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Never tolerate sexism and objectification from your professors or employers, your abilities and talents invalidated because you’re a girl, says this author.
“Please shift to the backseat, I am happily married.” Our physics professor called out to my partner in the middle of a lecture. His face lit up with a scoff at his own below the belt joke while the rest of us hung our heads in shame. The shame of having heard something so blasphemous and being unable to help one of our own. And what was she insulted for? Wearing a sleeveless top and leggings.
When I narrate this incident, you might feel I’m referring to something from another era, in a conservative environment. Trust me, I’m not.
“That’s because you wore western outfits my dear. He doesn’t like girls in modern attire, so just wear salwar kameez, don’t argue, keep your head bowed when you speak to him and you will be fine. Also, make sure they don’t spot you getting close to a boy, they wouldn’t rest without a taunt.” Back in the hostel, our seniors remarked.
What was all that, we couldn’t believe our ears. Progressive India, in the twenty first century, and such out-dated views. But turned out, their advice came from experience.
I belonged to a particular branch of engineering which saw ninety percent admissions from boys and pretty less from girls. We were hardly four girls in our class and almost every day we were made to understand what huge misfits we were. Our male classmates were very cooperative, kind and encouraging. The jibes came from the very people who were meant to encourage us, some of our professors. There was this man who wouldn’t let go off a single opportunity to tell us how we had snatched a deserving boy’s seat thanks to the reservation for women in education.
When we got placed in the final year, we distributed the customary pedas to our professors and this particular person added a special comment with his congratulations. “Chalo, you people can do something more than your usual giggling and gossip.”
Ours is definitely not an isolated incident, we recently had a discussion on our Whatsapp group and somehow the conversation drifted to the challenges we faced during graduation and one of my friends happened to mention how, in spite of being eligible, a top officer at a reputed institution refused to take her group for project guidance because he preferred boys, he declared brazenly.
Coming to think of it, every individual responsible for this sexist behaviour was pretty well educated. They say education is the answer to many social issues, but certainly not for misogyny.
As I pen down this article today, I wonder why we never reacted. In place of complaining to the higher authority, we kept silent. Worse still, we never mentioned any of this to our parents, worried they would arrive in college and put up a fight. Perhaps we were a bit too young, worried about the repercussions, our marks, their wrath…
Often I’ve been tempted to shoot, “Tumhare ghar Beti nahi hai kya?” (don’t you have daughters?) on these peoples’ faces and I still wonder how they treat their daughters, but at least I know what I should be telling my daughter.
Never To Tolerate This Kind of Nonsense. Never Be Another Me.
Image source: YouTube
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