Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter Inc | Michael Nagle | Bloomberg
Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter Inc | Michael Nagle | Bloomberg
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Twitter’s Jack Dorsey came across as an odd mixture of Silicon Valley arrogance and American disinterest.

Frankly speaking, I was a wee bit bored meeting Jack Dorsey, the hippie-looking, languid CEO of Twitter. I was among the women invited to talk to him about our experience of abuse, violence and sexism on his platform. But he came across as an odd mixture of Silicon Valley arrogance and American disinterest. In a Black Mirror moment I spent most of the hour we spent with him tweeting on other stuff. Little did I know then that a photograph taken just as most of us were grabbing our bags to exit the room would create such a gigantic furore.

Dorsey had the air of someone whose India trip had already given him all the headlines he needed. We are a critical commercial market with an estimated 34.4 active million users every month. And Jack had met everyone who mattered – from the Prime Minister to Shah Rukh Khan. Except his PR dream soon became a PR nightmare. By the time he was done with us he had exposed just how sexist and cowardly his organisation is and how downright amateur his team’s handling was of his India trip. He also managed the impossible; he enraged both liberals and right-wing Indians.


Also read: Brahmins of Twitter are feeling like Jews under Nazi Germany, thanks to Jack Dorsey


The controversy erupted when a photograph of a few of us with Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde (Twitter’s global legal head) circulated on social media. Dorsey was holding a poster that on closer examination read: Smash Brahmanical Patriarchy. I had not even noticed the poster in Jack’s hands, either during or after the meeting. I subsequently learnt that it had been gifted to him by Sanghapali Aruna, one of the Dalit activists invited to meet him. There were several employees of Twitter, many of them female, present in the room. The picture was clicked by one of them and subsequently sent on email to us. We were cheerily informed that we were free to share it on social media. I never bothered to do so. I only noticed the poster when the photograph was out and the Right wing was having a meltdown over it.

What happened thereafter – mostly Twitter’s dangerous misrepresentation and half-truths about our meeting – made us take the unusual decision of going public, individually and collectively, with what really went down in the interaction. This is especially important since all of us in the photo have been relentlessly threatened with criminal suits, hate speech and violent threats over the last two days.

Gadde described by Fortune as one of the most powerful women on the West Coast – infuriated me with her apology to Twitter handles who were falsely accusing us of instigating hate. She was also deceitful in claiming that the photograph shared was “private”. She was clearly trying to deflect blame and responsibility on us instead of owning Twitter’s poor handling of the entire episode. And worse she did not reveal what she actually said behind closed doors.

Sanghapali pointed out that Twitter’s abuse policy did not recognise caste slurs as a basis for reporting accounts. It was underlined that Twitter would never dare to do this with Race and people of colour in America.


Also read: Jack Dorsey wants to ‘smash Brahminical patriarchy’, triggers Twitter outrage


Unexpectedly Gadde choked up, broke into tears, hastily asked for a glass of water and then apologised for what she conceded should have been obvious. This admission of being tone-deaf on India’s caste fault-lines may have been one reason that Dorsey – without anyone asking him to do so – held up the poster later. Or it could be that he simply did not understand the content of what was written – and an incompetent Twitter team had not briefed him well on the country he was trying to win over. For Gadde to gloss over this entire exchange was doublespeak. Basically she was apologising to one group in private and to another in public. In Twitter’s clumsy attempt to be all things to all people, it ended up being nothing to anyone.

Now to the phrase itself. For those of us who are women of privilege – we have all had to educate ourselves in the basic intersectionality of Feminism. Put simply all this means is that Caste and Class intersect with Gender to create multiple inequalities for groups that have been traditionally marginalised and oppressed. “Brahmanical Patriarchy”- is a well established academic term (including a seminal paper by Uma Chakravarti on it) to convey the idea of any upper caste hegemony. Whether you agree with the term or not – or find it Marxist or Colonial in semiotics – the one thing it is NOT is an attack on Brahmins. Much like the phrase White Privilege, it is a critique of hierarchy not any community or group. That said, had I noticed the poster in Jack Dorsey’s hands I would not have stood in the same photo frame. Because I see Dorsey as an outsider to India and a rather clueless person on the many complexities of my country. And I don’t think an American CEO has basis to preach. Equally, I would never tell a Dalit woman that her experience of caste hegemony is not valid. That would be patronising and insensitive.


Also read: Twitter’s apology a cop out or was CEO Jack Dorsey wrong to hold Brahmin-patriarchy poster?


Yes, from Twitter’s point of view, with its CEO visiting in an election year in a country where caste is more of a minefield than even religion, Jack Dorsey should have been better advised. But Twitter’s Snafus cannot be dumped on the women they invited – ostensibly to discuss how to make the platform more gender-friendly. Effectively Twitter’s lies have left us as women vulnerable, unsafe and open to endless court cases.

It turns out though that as strong, opinionated, independent women we do a much better job of handling trolls on Twitter than Jack Dorsey or Vijaya Gadde do. We still hold our own. So dear Jack and Vijaya: Hope you got a good – and educative – taste of your own medicine.

The author is a senior journalist and founder of Mojo.

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24 Comments Share Your Views

24 COMMENTS

  1. Photo with wrong VIP. Same journalist used to comment strongly about politicians for posing with some people charged on criminal matters. None is infallible. Lesson-to be careful in future while commenting about others too.
    Poster phrase and justification may be good for a few. But, Common readers don’t know. British used other caste related words involving untouchability. If some one uses the word now, would be behind the bars. Society should be able to get ready for the future and not invite firangees again to solve the local issues.
    Wish people use new social media modes to bless, curse and judge others without full details and momentarily.

  2. Barkha Dutt admitted that she wouldn’t have shared the platform to take a snap had she known about the slogan written on the placard. For, she didn’t like the American CEO teaching Indians through that slogan and dealing with Indian’s internal matter. That’s very nice of Barkha Dutt. But that seems to be not true of others in the pic. Moreover, in India Brahminical Patriarchy has a connotation with Brahmin Caste. Ninety nine percent Indians feel that way whatever be its denotation in academic parlance. Vijaya Gadde’s public apology may have enraged the Left but the feelings of the Right are assuaged in India for the Twitter to progress.

  3. Ms Burka Dust seems to be bitten by McCauley bug which forces her to believe anything eastern is inferior to west. Will she brave holding onto a placard denouncing Western Beliefs

  4. Barkha Dutt comes from Punjabi Warrior Brahmin Class which itself has been perpetually dislocated from it’s origins in Iran. Does she support the Brahiminical Patriarchy slur? In that case her father is to blame. Would he contest this? And strange to read an Omar Zulfiquar talk of casteism of another religion when his tribe is hopelessly split along belief and caste lines itself. Shias, Sunnis, Ahmedias, Ansars, Qureshis and what not to fight each other.

  5. Barkha’s twitter meltdown following the incident and now this piece on ThePrint shows how desperately she is trying to dissociate herself from this debacle after it became public. Unfortunately, her long history and association with similar things make it very hard to believe her words. Be it her comments on Kashmiri pandits or ‘headmaster son’, she has the tendency to shift blame and play victim after she is caught. Whoever criticizes her on twitter is branded as paid troll. But she has no trouble engaging in personal attacks on Jack (CEO) in this case. Well, it sums up the hypocrisy and fall of Barkha.

  6. Dear Barkha
    In India every day some kind of elections and festivals! This is an unauthentic argument that Twitter should have avoided in the time of elections. If we can preach America on the Trump and several issues what’s wrong if Jack holds poster which is very relevent to his nation as very large number of Indians are residing in the USA. Apart from the time, as an individual he has every right to hold the T Shirt what he wants, and he must be aware about his Twitter business. As you have every right to debate on various issues without considering time and elections.
    You article doesn’t take strong stand against caste discrimination! Seems want to take little bit both side.
    One who Consider onslef as Brhmin itself is a castist. It’s joke saying that I am Brhmin/dominant caste and I don’t believe in the caste system. Either You Can be Dominant Caste or Human being. Both at once not possible.

  7. Please boycott twitter if this is something wrong form your pov and stop playing the blame game here. There a lot of things both right and wrong usually being shared in ever tweet per every minute, mostly from inbred a d ill educated politicians in our country but nobody bats an eye about that. This is a communication free tool or i put it across as Freedom speech tool.

  8. She is the main criminal of Radiagate and pretty sure many uncovered other “gates” that she keeps committing. A loose criminal of loose values, morality and character, thy name is Barkha “Radia” Dutt.

  9. With all due respect to the opinions of those who have posted comments above, I do believe it is rather daft to deny the prevalence of Casteism, and Patriarchy in Indian society, which the phrase ‘Brahminical Patriarchy’ rather succinctly encapsulates. I realise that an instinctive reaction to such a declaration is bound to be rife with indignation, and might aggravate an already keenly felt sense of hurt, and guilt, to some extent, rightly, but largely unwarranted, cultivated in the Upper Castes. While one can understand why the downtrodden classes chafe at their privileged superiors, who occupy that stature, by dint of nothing but the accident of birth, let us spare a thought to the millions that constitute the Upper Castes, who are asked to feel ashamed for the ‘Sins of The Father’, which is, at the end of the day, a Biblical notion, and not something homebred. That is not to say, we ought to reject Biblical principles altogether. Rather, it would be prudent to contextualise them in a country that is as diverse as India. Now, to the subject at hand, let us not continue to labour under the delusion that ‘Brahminical Patriarchy’ is a hoax perpetuated by the left-leaning Intelligentsia, which for a significant part of the last seven decades, monopolised academic spaces. It is a harsh, sinister and brutal reality, which the sooner we confront, the sooner we can eradicate — and by that, I am talking about a timeline of at least five to six generations. Only a fraction of crimes against Lower Caste women make it to the front pages of newspapers, and seldom are they accorded the same level of importance on the virtual space. Before heaping abuse on Liberals, one needs to pause, take a few steps back, and dispassionately understand that certain aspects of the ancient faith of Hinduism quite simply cannot be euphemised, and needless to say, caste and gender discrimination are definitely not notions the Modern (which is not essentially Western and Rational, neither of which I am) mind can reconcile itself to. And the more we try to sugarcoat it, and dress it up as a sort of ancient day precursor of the ‘Assembly Line’, the more Hinduism exposes itself to ridicule. Regardless of caste, Women remain at the bottom of the pecking order in India. Let us acknowledge this lest Myth blind us to the many imperfections of our societal structure. And, with due respect to the author, whose courage and gumption are beyond reproach, one is often left wondering about why outrage at such iniquities is often, and one hopes it is not deliberate, woefully ‘Selective’. The muted silence on the arrest of a Kodava journalist in Karnataka on the eve of Tipu Jayanti celebrations in the National Media ill-behooves those claiming to fight for the ‘Freedom of Expression’ and speech. In my head, the bane of the Liberals in India is their two-fold obsession with cosmopolitanism and political correctness, and one might be tempted to add, their reverence for all ideas of the Occident. Liberalism needs to be redefined in the Indian context. To inure and insulate the idea from religion in a country like India is folly. Regardless of when these religions came to India, whether it is Islam, Christianity or those that were born here, such as Sikhism or Buddhism, the demotic resonance of rituals and religious activities cannot be gainsaid. One must concede that ‘Cultural Assimilation’ as a phrase has been abused to levels that it is now beginning to sound shrill. It was not assimilation that happened in India, but more an endless process of Cultural Osmosis, and appropriation, in which members of all religions were willing participants. Attempts by the present dispensation at the Centre to reclaim a Mythical Land by renaming ancient cities to their supposed original names (With all due respect, renaming Allahabad to Prayagraj is nothing short of a travesty) is an exercise in futility. Strains of all religions in this country are distinct, and this land has contributed to this uniqueness. This is a land where a member of one religion or sect can, without thinking or being aware of it, continue practices alien to his or her faith, without fear of heresy, since that notion itself is anathema to India.

  10. How conveniently you abdicate your association with the picture ? While most journalist jump to bash the Prime Minister for following someone who says something on Twitter. But the rules are total different for Barkha Dutt. I did not see the poster, but did not mind standing in same frame, and that it was sent to me but I did not bother to look at it. You have put Vijaya Gadde under the bus ironically after the discussion you had for “experience of abuse, violence and sexism”

  11. Sanghapali Aruna is correct. Twitter is insensitive to caste abuse, on Dalits and to Brahmins too. Just look up at some of the anti-brahmin stuff going on in Twitter, they woudn’t dare to do this to anyone else. The term Brahminical patriarchy is an offensive one and should never be mainstream if it ever was. Uma Chakravarthy was wrong or has been mis-understood. That said, I am not defending atrocities against dalits or anyone else, but singling out a caste is wrong. I can cite myself (and I am not professional and do not consider myself as an expert, but then who is?) many instances of other religions and castes indulging in patriarchy and atrocities to other castes. In TN arguably Brahmins are the one of the most progressive. The anti-brahminism has been going on for years because we do not retaliate (even when the sacred threads were cut and old Brahmins were physically assaulted in the recent past).

    And your classification of anyone who opposes this photo or term used as RW is objectionable. If this was islamic patriarchy and you have objected to that, would that make you a RW? No.

    Brahmins (in my personal context growing up in TN) have been subjected to much hate, verbal abuse and have been excluded by 69% reservation in almost all opportunities and taken it in stride. What else do you want us Brahmins to do?, sent to concentration camps?
    Even if you don’t consider this term as against Brahmins (wonder how you say this) , it is an easy inference. See twitter for that evidence to0.

    Please do avoid using this term, or against any caste or religion. And please do not equate this with white supremacy, and I wouldnt use that term too anyway .

    • STFU man …u calling urself a Brahmin is the worst.,..no one is talking about you…but the shit you people did to the dalits ur ancestors who harrased them..raped them , killed them…it’s like telling the today British don’t have anything to do with Indians it’s because of their ancestors…buddy u can’t tolerate a single billboard and u r shouting like a maniac…

      • How convenient to link others (in this ancestors) actions to someone else. Wonder what would your reaction be if they held a poster that says “terrorism has no religion but if it did, you know where majority of them come from”

      • Look who is talking, an islamist, the most racist ideology and only one that has countries based on the ideology. On the other hand there is no entity such as “Dalits”. It is a made up word and does not even relate with any caste. Brahmins have only contributes beneficial attributes to the society they live in, never promote their religion, never convert unlike vicious cults whos only grew thru violence and concepts of blasphemy.

      • hahaha joke of the century . look whos talking . There is not even one recorded evidence in the history some thing like Brahmins killing or raping dalits have happened but look at what is happening in islamic world even now or in Kashmir where pandits were driven out. Imagine how life would have been for hindus under Mughal rule. Ur ancestors would have been forced to shit in their pants and converted from hindu to muslim by force . Now you are a loyal slave to your arabian master

      • Do you like the term Islamic terrorism? It hurts right? The shit we did to Dalits? What shit did we do? You were a witness? India is a feudal society with an unjust social order. Picking on microscopic minority which had an early start in education and hence some visibility, and blaming that miniscule minority for all social ills, glibly repeating sanctimonious cliches like “brahminical patriarchy” without even thinking reveals the extent of brainwashing.

        Brahmins are the new Jews of this country.

      • Pot calling the kettle black? It is quite amusing to see someone from your religion calling out others for raping and killing and murdering and looting considering your ilk are experts at those activities.

      • Omar Zulfiquar, muzzies calling others of oppressing is like pot calling the kettle… You aholes wiped out entire civilizations of egypt, levant, iran, afghanistan — raped millions of women and children in the process. And I am not even talking about the genocides committed by muslims in the Indian subcontinent.

        And who decided who is brahmin and who is shudra? — For majority of the cases the britishers decided that during their 200 years of hegemony based on their own self-interests. Get educated arab-slave.

    • You claim to be from Chennai and from the Brahmin community. I am from Nellore, 4 hours from Chennai and am a Reddy. My community are Shudras in the Varna system and do not have reservations just like you do. So, in the end, we who have been at just above the bottom of the pyramid have been placed with you. Reddy community in ancient times were mostly illiterate and were either farmers or artisans or formed the cannon fodder for armies dominated by generals from the upper castes.
      Why was the Reddy community illiterate? Because the Brahmins of India deemed that they and other Shudras are not fit to study. The Brahmin community maintained a monopoly over Hindu religion and twisted around the meaning of Hindu scriptures so that the faith of the illiterate in Hindu Gods and religion can be used used against them to maintain the hegemony of upper caste.
      In the last 10 centuries, when Southern Indian Shudra castes started dominating politically and militarily, these same Brahmin castes agreed to educate them and were their ministers and used the political powers of many kings to maintain and enrich the temples which feed the Brahmins while letting the rest of the population famish.
      These same Shudra castes follow the same discrimination against other castes because they were taught and indoctrinated into the caste system. That is how, you will still find Shudra Reddy or Kamma or Lingayats or other castes behave towards other communities the same way that Brahmins, Kshatriyas or Vaishyas used to behave to these very same communities.
      The biases are very clear in every field in India. If you can’t see that and change yourselves, then what you are advocating is called “Brahminical patriarchy”. I can give several examples from TN itself. First, go out into the world and see it beyond your own caste and please realise that there are people from many other communities who have far more talents, no reservations and yet are willing to fight out in competition without crying or blaming others about.
      I have studied medicine in Manipal which is a Brahmin and Vaishya dominated area. I have been there for 13 years and have been exposed for the first time to caste there only, even though Manipal does not have a caste reservation system. Even though at medical education level which they run as a business, there is no suppression of other communities, there is a clearcut preference and leeway given to 2 categories of students. The first being NRIs because they bring in the money and the second being Brahmins and other higher Savarna castes.

  12. I don’t buy this,” did not see the poster content” bit; Your job is to observe things for crying out loud! and such an unbashedly provcative poster was missed? I don’t think so. I am neither a liberal or right-wing nutter, but I am not buying the argument in the first few paragraphs of this piece.

  13. There are a few commas missing in the first para.
    A very well written piece, with refence to the controversy & even otherwise. Well done @BDUTT.

  14. Ms Sanghapali Aruna abused her privileged position and access to deeply embarrass a visiting foreign guest. It is not Mr Jack Dorsey’s job to rid India of casteism or the United States of racism. Twitter is a useful tool, I access it to read the instant views / assessments / factual inputs of people who are well informed, knowledgeable, intellectually honest. Twitter can play a part but it is for the authorities to deal with those who misuse the platform for hate and incitement.

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