Days after a strange and rather uncalled for Twitter battle with a male politician, Smriti Irani surprised us again on Thursday.

Recently, she 'made' Bihar's education minister Ashok Choudhary apologise – okay, sort of apologise – for addressing her as 'dear' on Twitter, which most thought was a perfectly harmless, respectable way to address a woman.

 

Social media didn't take very kindly to the face-off and slammed Irani for her over-reaction. And that seemed to be the end of it. 

But on Thursday, Irani 'shut up' her critics. She did it with a long, heartfelt Facebook post that gave us a peek into her remarkable journey from working at a McDonald's to a Union minister. 

It was a moving, inspiring post. But then I read it again -- this time I tried to grasp the point that Irani was really trying to make.

Irani started with how her opponents used the Twitter battle to turn her into a hashtag, despite "their neta's public apology". But that's not a fair accusation. She became a trend more for her pointless outburst than the collective conspiracy of an army of opponents trying to bring her down.

In her post, Irani went on to raise a very pertinent point about the need for women to speak up and confront. When she was a young woman, she would be told, like most of us were, "if accosted by a boy or a bunch of them, don’t look up and keep walking straight." Why? Because "It is not worth it. Nuksaan tumhara hoga , ladke ka kuch nahi bigadega” (you will lose out, the boy will remain unscathed), was the logic, as Smriti writes in the post.

She was a rebel, she says, and remains one even now.

"Why not respond? Why zip it?" she asks in the post. And fairly so.

But if the context is her confrontation on Twitter with Choudhary, it's hard to buy this argument. All ministers from rival parties take mindless potshots at each other and Choudhary did exactly that. Irani hit back, but made it out to be a battle against sexism. And to most of those who tracked it, it wasn't.

Irani in her post writes about society's double-speak because the same people "who on every podium exalt the right of women to speak their mind" now tell her to zip it.

"Ignore the trolls no matter how high they serve in their political systems," people now tell her.

No, minister. When they tell you not to speak your mind, they are also doing it for reasons other than pinning you down as a woman. Of all women ministers on social media – and there are many – why is it that you are perhaps trolled the most? Because no one else has given us the "main apna sar kalam karke apke kadamo me rakh dungi" theatrics in the parliament. No one gives us as many Twitter spats as you do. No one else tried to pass off a certification as a degree from a prestigious 'foreign' university .

In her post after listing a series of tasks she has completed as HRD minister, Irani concluded by giving a message to all the women out there:

"So to those girls walking with their heads down, look up and speak up; those women cracking the whip in their offices and asking their counterparts to finish the work assigned in the time frame prescribed, lead on. As for me, next time you blog – remember the sagely advice given when you joined politics, till you don’t have your own coterie of journalists, don’t expect support to come pouring in through editorials “kyunki nuksaan tumhara hoga unka kuch nahi bigdega”

Dear minister, no one can take away from you the credit for all the hard work you have done. But if this post is your way of taking on the patriarchy prevalent in our society and in our political system – which I have no doubt it is – you just got the timing and the reasoning horribly wrong. 

The world applauded you when you beautifully took on Aaj Tak's political editor Ashok Singhal for his tasteless remark. At the time, almost everyone stood by you, feminist or not.

But here, it seems like you are using a non-issue to perhaps present yourself as a feminist icon. Honestly, it seems more like a case of barking up the wrong tree.

Speaking up is great, but at times, silence is golden. And that can be just as empowering and perhaps classier.