Social Media Influencers Serving Classism Selective Feminism Monolithic Nationalism
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Social Media Influencers: Serving Classism, Selective Feminism & Monolithic Nationalism – Feminism in India

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Posted by Savitha Ganesh and Purvi Rajpuria

Someday in the past, we have been scrolling via YouTube, once we noticed a video by Shreya Jain about her luxurious and designer bag assortment. Naturally, with little else to do on our fingers, we watched the video, and proceeded to binge on a number of different movies from her channel. Seems, Jain owns fairly a couple of luxurious gadgets and talks about them in a number of movies. What actually shocked us in regards to the movies was not the entire financial worth of all of the gadgets she displayed (which, by the way in which, added up to some lakhs of rupees), however her obvious incapacity to course of the criticism she acquired for her life-style within the feedback part.

Oblivious to her socio-cultural and financial capital, she defends her life-style by claiming that she was capable of purchase the gadgets solely via her “hard-earned cash”, and by “prioritising her spending”.

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This text makes an attempt to try social media influencers and their common disconnect with massive sections of Web customers which is rooted in classism and mono-culturalism.  

On this context, this text makes an attempt to try social media influencers and their common disconnect with massive sections of Web customers which is rooted in classism and mono-culturalism.  

Whereas not all social media influencers perform such brazen shows of wealth, Jain’s movies give an perception into the category and caste composition of the house they occupy on-line. This house is gaining prominence as an influential voice on issues of feminism, life-style, magnificence, arts, and so forth., amongst its massive follower base.

Contemplating how matters resembling feminism is “in vogue”, a number of social media influencers try to speak on ladies empowerment. Nevertheless, they fail to make use of their affect to problem buildings of caste, class, and gender, and infrequently proceed to perpetuate current energy buildings that they profit from.

We check out some distinguished tendencies amongst social media influencers resembling: (1) the creation of a progressive-conservative binary, that’s extremely by-product of Western liberalism, (2) the creation of a homogenised class below the label of ‘desi’, as a consultant voice of Indian tradition and using so known as ‘conventional tradition’, and the savarna femininity related to the identical.

The creation of a progressive-conservative binary

The concept of the ‘progressive’ lady, as promoted by social media influencers, follows a pattern of getting into male dominated roles, replicating their behaviour, and particularly their aesthetic. This has led to the popularisation of phrases resembling ‘girlboss’, used for financially unbiased ladies, wearing energy fits, and dealing in a company atmosphere.

YouTuber Komal Pandey who typically associates herself with the time period, lists out garments from manufacturers resembling H&M, Zara, and Marks and Spencers, in a video that talks about how ladies can costume for work. She makes use of phrases resembling “polished” and “class” all through the video, giving an perception into the aspirations of ‘empowered’ higher class working ladies. Nevertheless, this concept of empowerment, depending on a really particular aesthetic, nonetheless, is inaccessible to working class ladies, who’re pressured to work because of their monetary situations, and ‘decrease’ caste ladies who’ve traditionally been assigned what Brahmanical society deems ‘soiled’ work.

therefore, the girlboss aesthetic, that aspires for a neat, tidy, and polished look appropriate for a company atmosphere, separates itself from these ladies. These movies thus appear to cater to a extra prosperous and youthful viewers, who can afford and relate to the life-style she talks about. 

One other social media infuencer, Sejal Kumar spells out this binary by way of “sanskari” and “unsanskari”. A video titled “Woman Gone Unsanskari”,  reveals a day within the lifetime of a working lady, whose self expression is curbed by a ‘sanskari’ or conservative society. It begins together with her choosing a piece outfit, just for her mom to stare at her low neckline with disgust. She decides to put on the outfit anyway, however the travails don’t finish. She is stared at by her auto-driver, her boss at work, and one other man on the railway station. At every occasion, the truth that she is sticking together with her option to put on what she desires is made clear, and her empowerment is equated with this selection.

In one other video filmed throughout quarantine, she clothes up in outfits that she would in any other case by no means put on on digital camera for worry of them being labelled as “too revealing”. The purpose of competition emerges as her incapacity to decide on what she desires to put on as a result of that will entice stares from males or disapproval from ladies. And thus, she is separated from the remainder of society and proven as a sufferer of a conservative worth system. 

fii3This clear divide projected by a number of social media influencers between the progressive (‘unsanskari’) and conservative (‘sanskari’), that’s closely depending on a selected aesthetic and the garments a girl wears, derives closely from the Western concepts of liberalism, the place particular person selection is paramount. Picture Supply: Purvi Rajpuria

This concept of a transparent divide between the progressive (‘unsanskari’) and conservative (‘sanskari’), that’s closely depending on a selected aesthetic and the garments a girl wears, derives closely from the Western concepts of liberalism, the place particular person selection is paramount.

Political scientist Wendy Brown elaborates on this in her paper titled “Civilisational Delusions: Secularism, Tolerance and Equality”, through the use of the instance of a bikini and a burqa. The bikini, generally related to the ladies of the West, is usually used as an emblem for gender equality and freedom (because it permits ladies the selection to reveal their pores and skin), whereas the burqa is touted because the device of ladies’s oppression. Nevertheless, Brown argues that pitting the bikini towards the burqa, and utilizing it to match the levels of ladies’s freedom within the two societies is a liberal universalist folly. 

To clarify this additional, she makes use of the instance of a 2010 New York Occasions type web page, that featured ladies on the streets of New York sporting heels that went as much as 6 or 7 inches. She says, 

Think about strolling for an hour in such footwear, not to mention working for a bus, chasing after kids, navigating inclement climate, standing all day at work, and even for simply two hours at a cocktail occasion in them. In Islamic feminine non secular costume, one would absolutely be extra comfy…Briefly, if footwear practically unattainable to face not to mention stroll in are freely chosen, that doesn’t make them footwear of freedom, one thing in fact that may be mentioned of hijab or niqab as nicely. (Brown 13)

The model of feminism promoted by social media influencers resembling Sejal Kumar is caught on this bikini-burqa dichotomy, the place the bikini represents progressiveness, or ‘unsanskari’ behaviour, because it permits ladies the selection to reveal their pores and skin, whereas the burqa is equated with a ‘sanskari’ mentality or conservative behaviour because it requires ladies to cowl up in an effort to shield their honour.

The model of feminism promoted by social media influencers resembling Sejal Kumar is caught on this bikini-burqa dichotomy, the place the bikini represents progressiveness, or ‘unsanskari’ behaviour, because it permits ladies the selection to reveal their pores and skin, whereas the burqa is equated with a ‘sanskari’ mentality or conservative behaviour because it requires ladies to cowl up in an effort to shield their honour. Nevertheless, Brown argues that the identical dichotomy is absent on the subject of males, whose close to nakedness in public is rarely equated with their freedom: “not often is it recommended that males in loincloths are free whereas these in three-piece fits lack autonomy and equality”. 

Each the burqa and the bikini are completely different negotiations of ladies’s sexualised standing in society; whereas one type of negotiation calls for that ladies exaggerate their sexualisation by baring their pores and skin, the opposite ties the positioning of sexualisation (their our bodies) with their honour, and calls for it’s hidden from public view. The extreme deal with clothes as a marker of ladies’s freedom, not solely pits ladies towards one another but additionally steers consideration away from far deeper, systemic issues that plague womankind. 

The creation of ‘desi’, a class that claims to symbolize Indian tradition

We additionally seen a selective use of the phrase ‘desi’ or ‘Indian’ within the titles of movies by YouTubers who’ve grown up and dwell in India. Contemplating that the time period ‘desi’ is used to connote one’s origin from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, in a world context, it’s attention-grabbing that a number of social media influencers in India use the time period to check with particular facets of their life.

Dolly Singh, for instance, repeatedly uploads movies from her Delhi condo that focus on outfits and make-up seems to be acceptable for various events. Nevertheless, she makes use of the phrase ‘desi’ solely when the movies function her saree-clad, sindoor-wearing mom, who lives in Nainital. Equally, the one make-up and outfit movies the place Shreya Jain makes use of the phrase ‘Indian’ are those the place she clothes up as a bride, wears an elaborate lehenga or saree, and dons heavy jewellery.

On additional dissection, we realised that the classes usually are not grounded within the realities of what these residing in India do, however on perceptions of what Indians do, derived closely from a Western gaze. The lehenga, sindoor, and small city India are much more unique to the Western gaze; they’re a ‘discovery’; one thing that doesn’t seem to have been influenced by Western tendencies and aesthetics at first look. 

Furthermore, what’s proven as ‘desi’ within the Indian context, is a homogenised class of higher caste customs, traditions, and aesthetics (introduced with out critique) that claims to symbolize the whole thing of the nation. You’re unlikely to seek out an influencer who questions the politics of burning effigies of Ravan (who is taken into account a consultant by Dravidians and Dalit-Bahujans) in a lookbook for Diwali; or that of the picture of Mahishasura the place once more a hero of some Adivasi, Dalit and Bahujan teams, is depicted as a treacherous demon in dominant mythology, in movies about dressing up for Durga Puja.

These voices, typically amplified at international platforms, turn out to be consultant of Indian tradition, regardless of their existence being faraway from huge multitudes of the nation. 

Utilizing respectable femininity to additional the Hindu nationalist venture

We seen a extra overt want to ‘shield’ Indian tradition amongst the social media influencers who share clips of themselves performing Indian classical music or dance types (a lot of which have a historical past of Brahmanical appropriation) on-line. These channels cater to the nostalgia of an older viewers, a lot of whom are Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). Numerous them are run by younger and middle-aged ladies, who carry out a home femininity. This femininity performs a big function in evoking a nostalgic and protecting feeling in the direction of the tradition being carried out.

A preferred program on 21-year-old singer Ankita Nandy’s channel is the balcony live shows, the place Ankita and her youthful sister Antara carry out songs in several Indian languages. Not solely do they synchronise their uploads with Hindu festivals from completely different states, however in addition they costume up in ‘conventional’ outfits from the respective state, and sing within the language mostly related to it. For instance, in a video the place they sing the Malayalam tune Jimmiki Kamal, they put on the standard Onam colors of gold and white, have flowers of their hair, and carry out in entrance of a garlanded Ganesha idol.

In an article in Spherical Desk India, Nidhin Shobbana explains how Onam is often related to the ‘savarna spectacle’ of ladies sporting white and gold sarees, making pookalams (floral preparations), and consuming a big vegetarian sadya (feast). These savarna sensibilities, displayed within the Nandy sisters’ music video, promotes a neatly packaged model of Onam, that excludes the multiplicity of how through which marginalised castes in Kerala rejoice the competition. The creation of a monolithic Malayali identification, will not be objected to by its viewers, however paradoxically, is well known as multiculturalism.

Additionally learn: 6 Issues Internalised Misogyny Ruined For Ladies

What is especially attention-grabbing about these movies is the demure, light, and home femininity that the Nandy sisters carry out. Typically wearing sarees, sporting jewellery, and with flowers of their hair, they sing songs which frequently have a non secular angle. Every video begins with a well mannered greeting, the place they introduce themselves within the language they’re singing in; the virtuosity and domesticity virtually makes it really feel such as you’ve stepped right into a ceremony inside their dwelling.

imagePicture Supply: Youtube

The usage of Hindu non secular symbols within the background, whether or not it’s a Krishna idol, brass lamps with flowers hanging over them, and even the visibility of an ‘om’ image, cements this picture of a ceremony. The efficiency of domesticity (used to connote a managed sexuality) and the simultaneous assertion of caste-Hindu membership, is vital for them to place themselves as ‘respectable’ ladies, and thus evoke a sense of protectiveness amongst their followers.

The Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi ladies who’ve been oppressed by Brahminical forces for generations discover no place on this illustration of Indian tradition. The concept of the ‘Indian lady’ is as a substitute equated utterly with the aesthetics surrounding savarna ladies which contributes to a harmful technique of homogenisation. 

In her paper titled “The Icon of Mom in Late Colonial North India: ‘Bharat Mata’, Matri Bhasha’, and ‘Gau Mata’”, Charu Gupta examines the gendering of nationwide symbols by the largely upper-caste management of the nationalist motion. Traits resembling domesticity and abundance have been related to the symbols of Bharat Mata and Gau Mata.

These symbols have been emphasised to evoke emotions of nationalism among the many males of the nation throughout the colonial interval. As well as, the symbols have been promoted as figures who wanted to be protected against invasion or penetration, via an emphasis on the lady’s chastity and wifely constancy. In the end, these symbols are fixtures of a Brahmanical creativeness, with the sacred duties of motherhood being extensively written about in foundational Hindu texts, most predominantly within the Manusmriti.

The femininity of the Nandy sisters performs the same function with respect to Indian tradition, which ‘robust’ males must be prepared to guard always. The symbolism of their movies tackle an overtly patriotic tone once they sing Suno Gaur Se Duniya Waalo on Independence Day; right here, their home and respectable femininity is accompanied by the tricolour design of their guitar straps.

Many commenters expressed satisfaction to see “their” Nandy sisters tackle the patriotic costume, with one even mentioning how Bharat Mata is blessed to have the 2 sisters as representatives. Thus, beneath the seemingly impartial costumes of patriotism lie concepts surrounding savarna femininity and the related Hindu nationalism.  

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Contemplating that many of those social media influencers have massive numbers of followers on-line, we discovered it necessary to analyse the place they arrive from in addition to the overt and covert messages their movies carry. Whereas social media may seem like a democratic house that permits unbiased creators to have a voice, dominant caste sensibilities discover their approach into the content material they put out.

This isn’t stunning contemplating the overwhelming presence of dominant castes on social media. In accordance with a examine by the Deccan Chronicle performed in 2019, solely eight per cent of Dalit communities, and seven per cent of tribal communities depicted excessive social media utilization patterns, as in comparison with the 15 per cent from higher caste communites. Furthermore, 75 per cent tribals, and 71 per cent Dalits have been proven to haven’t any publicity to social media, as in comparison with the determine of 54 per cent within the case of higher castes.  

Though aestheticised to appear innocent, these dominant caste sensibilities align with a bigger Hindu nationalist discourse on the forefront of up to date nationwide politics. Not solely do audiences fail to problematise the content material they’re consuming, however in addition they typically rejoice these movies and their aesthetics as ladies empowerment.

Though many of those channels are run by social media influencers who’re ladies, the movies proceed to perpetuate gender norms which are on the core of Brahmanical society. 

Purvi Rajpura is a contract author and illustrator. She lately graduated with a BA in Literary and Cultural Research from FLAME College, Pune. She may be discovered on Instagram.

Savitha Ganesh is a contract author. She graduated with a BA in Sociology from FLAME College, Pune. She may be discovered on Instagram.

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