news Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | March 9, 2015 | 12:06 pm IST

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s speech on International Women’s Day has been gathering some critical response on social media.

On Saturday, Kejriwal called on men "to learn from women" and make the national capital a city where "every woman feels free and lives happily".

Crediting his mother and wife for his success, Kejriwal in a one minute message that was telecast on the radio said “When I used to fight against the corrupt system, my wife ran the house and my mother supported me".

"Today, my message is for all the men of Delhi. It is admirable how easily and honestly women carry out their responsibilities without any fuss in their relationships… They go about their jobs while taking care of their families", he said.

He further added, "I salute their rock-solid tolerance. Men have a lot to learn from them. But I have seen what some men do — they comment on a woman’s clothes, assess her character, say absurd things about women, harass them. Men who do not respect women outside can never respect women in their household."

However, Kejriwal's statement has been construed in more than just one way, and seems to have irked many. Some stepped in to say that there are times when women are forced to take up responsibilities and that the CM's tone denoted that women are entitled to go through an amount of suffering for men.

Activist Kavitha Krishnan, in a Facebook post, retorted, "Mr Kejriwal cited the role of his wife and mother in running the house and supporting him while he fought against corruption. This sounds ominously like 'Men will lead, women will run the house and support men who lead'. Is it because he sees this as the only fit role for women that he has no women in his Cabinet and his party's PAC?"

Stating that Kejriwal gave "a paternalistic message that reinforces the stereotype of women in family roles, supportive and nurturing of men", Krishnan wrote "Mr Kejriwal praises 'how women fulfil responsibilities honestly without making any fuss.' But Mr Kejriwal, you haven't been listening. The 1000s of Delhi women, with their sisters across India and in the world, HAVE in fact been 'making a fuss' about the gendered division of labour and at having to fulfil familial roles as if that's 'women's work' alone!" 

She further added, "You praise women for their 'rock solid tolerance' Mr Kejriwal. Tolerance of what? Is IWD an occasion to praise women for 'tolerating' injustice, inequality, unfreedom?" 

The comments on Krishnan's post, which has been shared over 160 times, reflects diverse opinions on the CM's message. Though some agreed to Krishnan's views, others defended his statements saying he is entitled to his views and that he did not disrespect women through his message.

"Role parity cannot be expected from politicians in India who at best think women are 'support' system to the all achieving male", reads one of the comments, while another says, "Kejriwal's reference group is the small wealthy middle class bothered by the corruption and apathy in the system, nothing else."

One person wrote, "AK or any other leader cannot be expected to be the last word on any social issue. He is as entitled to his views as anybody else…"

"Assigning roles is the problem patriarchal societies do!and then condition! Men and women must make their own choices in a free thinking liberal environment that leads to gender equity and democracy why blame Kejriwal it's our social fabric which must be changed!!!!", wrote another user.

The Delhi CM is currently in Bengaluru for naturopathy treatment for ailments, including blood sugar and cough.

Read Kavita Krishnan's full post here.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal's Message
Makes a Mockery of the Spirit of International Women's Day

On IWD, the Delhi CM has chosen not to give a message of solidarity to the women's movement fighting for justice, equality and freedom for women. Instead he has chosen to give a paternalistic message that reinforces the stereotype of women in family roles, supportive and nurturing of men.

Mr Kejriwal cited the role of his wife and mother in running the house and supporting him while he fought against corruption. This sounds ominously like 'Men will lead, women will run the house and support men who lead'. Is it because he sees this as the only fit role for women that he has no women in his Cabinet and his party's PAC?

Mr Kejriwal praises 'how women fulfil responsibilities honestly without making any fuss.' But Mr Kejriwal, you haven't been listening. The 1000s of Delhi women, with their sisters across India and in the world, HAVE in fact been 'making a fuss' about the gendered division of labour and at having to fulfil familial roles as if that's 'women's work' alone! By praising women for not making a fuss about this, you have insulted the legacy of International Women's Day, the day commemorating a century of 'fuss' and fight by women!

You praise women for their 'rock solid tolerance' Mr Kejriwal. Tolerance of what? Is IWD an occasion to praise women for 'tolerating' injustice, inequality, unfreedom?

You chose IWD as an occasion to give a message to men. But why a message of 'safety', not solidarity? Why not tell men on IWD to share the roles of housework and childcare and cooking equally with women? Why not tell men to respect and defend the freedom of women inside their own homes? If you just tell men to 'make Delhi safe for women', that won't change the reality, which is that men take away the freedom of women in their own homes in the name of keeping the women safe!

You chose to reinforce the patriarchal idea that men should respect women outside the home as a show of respect for their own sisters, mothers etc. But women deserve respect even if they do not fit the roles of 'sister, mother, wife'. it is because men feel entitled to control the lives of and express services from their wives, sisters, mothers, daughters, that men also feel entitled to sexually harass and rape women.

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