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Sexist compliments at the workplace are sometimes masked and we don’t even realize it. Should it be pointed out? Is it a problem?
The exact term given to these sexist compliments is ‘benevolent sexism’. And yes, it is a problem. Here are some sexist ‘compliments’ one hears at the workplace.
Benevolent sexism is a form of sexism, that comes across as warm and flattering but it is rooted in stereotypical ideas and beliefs about women and their gender roles. The main issue with benevolent sexism is that it is often ignored or unidentified. It is said that benevolent sexism can also change to hostile sexism, which is the more direct and open form of sexism.
It is for these reasons that we cannot ignore benevolent sexism! Such ideas must be dealt with everywhere, ranging from what kids learn at home to what is portrayed in media. It must always be called out and never overlooked!
The first part of the comment sounds perfectly alright. It feels good to be appreciated for a skill. But the second part of the sentence (‘for a woman’) is where the problem lies.
The second part assumes that women in general aren’t technically inclined and it should be especially noticed and appreciated if they are. This section of the statement is on the basis of a gender bias of abilities.
The compliment should be based on the person’s skills, experience and talent and not aspects such as gender.
On one hand, while this comment does make one feel good and that they are a unique personality. But it takes a dig at ‘others’ and feminism itself!
It suggests that those ‘others’ who identify as feminists, are a kind of their own. There is negative connation attached to being ‘the others’.
However, feminism is simply a movement for equality between sexes and there is nothing wrong in associating with it.
Women can be caring and nurturing. They can also be excellent at organizing events. But those qualities and capabilities are not true of only women and also not all women.
By stating that it is a natural quality, it places women in a box. It almost implies that women must be nurturing and if not, it’s a problem.
The person who makes this statement is convinced of another person’s ability to make a presentation look pretty. While it is a good thing that they are sure that the woman can make the presentation look nice, their sureness (often) is on the basis that she’s a woman.
Not all women are good at design and not only women have to be good at it. Here the assumption is on the basis of the fact that the person is a woman and thereby a stereotypical idea of what she can do, rather than her individual talents and capabilities.
While the first part of comment (‘Women are creative’) sounds like a compliment, it also generalizes the qualities of women and thereby their abilities. Moreover, the person also bases their statement on the traditional notion that women cannot manage money.
However, suitability to a profession is based on aspects such as experience and qualifications of a person and does not have anything to do with gender.
Women do not necessarily have to be creative and they can certainly excel at finance careers as well!
Image source: Still from Filter Copy
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
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