Feminism for all

April 14, 2017 19:14 PM Astha Subba


Recently I had an opportunity to be present at a program in Israel where seasoned female diplomats from Israel and abroad were the key speakers. Drawing on their experiences, they spoke about the challenges of being a professional in the field historically classified as a man’s job.

French Ambassador to Israel speaking on the event said that she has lost count of times when her husband has been mistaken for the ambassador or even after introducing herself and having a long conversation, she is asked where her ambassador is. After mansplaining and manspreading entering the lexicon, there probably should be word for phenomenon where people have hard time accepting the fact that women can and are in position of authority. Or wait, we have such word. It’s called sexism.

We cannot refute the fact that the world is still very sexist. We have females like Kellyanne Conway who misunderstands the word feminism as anti-male and Merriam Webster dictionary has to tweet the definition of feminism. We have men who jump out of their skin while being called feminist as if it’s a label for make-up shunning, bra-burning women who are ready to take offence at the slightest slight of women. Well, if someone believes men and women are equal and should be treated so, voila you are there mate. Recently I unfriended a guy on social network when I saw him supporting a trend #don’t talk about women rights when you are talking about equality.

I don’t know what women rights were women demanding that spurred my former friend to post the status, but being a father himself whose spouse is working in a highly competitive hospitality industry, I expected him to understand that while men and women should be treated equally, conditions exclusive to women like reproductive rights should be ensured. That’s not asking for special treatment. That is respecting law of nature and ensuring that women remain in workforce and keep on bringing the qualities that researches have concluded makes women-involved institutions outperform all-males, to the table.

I once had an ugly confrontation with a high ranking official who was complaining with other male colleagues, that he handles a department where majority of employees are women and there is not a single day where all of them are present, given that they are female and they always have their children falling sick. Well, he must have been born an adult as rest of us were born as child and often fell sick while growing up. There should be more fathers taking leave when their children are sick so women employees won’t be branded as the ones who are perennially taking leaves. Nurturing is not a quality exclusive to women and if anyone thinks otherwise well, they have bad dose of sexism.

Institutionalized sexism does not just hurt women, it hurts men as well. When I had my son and people started fawning over the little baby, the comments they started making about him were deeply disturbing.These were banal comments, not amounting much. In fact, people who made them didn’t give second thought. Apart from saying he is cute and adorable, some said ah he has small eyes, but he is a boy so it’s okay, boys just need to be strong and heathy, girls need to be pretty. A Mongolian child has small eyes, it’s his racial feature, and there is nothing ugly about monolid eyes. Second why do girls need to be pretty? Why can’t they just be strong and healthy? The pressure to fit into socially accepted idea of aesthetics and conforming to gender expectation are being put on children as soon as they are born, during the time when they don’t even know where and how they should relieve themselves.

Try as much staunch feminists deny, the reality is Gender Equality is achievable only when more men will accept and work towards gender parity. There are many men out there who believe in gender equality, take pride in calling themselves feminists, accept and respect the choices women make. And there still are men who believe women don’t deserve pay equal to men, are less intelligent than men, lack leadership skill and should always be guided by men in their lives. During my pregnancy, I had the kindest, gentlest bosses who were supportive and yet confident that I could do works assigned to me. However, I have heard from my female friends who were transferred from their divisions as soon as news of their pregnancy broke out as their bosses could not stand sight of women with “big belly”. Maternal profiling is a glaring problem that has affected not only women, but the big industrial nations like Japan is suffering while such profiling coupled with other women unfriendly policies hold back half of its nation.

On women’s day we will see women wishing each other empowerment and there will still be men out there who will make sour faces. But we need to accept and imbibe the fact that women friendly policies will not just empower and enable women, gender diversity works for offices and companies as diversity of thoughts result in well-rounded, informed decision making and better execution. Women need to stand up and rise to break the glass ceiling while more men must involve in promoting gender equality and do their share.I have a colleague who is anamazing father. When his children fall sick, he and his wife who works in another company, take leave on subsequent days “to keep our jobs safe” says he. We need more men like him.

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