Misogyny Spares No Woman. Not Even Right-Wing Queen Kangana


Misogyny Spares No Woman. Not Even Right-Wing Queen Kangana

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

What’s the one thing that unites all trolls on social media? No, not their political views – that’s a different subject entirely – but a common trait they seem to share is misogyny. Women are at the receiving end of abuse that is far more vulgar and frequent than men on social media. One favourite pastime of these trolls is to police what women are wearing in their photos. Even the slightest hint of skin can invite their unsolicited input, and it doesn’t matter who the target is. Kangana Ranaut learned that this week, when instead of Bollywood or Punjabi celebrities, she found herself in a social media spat with internet commenters who took offence to a swimsuit photo she posted.

Ranaut had shared a throwback photo of a visit to Mexico, where she is on the beach wearing a bikini. But it didn’t go over too well with some of her followers who look up to her for her outspoken right-wing, pro-government, conservative values. “But why would you put this kind of photo on Twitter today? Indians are calling you a Hindu lioness, what about them?” one commenter asked. He wasn’t alone, as others joined in, upset with their favourite champion of patriotism for wearing something as foreign as a two-piece swimsuit.

As most of Twitter already knows, Ranaut rarely lets any criticism of herself go unchallenged.

In the past, Ranaut herself has been guilty of making character judgements of her fellow women on the basis of what they wore or the projects they participated in. Earlier this year, Ranaut was at the centre of a controversy after she called actress-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar a “soft porn star” for her bold roles in the ’90s. Now, that very same judgemental, patriarchal way of thinking came home to roost for Ranaut as the same people who cheered her on against Matondkar rebuked her for her own bikini photo.

As most of Twitter already knows, Ranaut rarely lets any criticism of herself go unchallenged. The same treatment was meted out to the trolls who tried to control what she wore and posted on the internet. In her rebuttal, Ranaut drew a parallel to the nude form of the Goddess Bhairavi, saying, “What will happen to you if Goddess Bhairavi come at you with her hair loose, without clothes, drinking blood? You will be scared. And call yourself a devotee? Don’t pretend to be authority on religion.” Making a loose comparison between herself and a literal deity might be a touch egotistical, but being humble was never one of Ranaut’s strong traits. And there was no reason at all for her to be apologetic to the trolls to begin with.

Internet trolls seem almost compelled to target women online. Even if the woman is one of their own idols, the urge to put their misogyny on display is too strong to resist.