A recent and highly successful Indian biopic called Dangal has a sequence where all the opponents (boys) in young Geeta Phogat’s first wrestling tournament are worried most about losing to her. Firstly, they find it difficult to accept that a girl has entered a sport that was perceived to be “boy’s only”. But the bigger fear is not about competing against her. It’s about losing to her. And this is depicted so clearly. Sadly, the boys don’t care whether they win or lose to each other, but none of them want to lose to a GIRL.
I want to elaborate on this mindset because this is the core issue of diversity. We have co-workers who encourage us, pat us on the back and provide a lot of support. Right until the time that they seem to come up against us. That’s when you can see it. They just don’t want to lose to a woman or a girl.
I’d also argue that it is not the mindset of just men that has to change. Women are equally guilty – as mothers of sons, how many of us have passed a comment when our son lost to a girl in a sport?
Why does any defeat to a girl or a woman automatically diminish the loser’s manhood?
Because at the root of it, the female race is perceived as the weaker sex. A deep rooted bias and seemingly deeper in India – Urban and Rural, alike.
It is because she is perceived to be weaker that people support the concessions that have been made to the woman. Reserved seats and coaches on public transport, reserved admissions in schools and colleges and reserved jobs at work places.
These reservations and concessions help the society at large and the male in particular, feel big and possibly strong that they are taking care of their weak, but it is not going to break the cycle of bias.
It has to start at home; it has to start with all of us as men and women, as fathers and mothers, as a society where we bring up our boys and girls right. Where we tell them that whether it is child rearing, breadwinning or house keeping, they are all equally important roles and more importantly, they are not gender specific.
It means that if you support equality of men and women and believe that a woman has the right to a career, then you are ready to be a stay-at-home dad, if required. It means you will not mock your friend who is a stay at home dad. It means you will not judge your friend harshly for missing her son’s sports day because she had to attend a conference.
Ultimately, that’s the challenge for everyone. Not to judge a person on account of their gender.
Giving a seat to a woman just because she’s standing is perceived to be gentlemanly and is a good gesture, but it’s as much a diversity issue because again you’re thinking of a woman as weak. Get over it. If someone wants to sit, they’ll possibly request you. And yes, by all means get up and offer your seat but do that as much for a man as you would for a woman. Do you think you can?
It is heartening to see what different organisations are doing today to encourage equality in the modern work place. Hierarchical levels are open and unbiased for gender. Not in all organizations, but some are definitely making things right. It’s a step in the right direction. It’s making everyone compete and work harder for what they know can be earned, not allocated.
So whether at work or anything you do, please go ahead and compete fiercely. Do the best you can. Don’t make excuses. But if and when you lose, feel the disappointment for losing, not for the gender of the person you lost to.
Please do share your thoughts.