Part of the oxygen that sustains misogyny in high political ranks is that the criticism of it is highly polarized. Even woman politicians tend to speak up only when the ‘guilty party’ is from an opposing party, and choose to stay quiet when one of their own misspeaks or worse. In this context erstwhile Congress president Rahul Gandhi has done the uncommon and the right thing, by saying that he doesn’t like the language leader of opposition in the Madhya Pradesh assembly Kamal Nath used at an election meeting, against a BJP woman candidate. Rahul went further, making the connection between heinous crimes against women like the Hathras murder with everyday casual misogyny. Sexist language perpetuates a sexist mindset which in turn contributes to material discriminations and assaults.
Nath referred to the BJP woman candidate for the Dabra (SC) constituency as “ye kya item hai” to the accompaniment of laughter, enjoying a nudge, nudge, wink, wink moment with his audience. The role of such participative laughter in perpetuating prejudices is not insignificant. In an overlapping context, consider how the Democrat VP candidate Kamala Harris’s name was bandied into “Kah-MAH-lah or KAH-mah-lah or Kamamboamamla” on a Republican election stage recently, building upon and feeding into anti-immigrant and sexist thinking. On the other hand, BJP leaders demanding that Congress strip Nath of his party posts is a bit rich, given the propensity to defend and shelter similar speech acts in their own ranks. A better marker of redress may be, only do unto others as you would have them do unto you.