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Even supposedly ‘innocuous’ remarks about how “life is easier for a pretty woman” shows internalised misogyny, and negates the hard work of women.
I was recently part of a literary panel, discussing books, writing, and much more. At some point we were all trying to explain to the audience that writing, from conceptualisation, right up till promoting, involved a lot of dedication and hardwork.
One of the panellists then decided to smirk and mention that life was always easier for women writers with a pretty face. Then everyone laughed good-naturedly and I was possibly expected to bat my eyelids at the compliment and titter indulgently.
I was appalled that the platform had been used to make such a senseless and arbitrary statement. Much to their surprise, I turned around and politely told them off, explaining why the statement made no sense and how there was no correlation between hard work, publishing, selling books, and just being a pretty face. Of-course they aren’t the bad guys and looked so apologetic later that I almost felt bad, but the aftertaste remained.
Is an intentional wound more painful or the one that’s caused a bit unwittingly? The jury is still out on this one but the fact remains. It results in discomfort and pain.
Let me tell you why discussing this analogy was important for this piece. The blatant, malicious, egotistical, sexist tendencies that prevail in many walks of life are already a point of conversation, debate, and revolt in society these days. But what about the veiled comments?
The bias comes from such habitual conditioning, that one wouldn’t be able to tell between what is acceptable vs what is insensitive. And I’ve seen this happen across genders.
This incident made me think of the numerous situations when I’ve heard a callous and stray comment from men (and sometimes women as well) where the attack is mild, even unintentional at times, but does the same damage.
Don’t run like a girl, don’t cry like a girl, ‘Master’ class (as an author friend pointed out) ‘Man’kind, rituals, ceremonies, nomenclatures, societal norms, you’ll see them everywhere. I call it ‘bleached’ patriarchy. It’s mild, might not be pre-meditated, but burns with the same intensity.
In that one moment on the panel discussion, that gentleman took away all the hard work that thousands before me and many like me have put in, insinuating that we sit on our pretty behinds, living some privileged and entitled life, irrespective of competence and capabilities.
I’ve seen it in several professions as well. Where without making it a conversation point, certain roles are pre-identified for women. The more appropriate one will be HR, or secretaries or PR while the rest of the organisation is a veritable sausage fest. Of-course, no one is ‘intentionally’ laying out these policies so no one is to blame, correct?
I know I can’t take up arms for all of women kind. But I am equipped with a reasoning and objective mind, a heart that is filled with passion and resilience and a mouth that can hold its own with clarity and without fear. I might not be able to change the world at one go, but I’ve promised myself that whenever and wherever I see this under-the-radar discrimination or bias, I will call it out and deal with it, with patience, with conversations and with facts. So help me god!
Image source: YouTube
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