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The everyday struggle of the 21st-century Indian woman

Sanjana Ray
12th Sep 2016
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We live in a society that prides itself on being able to replicate the ‘first world mannerisms’ in the workplace. We write enlightened articles on women becoming steadfastly empowered today. But we also discriminate like there’s no tomorrow.

Do you want to know the real story of what it’s like being a ‘strong, confident woman’ in the 21st century? Do you know what it feels like to be objectified in every single stance of your life? How about you step into our shoes and find out?

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It starts from the way we dress. Nothing too body-hugging, but nothing too oversized. We can’t have the skirts hugging our behinds, or our blouses accentuating our chests because we don’t want to distract our male counterparts now, do we? When we rush to find the auto to work, we watch in dismay as the ‘gentleman’ with the leather briefcase slides past us and gets in – because obviously, him needing to get to work is more important. Sometimes, we get lucky and the gentleman ‘offers’ us the auto we called for instead, trotting off to celebrate his good deed for the day.

When we’re in the rickshaw, we watch a car overtake us and speed off, much to the wrath of our already-frustrated auto driver who peers out of the side of his auto and says the casual, “Hogai na, mem sahib chala rahi thi.” As we’re reeling over this offhanded obtuse statement made from a two-second derivation, we reach the gates of hell – office.

To put it mildly, from the minute we walk in to the minute we scamper out of the same gates, we are waging a war, a war against gender discrimination. From offhand comments about what we got everyone for tiffin (presuming we should know how to cook), to cringing through ‘non-offensive’ sexist comments about women belonging in the kitchen, to being called a ‘feminazi’ when we refute them. To working extra hours and shifts to prove that we are meant to be here and occupy this desk, only to see our male counterparts be paid double and receive the project anyway because they can’t be ‘influenced’. To being stereotyped as a ‘typical woman’ when we get the numbers wrong once in a blue-moon or when we offend the male ego by offering to help them do their work.

When we do finally get a promotion or a public nod of approval for our hard work, it’s naturally assumed that we’re having a ‘thing’ with our boss. Or, if we get close to a male co-worker, we’re trying to ‘use’ them to serve our means and do our work. If we have three drinks at the office party that witnesses five raging alcoholics from the sales department who have taken off their ties and are showing off their ‘bhangra’ moves, somehow we’re still the ones judged on a Monday morning.

Well, we’re exhausted. Exhausted of being discriminated against, just because we’re women. You can say you don’t do it, you can say your friends don’t either, but discrimination comes in many forms. It could even be through that ‘my girlfriend is such a clingy drag’ meme you posted on Facebook.

The good news is we’ve learned to ‘take it like a woman’ and survive in this patriarchal world of male dominance and gender discrimination.

When the brief-cased man slides in the auto we flagged down, we yell and make him get off because it’s ours. When the auto-walla passes a comment at women being natural bad drivers, we lecture his ear off till he is compelled to drive faster and drop us off. When we walk into office and we’re asked what we’ve cooked for our darling co-workers, we turn around and ask them what they’ve made for us instead, and when they stutter at the change of pace, we bring our ‘simple’ conversation to the attention of the office at large and ask them point-blank why they assume that we’ll be the ones cooking their meals. When we’re called ‘feminazis’ as a consequence, we will remind them about what being a ‘Nazi’ really means and even give them a crash-course on Hitler’s ‘finest’ moments. When we get our numbers wrong and get stereotyped, we’ll hot-drop names like Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin. When they get the projects that we deserve, we will calmly confront the boss in his cubicle and make him realise that he is a chauvinist donkey and demand it back. Finally, when we get our promotions and we’re accused of favouring our boss, we’ll turn around and ask them, “So what did you have to do to get your job then?”

Call us feminazis, call us female radicals, we don’t care. We have been the victims of gender discrimination for as long as we can remember and we’ve had it! It’s our time to fight back. So, gear up!

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