(Updated with Prasanna’s note – I have personally used cheergirl reference in few tweets. I was castigated by a dear friend . She pointed out that word carries a  pejorative connotation. I have tried to avoid such terms after that . This post is not an editorial but anguished feedback from a reader. At a larger level, venom and vitriol on social media is not a phenomenon confined to folks with any particular ideology/party affiliations. )

Recently on twitter an anonymous handle conducted a poll asking to vote for their favorite NaMo ‘Cheergirl’. The handle has the display picture (DP) of a lady, so assuming the person behind the account is a female; it is ironical that an educated woman calls her fellow beings ‘cheergirls’.  Cheergirls by definition are young girls who dance a routine before the start or in the middle of a football game and are a common phenomenon in USA and Canada. Many women choose to pursue a career in cheer leading in the USA and Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleading squad is well known for well toned beautiful girls doing a no-fault routine. Despite this professional approach in general even in the USA cheerleading is considered as a way to sex-up the game and bring in more crowds. It is a subtle way of demeaning and objectifying women.

In India, using cheerleaders for games is still in its nascent stage and IPL is probably the only game where one may see the cheergirls routine. Cheergirls, in India, are perceived as low intelligence girls who wish to earn money by being objectified. To call a woman ‘cheergirl’ who is not a necessarily a professional cheerleader is an insult to the lady.

The women mentioned in the twitpoll are all working professionals, women who work in the legit industries such as health care, petrochemical or communications. They provide the same services as men do in these sectors. To name them as Cheerleaders is despicable and insulting not just to the women mentioned in the poll but to all women in general. The poll link was lauded and retweeted by most of the usual suspects who are biased towards Congress.

For a party that is headed by a woman and who gave India’s first woman Prime Minister as well as the President to stoop to such low levels of decency and misogyny speaks of the decay and rot set in the party. Is insulting a woman’s intelligence or calling her names and reducing the debate to ad hominem the only way to undermine her sane arguments? Is it because the Congress lackeys lack intelligence or because they cannot find any thought provoking retort to undermine the influence of the women supporting Modi?

Such misogynistic behavior is not necessarily observed only on social media. A few months ago main-stream-media( MSM) too had published articles describing leading young female politicians and vocal supporters of Modi as HIS women and his ‘cheergirls’ . The same MSM that addresses Sonia Gandhi as Sonia or Madam feels it is okay to call women who support Name for his work and vision as some bimbette. A cursory research shows that MSM has never done any article on the young men who support Sonia Gandhi’s leadership or called them HER men, in fact if anything they are called as ‘young Turks’. Why? Is it because she doesn’t have any male supporters or because they would not dare do a piece with such derogatory language?

A one time snide remark by Modi on the sweat equity deal of Shashi Tharoor and his then girl friend drew ire from the MSM followed by reams of op-eds and hours of interviews of the lady. The bias of MSM is clearly evident who thought it was okay to spend time on a remark which was more about the corruption and habit of rewarding it with plum posts adopted by Congress high command rather than a direct comment on the lady herself.

Contrast the hour long interview done by Sagarika Ghose of Sunanda Tharoor in wake of the ’50-crore girlfriend’ remark with the silent treatment meted out by the same media to Smriti Irani who was insulted in the most vile way by Sanjay Nirupam on national television. Neither was there any strong condemnation nor was any sound bites dedicated on prime time on the outright baseless character assassination by Nirupam.

Media treatment of right wing women and specially those who publicly support Narendra Modi is a telling example of the misogyny that exists in the country. MSM spent disproportionate amount of time disparaging Honey Singh’s lyrics and worked overtime to ensure a ban on his songs was put in place. The media and liberals who cry over the treatment of women and VAW in the society think it is okay if a Congress worker like Amaresh Misra openly threatens women supporters with rape and murder in social media. Does the MSM believe such selective crying is going to reduce the atrocities against women or is there a perverse belief that right wing women or female NaMo supporters deserve such treatment for their choices?

A reminder to the MSM and left-liberals who love to constantly draw comparisons for every situation of India with USA, recently, President Obama had to apologize for calling Kamala Harris an excellent attorney as well as a good looking woman. An innocuous comment lauding her skills as well as her looks was not looked upon as encouraging by the rest of the country, especially the feminists on both sides of the aisle. (Read here)

The battle lines for Election 2014 were long drawn but they are becoming more vicious, especially for the right-wing women supporters. It is clear that they should strap on their boots, be prepared for vicious attacks and ad hominem from the other side even if they are ordinary citizens. Call out the attacks but don’t indulge in similar tactics.

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Yogini Deshpande

Dr. Yogini Deshpande has degrees from Mumbai and Purdue University in Civil Engineering. She is an educator and Consultant in the field of Infrastructure Systems. Her other interests are history and Indian Classical Music.

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