Tag Archives: BreakingStereotypes

Gender Stereotypes at Work….Yes, They Still Exist!!

Random thoughts a few days back led me to thinking how far we have come as a society in terms of gender equality in the workplace. Where once we had to rebel for equal pay irrespective of gender or even women’s rights to enter the work force, today, men and women enjoy equal opportunities, equal pay and equal rights to their safety. Women are receiving increasing durations of maternity leave. Both men and women are given flexible work timings, paternity leave is in place for new fathers…. Thanks to policies by the government and the companies alike, men and women are now beginning to share an equal stature, atleast in the professional sphere.

So…are we good then? We seem to have achieved all we set out to….or have we? HR policies, Acts are great, truly. But…what about the mindset? Over the years, I have realized that gender stereotypes still very much exist in our professional environments, albeit in a subtle manner. No longer do you hear outright opinions of what men and women “should” do. Now though, views are put across with the famous tag that people hide behind – “Just Kidding!”. Snide remarks, sniggers behind the back may have replaced on-your-face comments, but it only goes on to show that the very stereotypes we were trying to throw out the window have only been hidden out of sight.

I still remember when a year back a colleague of mine took a good 7 days off for paternity leave. Turned out he had handed himself over on a platter to be the butt of all office jokes! Ranging from “Did even the mother need as much leave as you took?” to “Are you sure you are ready to come back just yet?”, the poor chap wasn’t spared. During an induction session in my company, when the HR was citing the parental leave policies, the proportion of maternity (26 weeks) to paternity leave (5 days) was so outrageous that even the HR couldn’t stop a giggle. “Well, none of the men has ever approached me to get his leaves extended, so 5 days it is!” she ventured. Isn’t too hard to imagine why!

A very common concern most men in my profession have is how a woman would manage her household chores if she worked this hard in office. Best not take her on board in the first place. Why stress her out? Married & pregnant women are considered a liability, even in this day and age. At the end of a long day at work, a definite question coming my way would always be the “So, what are you cooking for your husband tonight?”! On days when I buy lunch at the cafeteria, I am often asked by men eating from dabbas cooked and packed by their wives, with all the sympathy they can muster, “No dabba today?”. Colleagues with a great sense of humour look for content and inspiration for their jokes from my lifestyle – The girl who “makes” her husband cook and clean or the girl who works so hard she has no time to “feed” her husband good food. It is all in jest, of course, they clarify! Every joke though carries that ounce of stereotypical mindset that we are yet to shed. For me, it was alarming, in the least, to realise that men I worked with still thought the right place for a woman to be was at the table, with piping hot food ready when they got back home tired from a long day at work! Matters of the kitchen/household are supposedly a woman’s monopoly even today.

Expectations from men and women too vary accordingly. A woman who leaves early for home is given glances of understanding (or resigned acceptance, or even a ‘This is why I didn’t want to hire her’ shake of the head, whichever you prefer) – she has a house to take care of after all. A man on the other hand has many hurdles to cross if he wants to have a life beyond the office walls. Bachelors are expected to “always be available” because they have “nothing better to do”. Married men of course have their “wives taking care of things”. So men, in general, are supposed to live their lives glued to the desks. I remember a colleague who strictly adhered to office timings by reaching office at 8:30 am sharp and leaving at 6:30 PM. He was into blogging every morning and cooking every night and was hell bent on making time for his passions. He soon had to leave the company because he did not meet the management’s expectations.

An acquaintance of mine had once written an article on how it is important for mothers to find time for themselves apart from their children every once in a while. This, only to have her colleague mocking her during lunch and proudly sharing how he would never allow his wife to shirk off her duties like that…she wouldn’t even take a step out without his consent. Mothers who have to take a day off when their children fall sick or women who stay home because the first day of periods is killing them are given glances of disgust (why work at all, when you cannot manage), making them feel guilty of availing the leaves that are in fact rightfully theirs to avail. Fathers are in for worse, looking after the kid while the mother is off attending a meeting, what a spineless fellow! I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard that a woman was promoted to keep to the company’s policy on “diversity”, belittling what was her due in no time!

Even today, men and women are not given the right to follow a balanced lifestyle, in the perceptions of their coworkers. Men are still burdened with living upto the societal standards of workaholism that masculinity demands. Women are still struggling to break free of the opinions chaining them to the confines of their home. And what’s really sad is that these perceptions are so ingrained in people’s minds that more often than not, their reactions are unintentional! Perceptions are skewed. Still. We have a long way to go to convince people that gender or marital status cannot be the criterion to measure someone’s productivity at work. Nor can it define a person’s priorities at home or in the office. And while this cannot happen overnight, our insistence to follow our principles in the workplace and live by example, may atleast inspire the people on the other end of the spectrum to give our perceptions a try.

Rusted Chains Calling Out

You Say When I Bleed.

Don’t touch us. Your presence – An incarnation of Lakshmi one day and Durga the next. The harbinger of ill fate today.

Don’t step into our kitchens. Your food – Brimming with heavenly deliciousness each day. Poison to our hearts today.

Don’t enter our temples. Your prayers – The anchor for our lives every day. The murk in our sacred waters today.

Don’t come to our last rites. Your love – Spreading the sunshine of happiness. A curse to eternal damnation today.

 

I Bled.

I bled and I touched. You called my presence your lucky charm.

I bled and I cooked. You applauded me and licked your fingers clean.

I bled and I prayed. You praised my piousness.

I bled and I loved. You reveled in my affection.

I bled and I hid it. You lived. You liked. You found nothing wrong.

 

Tell Me Then.

My womb – revered when carrying a baby, yet unclean when preparing for one. WHY?

My mind – a disciple of reasoning, still looking for answers from you who think I’m wrong. WHEN?

My world – uncontaminated and healthy, notwithstanding my breaking the rusted chains of blind customs. HOW?

 

I wait with an open heart and listen with an eager mind, dear world.

Explain to me your ways and I shall comply.

Convince my mind and I shall not defy.

But if you fail,

Accept I have proven you wrong all my life, and send a promise my way.

A promise – to let go of what we cannot answer.

A promise – to ask a Why before we follow.

A promise – to keep alive in us, the essence of our past but not the past itself!

Badrinath Ki Dulhania – A movie of the times, in the guise of a masala flick!

When my husband said he wanted to watch this movie, I actually looked down upon him…how can you want to watch such no-brainer movies, I said. The trailers had made it look like this movie would help Varun Dhawan carry forward his father’s legacy of commercial rom-coms of the 90s with no sense whatsoever and I went to watch this film as a skeptic! But I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Badrinath ki Dulhania is a movie that cleverly sends across socially relevant messages while attempting to retain its commercial viability. The story line is pretty basic. Badri, the son of a rich man in Jhansi, is attracted to Vaidehi, the younger daughter of a middle-class household in Kota. Thanks to his family heritage Badri considers himself a valuable catch for any girl. He decides that the best way to take things forward would be to ask the parents to discuss the rishta. Unfortunately for him, Vaidehi turns out to be a rebel who wants to make her place in this world and find herself a job , marriage being the last thing on her mind. Things go awry and the relationship doesn’t work out leaving Badri’s father fuming, wanting to “teach Vaidehi  a lesson for all girls to remember”. A hurt and angry Badri sets out for revenge, but as is pretty evident from the name, he gets his dulhaniya in the end.

Here are some moments where this movie, with a seemingly common story, scores:

  1. Right from the very start, the patriarchal customs & thoughts prevelant in our society are discussed. So ‘beta hua toh keemti laddoo and beti hui toh peda’ is the norm. Badri’s mummy is a mute spectator, whose name at one point is mentioned by Badri as ‘Mummy Bansal’, a woman without an identity. Girls’ parents are always under ‘pressure’ and ‘dowry toh banta h’. And Badri’s father in law is proud of his elder daughter in law who is ‘very qualified’ yet never talks of ‘faltu’ things like doing a job. The facts are just placed before the audience…no preachy stuff…with the hope that they understand the sarcasm behind these dialogues.
  2. Throughout the movie, Vaidehi’s family is depicted as extremely loving and yet when it comes to marriage they have very traditional views – a contradiction that most girls in our country face. So the daughter could study all she wanted, but once she had reached ‘marriageable age’ and her father ‘was to retire in 2 years’, there was no alternative but to get her married off as ‘after 30 finding options is difficult’. The girl’s dreams are conveniently sidelined as her sister explains that she must ‘learn to be happy with whatever she has in front of her as the future was anyway uncertain’. Vaidehi however has an undying spirit to reach out for the stars, even if that means she must travel the distance alone.
  3. There’s finally a scene of male molestation in a commercial Hindi flick, and that itself is commendable. Yes, the scene could have been more sensitive, but atleast this is an acknowledgement of the possibility of men being vulnerable and molested, and that too in front of a wide audience. The icing on the cake is that Vaidehi saves him….Get the point already, people!
  4. The ladies are the hero(in)es! Badri has no job to boast off, riding on his father’s fame while Vaidehi earns well, saving up to get her father out of his debts. Urmila (Badri’s Bhabhi) who was a topper in college, is the brains behind her husband’s business expansions. So basically the girls rock ?

<<Slight spoiler alert for point 5, skip if you want!!>>

  1. Lastly, I think very importantly the movie helps the men understand ‘why feminism’. We have often seen that although the Hero himself understands the girl’s aspirations, it’s his family who must be convinced to give up on their archaic traditions. In this movie, however, what’s beautiful is the hero’s journey from thinking ‘what could a girl do with her life but marry’ and stalking her all over even if that meant jeopardizing her career to believing in ‘you needn’t be the son of the house, you are a pretty awesome daughter’ and ‘I wish my Bhabhi hadn’t got married, she could have achieved so much’! I loved the fact that Badri, a guy with inbuilt patriarchal thoughts owing to his upbringing, sheds them as he observes Vaidehi work hard at her dreams and actually gets inspired by her.

All in all, this is a good movie, albeit with its flaws(an over dramatic ending included), that tries to subtly pass messages that are very relevant to today’s society. Now the rest is upto the audience. You can choose to enjoy the movie for what it looks on the exterior…a regular masala flick with some great songs and an age-old love story…or you can choose to look at the finer nuances and try understanding the message they are trying to send you.

My Rating : 3.5

What we women are doing wrong even as we fight for Feminism!

This post has been published on womensweb.in. You can find the piece at the following link :  http://www.womensweb.in/2017/02/fight-for-feminism-what-we-are-doing-wrong/

I was in a theatre a few months back when a documentary caught my eye, and has been disturbing me ever since. It was supposedly an attempt to make one understand the plight of women.So, It depicted how women toil in the kitchen and serve the husband who is already waiting at the dinner table, yet secretly, they dream of sitting at the table while the husband toils in the kitchen and serves her the food. And I thought, wouldn’t it have passed a more correct message if it showed that the man entered the kitchen too, worked alongside his wife and they both shared a happy meal together?

It struck me then, THIS is what’s wrong with the popular concept of feminism. THIS is what people think the women of today want….to give up all work, sit down as royals, and give men a taste of what it feels like to be a woman. The ad must have been seen by a hundred others apart from me and it feels sad to know that all of them went back with a twisted concept of feminism ingrained in their minds. I’m sure the intention of the ad had been to further the cause of women empowerment. But sadly, this isn’t the kind of empowerment women should or would want.

Feminism has ALWAYS been about equality, not about turning the tables on men and sitting back and enjoying watching them struggle and saying “See this is what we go through”.

This event set me thinking….Did all the women in the theatre inwardly cringe at the ad as I had done? Or had it been just me? With these thoughts in mind, I took to analysing how much the women of today actually understood feminism. As I discussed more with people around me,

I realised, that while women tend to remember the ‘women’s rights’ aspect of feminism, the core principle of ‘equality’ is often forgotten!

For example, on the one hand women shout out slogans for equality and feminism and on the other hand they don’t want to let go of all the ‘benefits’ or ‘considerations’ they receive as a woman in today’s society, leaving the men fuming and calling us hypocrites. I thus also realised, that most of the women in the audience that day in the theatre, would have thought that the ad was justified…that the wife deserved the right to sit back and enjoy the meal being served, while the husband who was now in her place drew no sympathy!!

Thus my conclusion: Change begins at home, and if we want the men to understand feminism better, we women must take the onus of living the philosophy of feminism in our everyday lives! Here is a small list, some pointers if you may, of the things I have observed women do, in fact unknowingly several times, that is not aligned with the concept of Feminism:

  1. Let me go ahead, I am a woman!

Many a time I have seen women break queues and move ahead using the excuse of being delicate creatures who can’t bear standing in the hot sun. I understand women sometimes have issues that entitle them for some slack. But why otherwise? Don’t use this age old concept of “ladies first” to weasel your way out of a situation while men struggle it out honestly.

  1. I shall let you have the honour of paying!

This is especially true of working women. If you want men to not treat you as “women” at the workplace, carry the same thought outside as well. Earning as much a man, but expecting him to pay each time you go out is completely unfair. With the demand for equal pay, comes the responsibility of equal expense.

  1. My husband has no right to demand I work!

I have been appalled several times that women take offence when their husbands ask them to work and help with the financial situation. Many well educated women, even in this day and age, consider the post-marriage period of their lives as an ‘option’ to stay at home if they so wish. In fact, what’s even more blasphemous is women themselves consider a man who ‘cannot earn enough to support her’ as ‘inadequate’. This is so sad. When in today’s world, we expect men to take care of the home & children as an equal partner, then what is wrong of a man to expect his wife to help him financially?

  1. No late shifts please, I’m a woman!

Well if you can’t share the burden at work, don’t expect to be treated equally. Yes, I agree that women are responsible for their own safety. But today’s jobs provide ample number of flexibilities that women can enjoy so that their work isn’t affected. So instead of saying a no, how about asking them for options. For example, can I do the night shift from home? Or… Can I be assigned a shift such that I can go back home early morning when there’s daylight? Or…can someone trustworthy from the team drop me back? Yes, we women are weaker in physical strength when compared to men, and we always need to be cautious. But don’t use it as an excuse all the time. The men in your team work equally hard, probably have wives and families they need to get back to or spend weekends with. Share their burden whenever possible.

  1. A man must know his manners!

Men at my work place don’t hold doors for me. My chair is not held while I make myself comfortable. Nor do I hear “after you”. One may argue..”these are manners”. Yes, but from which era? An era which deemed women were “ladies” to be “taken care of”, who were to be “guarded and protected” by the chivalrous men!! No, I don’t say that men who do it are wrong. If a man thinks he wants to do it for me, that’s sweet. But let’s not dismiss men who do not do it as “ungentlemanly” (Yes, I have seen this happening). As I mentioned above, if you scream for equality in all spheres then don’t demand “courtesies” as your birth right as a woman.

  1. A Man must be Manly!

This, in my opinion, is the worst of them all. Women, even today, even while demanding a change in the definition of ‘being a woman’, refuse to change their definition of ‘being a man’. If a lady’s husband works at home while she’s out working, the poor guy is mocked. If a man goes to a parlour, that defies our views of the right things a man should do. Men who cook lunch-dabbas in the morning for themselves and the wives are sniggered at….by women!! If a woman can ask for the right to live by her choice, why isn’t the same to be granted to a man?!

Ramchandra Guha had written an article a few days back of 11 courageous women who had sent Gandhi a letter way back in 1939. In the letter, these women explained to him as to why he was wrong in making the statement that “The modern girl dresses..to attract attention”. I read that article and realised how many men & women generation after generation have been fighting for our cause…fighting to get us the rights, privileges, honour we have always seen only men enjoy. And today, we are so close to achieving that. But what I fear is that in the process of making sure we get our rights, are we committing the same injustices that our gender has been facing all along?

Are we women too becoming insensitive to the opposite gender…a quality we have always associated with a Patriarchal society?

Are we women forgetting that the true meaning of Feminism lies in equality? Feminism isn’t about taking a patriarchal society and turning it inside out into a matriarchal one! It’s about creating a beautiful world of equality for all lives, whether of men or women!

We women have a huge task ahead of us….of convincing the society of the need for Feminism for its own betterment. But while we gear up to shove the boulder, let’s not ignore the pebbles. And as we fight and struggle with the society, let’s step back for a moment, stop ourselves and analyse if WE women are TRULY following the SPIRIT OF EQUALITY in our daily lives? To usher in a new era, let us first rid ourselves of the stereotypes in our own minds. Small changes at our end can change the outlook of people around us, can make them respect us for what we ask and not mock us for what we get!