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Madhu Kishwar- The Feminist Hero Turned Villian

How many misogynist things does a feminist have to say to lose her credibility?

I write, tweet, scream and fight a fair amount about men’s disgusting behaviour towards women, so I’m taking a breather. Turns out, women also treat other women quite terribly. My experience had made me think that it was only neighbourhood aunties, school teachers and crazy white American ladies on Fox who were patriarchy’s little foot soldiers. But feminism has progressed further than that. In the spirit of equality, women are now challenging men’s superiority in the sphere of online misogyny and lies. Exhibit A: Madhu Kishwar. When she takes a break from believing all right-wing propaganda on WhatsApp to be true, she tweets out misogynist remarks. While most of Delhi was enjoying April showers, Kishwar, was typing this in a not yet deleted tweet.

Yup, she said that. And then followed it up with:

Lots of people say terrible things about women on the internet, but only a few are considered public intellectuals and continuously provided platforms. While a regular egg DP twitter user’s misogynist ramblings are dismissed as ‘trolling’, Kishwar’s venom vending machine finds a spot in national publications. The Week published, as a cover story, a piece titled ‘Gender Equality and Feminazi’. Men and women take turns steering patriarchy’s chariot but most of them are not paid actual money by a national magazine to say “If a woman continues staying with her husband despite severe atrocities deserving seven-year jail, she has only herself to blame, now that the marriage, divorce and maintenance laws are heavily weighted in favour of women.” Kanye West of Indian women thinks that women are to be blamed for their own oppression. What is it about her that makes media amplify her extremely rudimentary views?

For starters, desi Aunt Lydia isn’t your average misogynist, she is also a feminist and a women’s rights activist who founded Manushi, a journal described by Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian as “a pioneering feminist journal”. She has also authored the book In Search of Answers: Indian Women’s Voice. Her academic credentials are so solid that she has published more than half a dozen books and countless peer-reviewed works. In the face of her good-looking resumé, it doesn’t matter that she almost won the Pulitzer in fake news while tweeting out WhatsApp forwards as ‘facts’. This academic asked her 2 million followers if a picture of a marine creature is AN ACTUAL PICTURE OF A MYTHICAL FLOWER CALLED NAGPUSHPA. She lets none of her education and achievements come in the way of some good ol’ women bashing and plain stupidity. The devil works hard, Madhu Kishwar works harder and our media works the hardest to amplify her. Last month, The Hindu organized a discussion called ‘New Ideas for New India’, “To celebrate the spirit of collective intellectualism to understand emerging paradigms on the idea of an ideal India.” Madhu Kishwar was one of the speakers because the word ‘irony’ does not have enough syllables to be in The Hindu’s style guide.

Social Capital is the currency, and after spending decades in academia and career activism, one gets to accumulate enough of it. Sometimes you can just fake it and others will consider you a man of importance. Just look at Sambit Patra. There is no reason why people like him should be on news channels. Much like how the American media created the monster that is the Trump presidency, Indian media loves its own rabid liars. While it’s facing intense criticism for not giving space to marginalized voices, the media has enough pages to give to the likes of Kishwar and their hateful and outdated thinking. This is the same media which made sure that the patron saint of conspiracy nutcases, Subramaniam Swamy, was taken seriously. People like them are dangerous because while pretending to be intellectuals, they say the most anti-intellectual things rooted in lies. Sometimes, they skip one step and just spout lies. Unlike your family WhatsApp group, their dangerous voices reach millions. At a time when fake news is destabilizing democracies and threatening peace, the media has no compunctions about providing legitimacy to serial liars like Kishwar. In the most fair and balanced fashion, they will run hard-hitting stories on women’s issues but also pass the mic to known misogynists. News channels invite people who regularly lie on TV, to lie on TV – equalizing real news with fake news.


Mitali Agrawal is an education researcher in a Delhi based think tank and tweets at @just_screams.

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