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Sexism In The City

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Whether it’s at work or out on the streets, women still have to deal with sexism in this day and age. To see whether women think it’s thriving or fading in the city, the Woman’s World team asked a few women about what they experience and how they deal with it

Whether sexism is alive and kicking or slowly dying   out is hard to say. We may not experience it as much as our mothers and grandmothers have, but several women still deal with such issues on a daily basis. It could be in the form of a male colleague being paid more despite having equal qualifications and work experience, or it could be in the form of the criticism that female drivers receive simply because they are women. And, people are extremely bold about expressing their unsolicited opinions about what women should be doing, wearing and thinking! So, we asked a few ladies what they think of sexism and how they deal with it on a daily basis.

Tripti Gupta, a lifestyle nutritionist consultant, believes that the concept of equality between men and women is gaining momentum. She tells us, “With women gaining equal status in almost every field, most men don’t look down on them anymore. In fact, most women enjoy an equal amount of freedom and independence. There are also cases today where women are misusing their rights. I don’t think sexism is as rampant in urban cities today as it was in the past.” When we asked her how she deals with sexism, she told us, “For an educated, independent woman, such situations don’t matter. It’s best to ignore them and work to prove sexists wrong. We need to pity the few old-fashioned people who still believe in sexism today.” Tripti suggests taking into consideration who you are dealing with. She tells us, “It really depends on who is targeting you. If it is worth creating awareness and explaining to someone who matters to me, but who grew up in a different era or with different teachings, I would definitely make the effort. If they don't matter or live their entire lives narrowmindedly, then I would not waste my time and energy on them.”

Natasha Tuli, co-founder and CEO of Soulflower, believes that although it’s not thriving, sexism is definitely not going to disappear. She tells us, “Frankly, it has always been there and I don’t see it fading in the near future. It is only changing into different roles.” One of the most common examples of sexism is what women face for their driving ability. And, like other women, Natasha too has been a victim of such sexism. “While driving, I come across male drivers who completely lose their cool. For instance, just because they see a woman in the driver’s seat, they assume that I’m a bad driver and react accordingly,” she tells us. But, not one to keep mum about such situations, she suggests giving it back to those who doubt her capabilities. She says, “I would like to confront the driver, but taking into consideration the traffic situation, and how irrational and angry people get, I just increase the volume on my music system, drown them out and drive off.”

Eshaa Amiin, a celebrity stylist and fashion designer, is one of the lucky few who haven’t really experienced any sexism. “Of course, I have seen people experience it in their daily lives, but thankfully, I haven’t had any bad experiences myself. In a city as urbanised as ours, it isn’t so common either, although you will see it in the form of a woman getting married off earlier than her older male sibling, because she’s a girl. And, even though I haven’t really had the chance to deal with it, I’d definitely work towards proving people who think I can’t do any better because I am a woman wrong.”

For Lyla Mehta, owner of Salt Escape, there are certain situations where a woman’s role has been clearly defined. She tells us, “The Indian society believes that the opposite sex is superior to us. But, at the end of the day, when I am expected to cook dinner for my family after a hectic day at work, I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, I enjoy it!” But, Lyla hasn’t come across too many sexist hurdles. And here’s why, “I have been fortunate enough to not experience sexism too much. But, it’s also because I never entered a male-dominated field. I graduated as a Chartered Accountant, which had fairly enough women,” she tells us.

Mitali Bose, brand manager at Work Better Training, thinks that Mumbai is a good place for women to live in. And, while we agree, she does recall some experiences that will have you thinking otherwise. “I haven’t faced much sexism in Mumbai during my daily routine. However, the one place I have faced some sort of sexism was when I was looking for an apartment to live in. In my experience, landlords in the city are averse to renting out apartments to single women. You either have to share an apartment with others or live with your family. All hell breaks loose if you are a woman, single and looking to rent an apartment all by yourself,” she tells us. Talking about how she deals with such a situation, Mitali says, “The way I generally deal with it is by trying to convince them otherwise, but more often than not, it doesn’t work. I think that the best way to deal with sexism is to start at home; parents should start treating their sons and daughters equally. Until our society starts believing that men and women are equal and are entitled to the same rights, dealing with sexism is going to be difficult.” So, unless there is a major change in how people think, Mitali doesn’t see the situation improving.

Social worker Sadhana Bhandare, believes that sexism and sexual harassment go hand in hand. She tells us, “These incidents don’t happen to me very often, but when I was in college, I was once catcalled on the street and I threatened to hit the guy with my shoe! I personally think that women and girls are harassed intentionally because the harasser believes that we will be easily intimidated. The fear that we usually show these hooligans only fuels their ego and they think that they have established their superiority.” And, while it is usually out of protectiveness that parents teach young girls and women to stay at home to avoid experiencing something like this, Sadhana doesn’t see the situation on sexism getting any better that way. “I think that when families force their daughters to stay at home in order to avoid such attacks, they are only teaching them to live in fear. To combat this widespread sexism, I think that men should be taught to treat women with respect and equality starting at an early age.”

Megha Iyer, a PR executive believes that in India, and for a lot of women, sexism is taught at home. And she considers it to be thriving, irrespective of what city she lives in. She explains, “While, I believe that sexism in the city is slowly languishing, I will not deny the fact that it still exists. What disappoints me the most is when affluent and well-educated families have narrow-minded thoughts like these. I remember when my nephew was born a few of my relatives revelled in not having a girl. The most ironic part was that these relatives were women themselves!”

Sneha Subhedar, a professor, believes that although a confusing one, sexism is still a thriving phenomenon. “It exists everywhere. The kind of jokes and casual talk about female anatomy is disturbing in an office space. It is also seen in the way you are addressed and the work you are given,” she says.  And, just like Natasha, Sneha also believes in ignoring those who express their narrow-minded views on women. Although, she believes in giving it back, once sexism crosses the line of tolerance, and she doesn’t consider punishment to be an effective method of eradicating sexism. To validate
her point, she tells us, “There is no answer to how to deal with sexism. We know punishment does not really serve as a deterrent.

We have to start educating children in school; not just the boys, but also the girls about how one treats another.” When asked about whether India will see sexism die down, she tells us, “That’s a difficult question to answer. On one hand I see men and boys becoming more aware about how to treat a woman, but on the other hand, we still have men who would not think twice before feeling you up since they do not see anything wrong with it. But until we get rid of our patriarchal and feudal nature, sexism will exist.”

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