18 March, 2008

Women = Dumb Barbies ????

Mommy has been rather unwell – OK – make that really unwell, since Saturday. Needless to say, Mommy decided to brave the little germs out with a self-proclaimed “What is a little bunch of bacteria. Hmmpfff. I’m going to beat these little germs.” Oh !! What a miscalculated thought that turned out to be. Come Sunday, Mommy’s throat was feeling like a piece of raw meat sizzling over hot coals. Come Monday, those “little germs” sure seemed to be gaining a rather large foothold on Mommy’s throat (which had begun to feel like there were way too many cactii growing there and wreaking havoc with their thorns like a multitude of times per second).

Feeling just about as chirpy as one would feel after having sat up two nights in a row with a fever, aching joints, eyes on fire and a pincushion throat, off trudged Mommy, to the doctor, yesterday morning.

The doctor’s office, this being the infamous month of March when ailments rule the roost, was unbelievable full. Especially the little babies and the little children there – my heart went out to them. Runny noses, red faces and throats bawling out at full lungpower because that is the only way they could express their discomfort. For a few minutes, forget about my own physical discomforts, I did.

The waiting time was rather long and I’d been waiting there for about 25 minutes when I saw this rather smug, cocky looking rooster strutting in as though he owned the place. Seconds after he plonked himself on one of the sofas, out came the Blackberry and he fiddled with that for a while. Quite apparently, he could not quite figure out what to do with it. He decided to call someone and proceeded to speak at a volume that made me wonder if he had an inbuilt foghorn in his vocal chords. Barack Obama should probably consider taking him onto his team, you know. This rooster could really make it worth his while. He could do what apparently comes naturally to him – shouting a whole load of crap at the top of his voice, and ever so effortlessly.

The topic moved on to the HK Stock Markets – it was difficult not to hear this guy – he was that loud. And on he goes “Arrey just last week I put in some money in the share market aur kal ko the market went down. Anyways I knew that the market was going to fall ….” Huh !!!??? “You knew the market was going to fall and that’s why you invested in the stock market, is it ?” I thought to myself. Oh !! To be in the presence of an Einstein of this caliber is something so extraordinary. It could actually bring tears to ones eyes.

Things were beginning to get interesting. Apparently this guy wanted the person on the other end of the phone to pick up some stocks. And then this guy starts to bellow with laughter “Arrey yaar – you discuss all this with your wife ? Stock markets – you discuss them with women ? You must be out of your mind yaar. Never – I repeat – never ever involve women in matters relating to finance or business or stocks or anything like that. They just don’t have the guts for it you know. They’re just not made for stuff like that. I mean, women – chahhh – you give them stocks to handle and the market goes up just that little bit and they’d say lets sell lets sell and make what little money we can and get out of here. That’s women for you. Arrey dum nahin hoti unme (translated as women just aren’t gutsy). They’re dumb blondes.”

Ooooooooooo ………………..

Does this rooster even have an idea about the number of women who are finance professionals ?(or for that matter - in the many different fields that exist today - be it marketing, be it sales, be it accounting, be it medicine, be it journalism, be it the armed forces .... the list is endless) Oh – for all you know – the banker who could be handling his account or his investment portfolio (if he knows the meaning of that term) could be a woman, after all. And if it is one with an excellent track record, is he going to say “what are you doing working in the finance sector, babe ?” or is he just going to thanks his stars (and his banker, of course) for the multiples in which his account is growing.

A few weeks back, while travelling back home in the bus, there were these two guys who were talking about a lot of things – right from why they thought Hilary Clinton should not even run for Presidency because a woman President was something they thought was unthinkable – something they thought did not bode well for the future ..... Then the discussion moved on to how women journalists are treated much more favorably as compared to their male counterparts in that women journalists are not sent off to areas where there is a riot or a war going on while men go out there on the war front to file in their reports.
What kind of misguided notions these are ?
Quite apparently, these guys had their own trading businesses and both were emphatically of the opinion that women should be kept as far away from the business as possible. “They are far better off going to the beauty salon and having their kitty parties” said one. To which the other replied “What else can they do anyways ?”. The underlying sentiment was very clear.

I definitely don’t mean to say that all men think this way. Most definitely not. Just because one keeps coming across a strata of the male population which happens to think this way does not mean that all men think that way. So the general question that comes to my mind is “Why Generalise when it comes to women ?”

I, for one, have never been a hardcore feminist but the fact remains that to see people totally discounting females as “good for nothing other than talking shop and attending kitty parties” and to classify women as “Dumb Barbies or Dumb Blondes” is totally out of line.

Females are still discriminated against in almost all parts of the world – be it open or latent. Female foeticide is quite common in many countries even today. In China, there are numerous instances of newborn female babies being wrapped up or trundled into garbage bags and left to die in garbage cans. There are numerous instances of newborn babies being put to death immediately after they’re born – just because they carry the XX chromosome and not the more widely sought after and glorified XY chromosome.

Many a times, for the same task performed, women are paid far less and reap fewer benefits from their work than do their male counterparts. Like The Late Dr. Charlotte Whitton (who was the first woman mayor of Ottawa) put it so well when she said “Whatever women do they must do it twice as well as men to be thought half as good …”.

It has always been said that education is the key, is the tool that can help break this attitude of gender discrimination. I remember reading an article which said educated women are essential to ending Gender Bias. But has education really gone a long way in breaking this mould ? These guys who were heard equating women with Dumb Barbies are also educated. What then, brings about such attitudes ?

I would say that there is more to it that just school and college education. Some values are instilled by culture and society and more importantly, by the immediate family when children are in their formative years.

The Indian society, for example, is a paternalistic one – except in a few states like Kerala where the society is maternalistic. In many families mothers do not insist that the boys in the family even do something as simple as take their plates or cups or bowls away and put them for washing, after a meal. Eventually it becomes a habit and the boys just don’t deem it necessary to do their share of these simple chores.

A lot many people are of the opinion that girls should be neat and prim and proper while it is perfectly alright for boys to go around making a mess of the house, trashing stuff and most importantly, being expected not to clean up after the mess they create. “Boys will be boys” is the excuse that is oft proferred. But this kind of an excuse just does not cut it. These are the kind of attitudes that lay the foundation for something more far reaching in the future. When children grow up with a distinct idea of “girl’s work” or “boy’s work” and when that distinction is made and reinforced right from early childhood, these core values do, to a great extent, entrench themselves in the psyche of the child. And breaking out of that mould requires that much more of an effort on the part of the child later on in life.

Again, I’m not saying that it is impossible for guys to break out of the mould in which they have been brought up. It very much is. I, for one, don’t have to look very far. Vic is very broadminded and not because he was brought up that way. The family’s outlook was extremely traditional during his childhood years too. But eventually, as he grew up his attitudes became a lot more open and broadminded in his quest to find his own equation. So it definitely happens if men are prepared to go those extra miles in breaking out of stereotypes established by family and society, especially paternalistic societies.
But again, with a ready made comfort zone offered by a society which fully endorses gender stereotypes, men might just about choose to rest on their laurels of being "a man" rather than put in all that extra effort in seeking an equal relationship.

Overall, I guess a very good option is not to set a “gender mould” – in terms of “this is what girls do and only girls do” and “these are things only boys do” – so to speak. If kids grow up in an environment that does not reinforce gender stereotypes, it would make it easier for the kids to explore possibilities or avenues which they would not know existed had gender stereotypes been enforced at full blast.

Oh and by the way, coming back to "Mr. Cocky looking Rooster with a built in Foghorn", the funny thing is this – despite all his “not so very complimentary” opinions about women, the doctor whom he had come in to consult yesterday is very much a lady.

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7 voice(s) said so:

~nm said...

Such pigs still exist! I don't know if I should laugh at their stupid vanity or should I just ignore them as they don't deserve any precious time of mine!

But the last line was too good! How I wish I was there and would have asked him if he is sure he wants to show to this doc because she is a "Lady!"? :P

~nm said...

And hey..how are you feeling now? better? Try to wrap something around your next to keep it warm. It really helps!

karmickids said...

You know Gauri, am embarassed to say that the husband tries hell and highwater to get me interested in stocks and investing and following the market, and I just nod sagely. Its just a me thing. I would probably be better at anything that didnt involve numbers...

And hope that throat is fine, and you're doing your warmwater gargling and such like.

Altoid said...

To Kiran's point, I hate doing my finances too, and find stocks and investing SUCH a chore. If I had a choice, I'd let someone else do it for me. That isnt to say, that if its an absolute necessity, I will not give it my best and do reasonably well. Its about one's attitude to do one's best always. In fact these days I am beginning to think, home finance should be a mandatory course for boys and girls as part of the school curriculum. Its a must have for everyone and its surprising none of us are equipped with the basics, most of what we know is what we learn from our parents, peers, self-induced research and reading.

That apart, you're right, gender stereotyping is instilled by the environs that one grows up in. Not anything education promotes or dispels.

I love Lucy said...

I was down with the darn flu myself and hated every minute of it.
Hope you are feeling better now.
And the MCP thing,it is all the more apparent when the men in the family are the complete opposite.So when I do encounter such specimens at work, it makes me so angry that I just wont know how to react to them.

dipali said...

Lovely post, Gauri:)
Hope you are better now.
The MCP having to visit a lady doc was so cool!
But really, some attitudes are really deep-seated among a whole lot of people, and changing very very slowly.

Trading Goddess said...

Excellent post! Thank you for making my day!