Labels at a distance

Proshant at Nirmukta talks about the label “hate hag” currently trendy in India.

The term ‘hate hag’, used to describe “women supporters of Narendra Modi” in an Outlook Magazine article recently gained currency, especially on social media…

In this essay I critique the term ‘hate hag’ through three broad arguments: first, I argue the term ‘hate hag’ is inherently sexist and misogynistic, and in using the term to ‘shame’ women because of their political ideology, we reinstate another form of a the medieval witch-hunt. Second, I look at the irreconcilable contradictions in the ‘women’s question’ and the Political Right, especially in light of the Janus-faced patriarchy that the BJP and the Sangh Parivaar represent. Here I underscore the role played by real, symbolic and semiotic violence that is directed against women’s bodies and ‘honour’. Finally, I present the idea that the term ‘hate hag’ conforms to the same form of semiotic violence that the Political Right and conservatives use to ‘shame’ women to reaffirm a patriarchal politics. This, I argue, is creates the Orwellian Woman as the ‘other’—that is, the notion that “some women are more equal than other women”, when it comes to being objects of such attacks.

It’s a loaded word. “Hag” is just one of the many many many words used to work up hatred of women.

By underscoring the ‘internal/external’ ugliness (of women), people who support the term are supporting a perverted logic that assigns ‘value’ on womanhood based on a notion of beauty/ugliness and purity/pollution. This underscores an important point about the insidious function of discipline/punish that’s embedded in the notion of shame and honour (I will discuss this point in detail in the concluding segment).

Then there’s a tweet quoted –

And the term hate hag is not about external ugliness of these women. It is about their internal ugliness.

Of course it is; that’s a standard reply. “I called you ugly because you’re ugly inside.” Uh huh.

Misogynistic labels are global; what a cheerful thought.




  1. Pliny the in Between says

    This post has got me racking my brain this morning for derogatory terms for men that aren’t sexual, misogynistic or anti gay references. I find that I rarely hear men defining themselves as something, but rather as the absence of something else. Anti as opposed to positive attributes. Probably rambling since I still need coffee.

  2. Kevin Kehres says

    I don’t think the old standby “asshole” is sex-related. I’m sure you can contort it to have a sexual (and maybe even a homophobic) meaning, but that’s never been my understanding of its use. It’s more of a generic “jerk”, rather than the sexualized “jerk-off”.

    But language is fluid and I could be wrong about its use/meaning among subsets of the population.

  3. says

    Gonna give away my age here: When I was in college a lot of my friends wore badges that read “Revolting Hag.” Does anybody else remember those? (For the record: I haven’t been that sort of Radical Feminist in decades.)

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