Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, stirred up a social media hurricane after a picture of him holding a poster of a woman that said “Smash brahminical patriarchy” went viral. The picture which was first shared by Anna MM Vetticad on Twitter, an award-winning Indian journalist, and author, was later retweeted by Twitter India.
During Twitter CEO @jack's visit here, he & Twitter's Legal head @vijaya took part in a round table with some of us women journalists, activists, writers & @TwitterIndia's @amritat to discuss the Twitter experience in India. A very insightful, no-words-minced conversation 😊 pic.twitter.com/LqtJQEABgV
— Anna MM Vetticad (@annavetticad) November 18, 2018
Twitter India shared the picture mentioning that it was of a “closed-door discussion” with a group of women journalists and change makers from India. It also mentioned that “It is not a statement from Twitter or our CEO, but a tangible reflection of our company’s efforts to see, hear and understand all sides of important public conversations that happen on our service around the world”.
Recently we hosted a closed door discussion with a group of women journalists and change makers from India to better understand their experience using Twitter. One of the participants, a Dalit activist, shared her personal experiences and gifted a poster to Jack. https://t.co/96gd3XmFgK
— Twitter India (@TwitterIndia) November 19, 2018
Soon after the picture was shared, it started to receive heavy backlash from Brahmin nationalists and users over Dorsey slamming Brahmins, members of the highest caste in Hinduism. Mohandas Pai (former Infosys CFO), Rajeev Malhotra (Indian-American author), and Chitra Subramaniam (Indian journalist and author) are some of the prominent names who have spoken out against the Twitter Chief:
— Rajiv Malhotra (@RajivMessage) November 19, 2018
"If you were in China, would you hold up a poster asking Xi Jinping to hold free and fair elections?" My response to @Jack of @Twitter @TwitterIndia Smashing Brahminical Patriarchy. https://t.co/D9b8bAJzR1 @republic #India
— Chitra Subramaniam (@chitraSD) November 19, 2018
As an Indian I am disappointed at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's 'Smash Brahminical Patriarchy' placard – will Minister @Ra_THORe pl take action for this hate mongering against an Indian community,spreading hatred? @PMOIndia @rsprasad https://t.co/TMae3DbNXa
— Mohandas Pai (@TVMohandasPai) November 19, 2018
— Neha Sharma🚩 (@neha_ABVP) November 20, 2018
In fact, Sandeep Mittal, Joint Secretary, Parliament of India, went ahead to call the picture a “fit case for registration of a criminal case for attempt to destabilize the nation”.
Do you realise that this picture has potential of causing communal riots at a time when several States are going to Assembly Elections in India. Even now an apology is not offered. Actually its a fit case for registration of a criminal case for attempt to destablise the nation.
— Sandeep Mittal, I.P.S. (@smittal_ips) November 20, 2018
This was Dorsey’s first tour to India, one of Twitter’s fastest growing markets. During his tour, he had already conducted a discussion on Twitter with the students at IIT Delhi, met Dalai Lama, actor Shahrukh Khan, and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. It was last weekend when the picture was taken during Dorsey’s meet up with a group of journalists, writers, and activists in Delhi to hear about their experiences on Twitter in India.
Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead Vijaya, had accompanied Mr. Dorsey to India, and apologized over Twitter, saying that the poster was a “private gift” given to Twitter. No apology has been made by Dorsey so far.
I'm very sorry for this. It's not relective of our views. We took a private photo with a gift just given to us – we should have been more thoughtful. Twitter strives to be an impartial platform for all. We failed to do that here & we must do better to serve our customers in India
— Vijaya Gadde (@vijaya) November 19, 2018
People stand up in defense of the picture
The apology by Vijaya Gadde further sparked anger among the female journalists who were a part of the round-table discussion and a lot of others users. Anna MM Vetticad, who was a part of the picture, tweeted against Gadde’s apology, saying that she’s “sad to see a lack of awareness and concern about the caste issues” and that the picture was not a “private photo”. Vetticad also mentioned that the photo was taken by a Twitter representative and sent for distribution.
Sad to see a lack of awareness & concern about caste issues in your tweet, @vijaya. On a separate note, this was not a "private photo" – it was shot by a @TwitterIndia rep & mailed to us to share if we wish. You are throwing us under the bus to save your skin. Unbelievable! @jack https://t.co/zZ9StvsbLb
— Anna MM Vetticad (@annavetticad) November 20, 2018
Another journalist, Rituparna Chatterjee, who was also present during the discussion, tweeted in defense of the picture saying that the posters were brought and given to the Twitter team by Sanghapali Aruna, who raised some important points regarding her Dalit experience on Twitter. She also mentioned that there was no “targeting/specific selection of any group”.
Chitra, since I was there, I feel it’s my moral obligation to speak up. Sanghapali Aruna, who brought the posters with her and gave some to the Twitter team, raised some important points about the Dalit experience on Twitter. This was a part of the many other points raised about
— Rituparna Chatterjee (@MasalaBai) November 19, 2018
Women’s (all women) safety on this platform as a whole. If marginalised groups are pushed away due to RW trolling, it serves Twitter as a platform where voices converge, ill. There was no targeting/specific selection of any group.
— Rituparna Chatterjee (@MasalaBai) November 19, 2018
Sanghapali Aruna, who brought the posters with her talked to ThePrint about how women have been one of the major victims of the Brahminical patriarchy despite it controlling all of us in more ways than one. “The ‘Smash Brahminical patriarchy’ poster which I gifted to Jack Dorsey was questioning precisely this hegemony and concentration of power in the hands of one community. This wasn’t an attempt at hate speech against the Brahmins but was an attempt to challenge the dominance and sense of superiority that finds its origins in the caste system”.
Aruna was also greatly disturbed by Gadde’s apology as she mentions that “Americans do not know of the Indian caste history, they can’t tell one brown person from another. But as an Asian woman, Vijaya should’ve known better”.
Public reaction to the photo largely varies. Some people slammed Dorsey and the photo, while others have stood up in support of it. They believe that the poster was a political art piece that represented India’s Dalit lower caste and other religious minorities’ demands to get rid of the gender and caste-based discrimination by the elite Brahmins.
Feminists use the term #BrahminicalPatriarchy to talk about how #brahminical norms determine #caste & #gender relations. It is fact not violence to name how one caste through scripture has held hegemonic power for centuries. #SmashBrahminicalPatriarchy @twitterindia @jack pic.twitter.com/SYQgLvnqBx
— Dalit Diva (@dalitdiva) November 20, 2018
Didn't know it was so easy to pin down Twitter. Why feel sorry for saying slam braminical patriarchy? When you say 'Brahminical patriarchy' it doesn't mean Brahmin community as a whole. Just like slamming white supremacy isn't equivalent to slamming a race as a whole! Education?
— Gaurav Pandhi (@GauravPandhi) November 20, 2018
Terribly disappointing st. on behalf of Twitter. Both Brahminism & patriarchy are oppressive by nature, so why would Twitter's views not reflect giving space to marginalized voices? Calling pandering "impartial" is just a cop out preventing actual efforts to make this space equal
— Sandhya Ramesh (@sandygrains) November 20, 2018
Twitter wimps out. Pathetic. They ought to be ashamed https://t.co/dUIvE80yNf
— Mihir Sharma (@mihirssharma) November 20, 2018
No apology from Twitter CEO @jack yet. Clearly his last tweet of meditation over a dying phone isn’t helping at all. Neither did meeting HH Dalai Lama in India. ‘Smashing all Patriarchy’ is different from saying ‘Smashing Brahmanical Patriarchy’. Agree to the blunder and let go.
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) November 20, 2018
Abuses, threats, bullying etc are an everyday for us RWs. I've even been called a Paki spy due to my surname, my son has been targeted too how come @jack @TwitterIndia did not invite one of us ? Also from what I've seen mostly always Brahmins have been abused https://t.co/Pfzu4LvjFu
— Gita S. Kapoor (@GitaSKapoor) November 21, 2018
Complaint filed by Indian diaspora in US to the business council of US against Twitter CEO & Partner for unethical behaviour and action hurting particular community in India. Though in India this doesn't mean anything, if proved in US,Jack will stand for felony in US,paying heavy
— Dr. Sarmistha Dey -proud BAD Hindu (@DrSharmisthaDe) November 20, 2018
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