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A Politician Or A Dance Guru, As A Woman, Your Gender And Looks Will Always Precede Your Work!

Posted: September 15, 2020

No matter where they are, women need to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. When will we stop judging them on the basis of their looks and clothes?

I have been watching the re-runs of a dance reality show on an OTT platform since there isn’t a lot of interesting new content to view. Strangely, it is an entertainment show that reinstates a strong view of the professional world – that women must work harder to be taken seriously, professionally. 

In the name of entertainment, the sole woman judge on the show gets flirted with, not just by the host, but also by her own students. While she focuses on training her students on dance forms and techniques, she gets complimented by them on her looks. This reinstates another important aspect of the corporate world – Looks and gender precede your work, if you are a woman.

No matter, where we are, we are judged for our looks

This isn’t specific to a nation or a culture though. A Japanese friend of mine once told me that even when applying for jobs in their country, women candidates have to attach their profile pictures.

Even in the US, we know how female political candidates are not spared either. The way they look and dress is commented on more, rather than what they have to say or what they represent. Kamala Harris is the latest to join that tribe.

I remember an incident from a decade or so ago, when I was still a young journalist. A senior male journalist from a competing news paper commented on why I got access to the ‘B-School’s Dean’s chamber.’

Instead of complimenting me on getting the interview, his years of experience didn’t help him discard his insecurities against a newbie. As a fresher then I was too naïve to speak up. Like a number of us, I ignored it and walked away.

We are responsible for what the society has become

Again, this conditioning isn’t just the reflection of men’s thoughts. Women, too, in many ways, are quite judgemental. Often, instead of encouraging other women, we tend to pull each other down.

There is a sense of competitiveness that tugs us back from letting others succeed. We start believing that others’ success reflects our failures. Thus, it takes repeated reminders in our mind-space that, as women, we need to lift each other up. We are equally responsible for what the society has become. And changing it, is in our hands and for our betterment.

Unfortunately, the society’s focus on looks of girls/women is so deeply set that even kids are introduced to it early on. Female children are forced to get their ears pierced, in the name of beauty. Bangles, anklets, pretty dresses and hair accessories are bought for them to meet our desires of dolling them up.

We can change the conditioning by making small changes at home

What if we made small changes at home to change this conditioning? And what if girls could take a call on whether they want to pierce their ears or not? What if we dressed them up in comfortable pants and t-shirt at home/school rather than dresses, tunics and skirts?

What if we stopped encouraging jokes on looks or weight? Or what if we stopped defining a potential partner by the way she looked rather than what she stands for?

It is a long way to go but maybe these small changes at home will encourage our kids to think differently. Maybe then, what a woman says or does will matter more than the way she looks. Or maybe, then her credentials will speak more than the fall of her hair and the colour of her skin.

Until then, women will have to work harder to prove their mettle. They will have to face trolls and snide remarks, undermining their potential.

Picture credits: Still from Anounk’s Bold Is Beautiful campaign

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I am a freelance writer based out of Bangalore.

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