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The one thing that is clear is that these trolls think calling someone a “maid” is an insult. This shows that they consider domestic helpers - or “maids” in their words - some sort of low-life. Let’s dig into this mindset.
Recently, Bollywood actor Swara Bhasker shared a selfie in which she was wearing a sari, and a social media troll commented – “My maid looks much better than you in saree. Much graceful than you.” Showing their internalised classism and the disrespectful and creepy way with which they perceive women.
Swara Bhasker delivered a clapback to the troll on the social media platform, expressing that she hopes, “I hope you respect her labour, respect her dignity and don’t act like a creep with her.”
While Swara Bhasker might have publicly called out these regressive thoughts, trolls like this unfortunately have become commonplace.
Just two months ago, another troll on social media had commented that Bollywood actor Tillotama Shome “looked like a maid” in a bid to try and insult her, but it had backfired. Tillotama Shome hit back by talking about the dignity of labour. Her followers had supported her in calling out the troll for their obnoxious mentality. But these invisible people sitting behind their computer screens cannot take lessons and continue to harass women with their regressive ideologies that are harmful to society.
The one thing that is clear is that these trolls think calling someone a “maid” is an insult. This shows that they consider domestic helpers – or “maids” in their words – some sort of low-life. Let’s dig into this mindset.
The subjugation and exploitation of domestic help works in many layers. First is the gender issue – a patriarchal society always considers work done by women as lower than that done by men, and pays low accordingly.
According to the International Labour Organisation, of the 75.6 million domestic workers they can account for worldwide, 76.2 percent are women. In India, conservative official estimates record 4.7 million domestic workers, of which 3 million are women, but the actual figure would be exponentially larger. So, singling out of female domestic workers to ridicule and abuse is primarily a feminist issue.
Further, this is also a class and caste issue. These workers belong to the informal sector of the economy. They have no stipulated minimum wage, no working hours, no weekend or paid leaves. They are almost never sufficiently compensated for the amount of work they put in. There are no laws that have been formulated and implemented with the objective of protecting the interests of this sector of the economy.
In addition to that, a majority of the workers hail from marginalised castes, ethnicities and communities, making their oppression multi-layered. These workers find themselves living their lives in separate quarters, eating from separate utensils, occupying different spaces in the households they work for, all of which can be traced to draconian and discriminatory caste practices.
The outright absence of dignity if labour is a disconcerting reality that needs to be changed. The struggle continues against structures of gender, class, and caste hierarchies by domestic workers, and the working class at large, to gain a semblance of dignity of labour. While the constitution promises equality before law and forbids discrimination, the society at large continues to reproduce harmful, unethical and oppressive ideas.
Conversations and dialogues need to be initiated, activism needs to be intersectional, voices of marginalised communities, castes, communities and genders have to be magnified, laws need to be formulated, implemented and strengthened. Celebrities like Swara Bhaskar and Tillotama Shome have to continue to make use of their social media following to contribute to ongoing conversations.
The reason why Swara Bhasker finds herself at the wrong end of cyberbullying all too frequently is that sections of the Indian society cannot accept a strong, independent woman, airing her opinions boldly, on politics or otherwise. She consistently proves having her own mind and lives her life on her own terms and personal politics. She does not play by the rules that this patriarchal society has set for women, thereby attracting the ire of social media trolls who have nothing better to do than police women with opinions.
Swara Bhasker has had a privileged upbringing, she has a considerable clout in social media, she has appeared in numerous popular and critically acclaimed Bollywood movies, and yet the trolls have riddled Swara Bhasker’s social media profiles and leave no stone unturned to bully her. Even in her Twitter bio Bhasker mentions that she has “given employment for years to come for countless trolls and vermin ”.
This incident brought under the spotlight again how certain social evils continue to be deeply rooted in our society and attaining dignity of labour is still a far cry to the people who deserve equal treatment as equal citizens. But that should not be the case. It is our duty today for every individual to challenge the social problems at work here, and change the reality for ourselves, the women of the nation, particularly women of marginalised classes and castes.
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An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional feminist and an avid reader when she's not busy telling people about her cats. Adores walking around and exploring read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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