Published: 30th May 2019
OPINION: Why everyone trolling Bengal's fashionable young MPs Mimi and Nusrat isn't just regressive, but reeks of patriarchy
Filmstar-turned-politicians Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan were trolled incessantly after they posted their pictures in front of Parliament after being newly elected as TMC MPs
Recently since the new Lok Sabha has been elected into parliament a debate that is doing the popular rounds has come into the forefront. This debate addresses neither the larger conspiracy theory of EVM and VVPAT manipulation, the rigging or polarization of citizen’s opinions on the basis of religious binaries or even the costs incurred by the ruling party towards their election campaign, instead this debate is about what two young female elected candidates of the TMC wore to their first day in the parliament.
It is interesting to note that none of the criticism directed towards them for wearing western clothes seems to take into account that these are two urban upper-class early-nineties born women. When people voted them into power they were well aware of this status, then why troll them incessantly for acting like their age? The millennials are a tech-savvy, social-media approval dependant, constantly self-archiving bunch of people. This is not out of the ordinary behavior for a millennial. A lot of the comments directed towards them have severe sexist, ageist and infantilizing implications.
The standard norms of political performance seem to have been broken by them and that has come across as unacceptable to most people. Trolling or comparison with other candidates who are wearing ‘Indian’ attire seems to be the go-to method used by people to vent their feelings regarding this piece of political performance that is not quite in line with what they expect of women in the parliament. However, none of the trolls take into account that these are two young people doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. The overarching implication that only women wearing eastern attire can be taken seriously in the parliament is not just harmful towards the growing millennial population but also attempts to erase that millennial almost non-gendered upbringing.
On one hand we have more women than ever in history who are competing in the same fields as men and are outperforming their male counterparts and are increasingly breaking eastern-western binaries when it comes to public attire, on the other hand, the insistence by the audiences of political performance to have women keep performing their pre-approved eastern avatars in public spaces like the Lok Sabha creates a huge difference of expectations. The policing of women’s bodies continues even into the Indian Parliament. The achievements of women are often overshadowed by their inability to live up to the ideals of patriarchy-approved behavior as we can note in the case of elected Members of the Parliament like Mimi and Nusrat.
(The views expressed here are the author's own. The author was a Former Research assistant at the School of Women's Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata)