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BW Businessworld

Congress Spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi Takes On Trolls, Demolishes Stereotypes

Disagreeing with a woman politician, threatening to rape her or accusing her of sleeping around is a new low for our country.

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Is it okay for women to get rape threats on Twitter? It’s a brutal reality that engulfs almost every woman in India, especially if you do not adhere to the ‘majority ideology’. Disagreeing with a woman politician, threatening to rape her or accusing her of sleeping around is a new low for our country.

When Priyanka Chaturvedi, national spokesperson for the All India Congress Committee, raised a simple opinion regarding the Nirbhaya issue, the discussion crossed the line of a sensible conversation and went on to become an abusive rant and personal security threat.

Dealing with cyber bullies on a daily basis, Chaturvedi tends to shrug off the rants. But going back home, spending time with her child, the abuses scream loud, leaving a sense of insecurity.

Speaking to BW Businessworld, Chaturvedi shares the ongoing battle of being a woman politician and how being ambitious is more of a threat than an asset.

On social media trolls

“I don’t give in to these bullies. Do not silence your opinions. If you have an opinion, say it loud and clear. No trolling in the world should stop you from saying what you want to say. The minute you give them that advantage, they catch hold of your weak spot and use it as a tool to silence many more similar voices. When you silence yourself, you are doing a big disservice to what you believe in.

Chaturvedi has a straight and simple advice: ignore, block, mute and continue doing the job assigned to you. “I am not asking you to develop a thick skin; just asking you to prioritise.”

Dealing with post Nirbhaya twitter abuses and much more...

Post Nirbhaya, Chaturvedi has had to face a lot of trolling (read abuses). There were whole lot of remarks on social media which went on to an extent of saying: ‘Why not gangrape Priyanka to make her understand how a gangrape feels!’ and ‘You should be raped and brutally killed like Nirbhaya, why don’t you become Rahul Gandhi’s live-in partner?’

“One thing that I want to bring to notice is that when I lodged a complaint, the police were prompt and took up the issue on priority basis, not because I was a party spokesperson but because I am a woman. The person was arrested, but the process was so long that I lost the will to take it any further. I get more than 1,000 trolls and abuses every day,” she recalls.

Bullies at the other end of the computer screen abused her to extremes, not realising that she has a family and a child back home. “I am not in politics for entertainment; it’s a full-time job. It takes more than smiling and waltzing everyday on the streets to raise your voice and address issues,” she stresses.

“Recently, there was a twitter poll by MyVoteToday that asked ‘Which politician you would want to sleep with?’ How disgusting can that be? I tend to ignore and mute them now, but at the same time not lose my voice to the issue to need to be heard.”

Nepotism in politics

Chaturvedi doesn’t deny nepotism in politics but at the same time stresses on the need for an heir to prove themselves, no matter what the background. Once the access is provided, how you perform in that space, is how you will be judged.

Political system opening up to women, but in a limited manner

“When you get into politics, you come in with a lot of passion and zeal to work, but you are reduced to fighting the sexism and judgement that comes along with it. You must have heard people saying, ‘she must have risen to this position by compromising her way’. Such a thought process disturbs women who leave their family to contribute towards building a political narrative,” she says.

However, post 2012, women have started looking at politics as a space to build a successful career, Chaturvedi states. Political parties are opening doors to more women. There is a lot more clean access and professionalism in politics today for women. “Going forward, political system will be run in a more corporatized fashion. With almost 50 per cent of the population being women, ignoring them would not only be difficult but fatal for the political parties today,” she adds.

Why politics is still not a career option for women

“It is a 24/7 job where you tend to compromise the time for your family, but that happens in most career options. But, in terms of outcomes, a woman doesn’t know where she would stand 5 years from now, putting all that hard work unlike other industries. There is a great degree of unpredictability in this sector, unpredictable in terms of income source and acceptability, among others. It’s a full-time job role, without monetary and social security.

On top of that, the flak one faces to be in the public space is unimaginable and uncalled for, Chaturvedi rues. Given both the options, a lot of women still do not consider politics as a sustainable career.

Need to respect opinions

According to Chaturvedi, the process should begin by letting more and more women enter politics and in policy-making roles where their opinion is respected. “As of now, even those women you see in politics or in power, end up getting roles which are very gender-biased, such as women and health, child welfare, among others. No one thinks of women as the finance minister of this country, or into heavy industries. Limiting women voices in the brackets that you have created in your mind needs to change,” Chaturvedi signs off.