Feminist Fight Club

5 09 2017

An Office survival Manual (For a Sexist Workplace) by Jessica Bennett

Feminist Fight ClubThis is one of those rare books that I couldn’t even wait until I finished it before I ordered not only my own personal copy but also copies for my friends.

It’s irreverent, hilarious, witty, sarcastic, and above all practical and helpful. It lays out the many self-sabotaging and self-defeating behaviors and thoughts of women that accentuate the age-old stereotypes and thereby result in the vicious circle of widening the chasm between the sexes in the workplace. It talks about all the implicit ways that both men and women indulge in that contribute to the problem. It provides sensible tips and advice on how to tackle these damaging tendencies.

It highlights the pervasiveness of gender discrimination at work and points out that today’s sexism is not overt but seemingly very subtle and imbibed in countless  “normal” behaviors. Nonetheless, it’s not less damaging. We still do have a wage gap, glass ceiling, and other ways of limiting the growth of women in their careers. Women are interrupted more than men when they are talking, more likely than men not to be given due credit for their ideas and work, judged harshly/negatively compared to men for same behaviors etc.

Even if we think of ourselves as very progressive, the deep rooted stereotypes and cultural notions are assimilated in many seemingly harmless and often times subconscious reactions and behaviors. Everyone needs to consciously work on their own implicit  (and otherwise) biases in order to be able to address this issue and bring out the change. Because gender parity benefits one and all. It frees everyone from the boundaries of the stereotypes, because that’s what stereotypes do – they confine us all – men and women. Men need not limit their actions in order to conform to the “macho-man” stereotype, which sometimes involves significant cost to one’s own conscience, morality, humanity, and others. They need not bear the burden of primary financial and career responsibility solely on their shoulders and instead share that with women. Rising above the stereotypes is a challenge but not insurmountable. They do have their purpose as shortcuts but it helps to evaluate them and make conscious choices instead of succumbing to them blindly. Knowledge and awareness is power.

Men can not only help by not engaging in detrimental actions but also by stopping other men from acting so and/or supporting women. Likewise, women can help themselves as well as each other through a network of support.

I found at times that the tone of the book is too brazen and bold, but that may just be my cultural conditioning restricting myself from accepting such a tone from a woman, as well as applied to women. 😛 Also, I felt that some tips sounded more like “how to be like a man”. And it seemed that the culture associates most successful tendencies to be “masculine” and the less successful or even detrimental behaviors as “feminine”, at least in the workplace. It’s a dismal realization. There is even a chapter in the book titled “What would Josh do?”, which encourages women to emulate the tendencies of a successful male in certain situations. This is not ill advice at all. But I hope for a day when distinctly feminine behaviors also connote success, strength and professionalism. Currently, in case of transgressions or slips from ideal work behaviors, women are judged more harshly and often those actions get ascribed to the entire gender (and how women are inferior/unsuitable/out of place) in contrast to men, in which case, they’re only mere transgressions or “he just being a man” (a good thing).

The book evoked in me lot of emotions. I found myself surprised by some insights and facts (from studies), nodding in agreement at many places with the arguments, cringing while recalling my own self-sabotaging behaviors, inspired by the support available and the ray of hope to change the status quo.

Anyone who cares about gender discrimination at workplace should definitely read this book. I think that any workplace that likes to combat sexism can start by

  • Recruiting more women
  • Offering women same pay as men (very important and I think very doable. No, please don’t blame it on negotiation skills)
  • Educating all employees on various contributing and exacerbating tendencies and how to avoid or work around them

Here’s to empowering one and all! 🙂

Fairness, not sameness

8 12 2016

What if all humans are alike? In looks, behaviors, and thoughts? It would be a dull and boring world. Isn’t it? Diversity is what makes life interesting. Of course, from a big picture perspective  we are more similar than different. Keeping this thought aside, we can safely say that each one of us is different and unique in myriad small ways. Despite our differences – in capabilities, attitudes, behaviors etc., we expect to be treated equally aka with fairness. We don’t like to be subjected to any prejudice.

This applies to racial discrimination too. There are obviously differences among different races in regards to certain aspects (just like people within the same race are different in certain other aspects). Nevertheless, we agree and aspire to treat everyone equally and with fairness.

Shouldn’t the same thing be extended to gender discrimination as well? Men and women are obviously not same. (I touched upon some aspects of how and why in my earlier post – Are men and women equal?) They possess different sets of strengths and weaknesses. Despite the dissemblance, we ought to treat them with fairness. Feminism should argue for fairness, not sameness. As Helena Cronin, an eminent Darwinian philosopher, puts it, gender equality doesn’t and shouldn’t suggest “sameness”, but rather only fairness.

We should celebrate all the differences and rejoice the diversity. Diversity is what makes the world much stronger, more interesting, more exciting, and more creative.

My Choice

22 04 2015

It’s My Choice. The video that went viral recently invoked a lot of passionate response – both for and against. Maybe mostly against. Truth be told, I too cringed a few times watching it. It is a bit extreme. But I guess the intended message is this:

It’s all about not judging based on gender. No double standards. Right and wrong apply exactly the same way to both men and women. No need to feel the burden of expectations and standards set by others on a particular gender.

But why be extreme? I guess the intention is to get attention and they sure got it. Getting noticed is critically important if you are trying to make a point.  But I think that the real message is hidden underneath everything sensational and doesn’t reach the audience effectively.

This reminds me of the ‘Slutwalk‘ movement. The actual point they want to make is lost on many amid all the shock the extremism invoked.

Gender discrimination is a very sensitive issue and from my own experience learned that it’s not easy to make others see your point. Some issues are very subtle and some lines are so thin, it’s difficult to explain and make distinctions within the context of pre-conceived notions.

I just hope that there is a more effective and direct way to convey a message – without eliciting a lot of unwarranted controversy.

This video seemed like a response to that documentary – India’s Daughter. I didn’t dare to watch it. I sensed by the outburst of others, that it is full of too much nonsense that I can’t endure to listen to. The documentary itself has good intentions I guess – to bring out the truth.  What was India trying to tell the world by banning it? That it’s not true or that it’s true but we can’t own up to it? Even while I was appalled when it’s banned, I wasn’t really surprised I guess. It’s no news that many people in power, those who rule the country and maintain law and order, have similar regressive opinions. When the leadership itself is so pathetic, what can we expect! Will there ever be laws and enforcers that will really make a difference?   No one wants to talk about rape. It’s as if an accepted part of life. The harrowing Delhi incident, which left almost everyone shocked, made a lot of people start talking about rape, which is a good thing. I’m sure there are plenty other incidents which are comparably horrific that never came to light. This particular thought makes me feel utterly sad, helpless, and scared.

It’s as if morality applies only to women. It’s beyond pathetic that some people actually believe that crap. I believe that the belief that “woman is the epitome of culture and moral conduct, blah blah” – is a form of oppression in plain sight!. All I say is morality applies to one and all, equally.


Yay! This blog turned 6 today. 🙂


6 04 2015


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a story about a Nigerian woman – Ifemelu, who has immigrated to America for higher studies and then after more than a decade stay, goes back to her country. I first came across the author through her TED talk on Feminism. I was impressed by her confident voice and her firm stand on gender related things.  As I was reading Americanah, I saw her in her protagonist- Ifemelu. This novel mostly talks about racism and raises many important questions. Ifemelu says that she discovered race only once she is in America. That makes complete sense and shouldn’t be a surprise at all given the multi-cultural and multi-racial population of America, in my opinion. Back in her country, where there is only one predominant race, there is no question of racism. I believe that discrimination is at all levels and everywhere, Be it based on gender, or race, or economic status.

We, as human race, are social beings and operate in groups in order to increase our chances at survival. I believe that each of us identify with one group, in a given context. Maybe our primal instinct is to beware of anything or anyone different from us/our group. Every time we encounter someone, we assess whether he/she is an opportunity or a threat. We need to know and understand our place with respect to our surroundings. We need hierarchies. If the other is different from us in anyway, we want to be clear about whether we are superior or inferior to them. I think it’s related to our innate nature to seek patterns and order even in randomness; our fear of unknown and our compelling need to make sense of things. I wonder about how the exact hierarchies came into place with respect to race and color as to which is superior or which is inferior. I’m in no way condoning discrimination but only making an observation that may be given our natures, it’s inevitable.

We have come a long way from our wild, primal existence.; long way from the jungle law in which success and thereby survival favors the more powerful and/or more intelligent. Of course, we still see that now to some degree but we don’t live our day-to-day lives worrying about protecting ourselves and our loved ones from the more powerful neighbors. We have built societies and systems that would provide basic needs and safety. Of course, we are far from perfect but I truly believe that I feel much safer now than if I would have lived in the past. But that could be because I’m in denial. 😉

We have made so much progress so far to get over our differences and truly perceive each one of our species as same that I believe that we should continue our efforts in that direction. We need not be limited by anything. I like to believe that we are evolving. 😉

The novel is honest and the writing is impressive.