Soon after Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik announced the BJD would give 33 per cent tickets to women in this Lok Sabha election, Mamata Banerjee said 41 per cent of TMC candidates in West Bengal are women, which includes popular Bengali film actors Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan.
Before one could celebrate greater political representation of women in India, the troll factory launched a malicious and sexist campaign against the two actors on social media.
The several thousand crude memes doing the rounds since their candidature was announced Tuesday have reduced the two political green horns to objects of sexual ridicule.
— Purnima Hemant Raha (@hemantraha) March 13, 2019
While some have used the actors’ old photos to ask if Bengal needs ‘saving’, some others ridiculed Mamata Banerjee for choosing the actors as Lok Sabha candidates. Some did social media digging and shared videos of the two actors dancing and pouting and captioned the post as ‘soliciting votes jointly for their constituencies’.
TMC Loksabha candidates Mimi Chakravarty & Nusrat Jahan soliciting votes jointly for both their constituencies!
Keep it up babes ! pic.twitter.com/jWgjT4ydQV
— Lali (@LaliGanguli) March 13, 2019
In a democracy as vibrant as ours, one has every right to question the eligibility of a candidate contesting an election. The scrutiny can be sharper if it’s a Lok Sabha election. But do we really need to dismiss a person’s eligibility just because she is a woman and an actor?
— Pandit Rahul Upadhyay (@panditrahul54) March 13, 2019
The misogyny becomes more pronounced when one compares the sexist troll attack on Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan with social media’s response to another popular Bengali male actor Dev’s nomination as a Lok Sabha candidate of Mamata Banerjee’s TMC in 2014. Social media did crack a few jokes about the actor, but most questions about his eligibility were brushed aside by the massive fan love.
And this is not a one-off incident. There is a sinister pattern to how woman politicians, who are also celebrities/actors, are judged for being glamorous. The fault is always in how they dress, and that becomes another reason for a patriarchal society to not take them seriously or to ridicule them.
Another TMC MP Moon Moon Sen, who won the Lok Sabha election from Bankura in 2014, has faced social media’s ire over her sleeveless blouse.
An India Today political snippet described how MPs cutting across party lines talk about her “dressing sense”, and some “wait for her” to attend Parliament “just to see what she is wearing today”.
What’s further troubling is that such sexist tweets and memes get thousand shares and likes on social media. This shows the extent to which misogyny is entrenched in our society.
And, as the Lok Sabha battle enters its last leg, these actor-contestants are likely to face more vitriolic attack on social media. But in the #MeToo era, it’s time we stop judging candidates for their profession and gender.
We must judge them for their earnestness in talking about real issues and their ability to deliver.