her family members. This clip features her denying the authenticity of the released CD. A Special Investigation Team was eventually involved and various video statements of the victim have been doing the rounds. Jarkiholi has denied the accusations and has resigned on ‘moral grounds.’
Since the scandal involves a minister, the opposition naturally has been playing a role. Indian National Congress politician DK Shivakumar has been pushing for an investigation against the minister.
The woman’s family accused Shivakumar of playing ‘dirty politics’ with their daughter. This issue is now essentially a nexus of politics, conflicting narratives and a loss of female agency. While the latter is a separate significant issue, the exchanges between the two politicians have also been worth scrutiny. They are representative of sexist mindsets that are dealing with such issues and others in our country.
As his response to the allegations from Shivakumar, Ramesh Jarkiholi called the INC Minister ‘impotent’ and said that he was ‘not a man.’ He stated that if Shivakumar were a man, he would ‘fight with him directly.’ There are various problematic things about these statements.
To address the first statement, the matter of impotency has always been considered to be in conflict with masculinity. Men not being able to ‘perform’ has often been connected to being less ‘manly’ or masculine.
While impotency may just be a biological issue, society has equated it to being ‘less of a man.’ Popular media representations joke about Viagra to depict that impotence as a shameful, un-manly thing.
While DK Shivakumar’s statements have nothing to do with impotence, Ramesh Jarkiholi decides to make a statement in this regard. The connection made between manhood and sexual performance is such that being impotent was thrown as an insult.
Secondly, Jarkiholi calls Shivakumar ‘not a man’ because the minister did not directly fight with him. In just the second sentence, the minister again makes a statement supporting toxic masculinity.
The notion of ‘coming out to fight’ or engaging in violence has always been labelled a sign of masculinity. Men are considered to not be manly enough if they choose to not display aggression or anger. In fact, it is the norm.
Representations in pop-culture such as Kabir Singh have labelled it normal to be unreasonably violent and aggressive. The ‘protector’ logic pushes men to believe that they need to go out to fight in order to be acceptably masculine.
Being soft-spoken, accepting or fearing retaliation are characteristics society assigns to women. This forms the basis for why Ramesh Jarkiholi decided to attack Shivkumar’s ‘manhood’ based on these claims.
Many things come to light from this small exchange. Where there are stereotypes and expectations of men, the same goes for women. Considering this, it is worrying that mindsets of these kinds are at the top of political ladders.
These sexist assumptions set precedent for not just the exchange of statements over media but also for policymaking and law and justice. Statements of politicians and the narrative of the media are all part of one big system that claims to serve justice.
Concerns only increase when issues involve women and sex scandals in a society with this extent of ingrained sexism and stereotype. Is there space for truth and justice?
Picture credits: Stills from the Twitter profiles of politicians DK Shivakumar and Ramesh Jarkiholi
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A student of International Relations at Shiv Nadar University. Enjoys old bands and acrylics.
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