This post first appeared in DNA India on March 16th, 2017.
Over the past couple of months, if the discerning reader had been able to tear his attention away from the constant bombardment about the elections or the India-Australia cricket series to the “gossip” pages, the spat between Kangana Ranaut and Karan Johar would certainly have arrested the gaze. While friends of both these public figures jumped in with their tuppence worth, to the disinterested observer, it was clear that what one saw was privilege getting its comeuppance from industry. Here was a young lady, who had worked and fought hard to be where she was, refusing to take any lip from an entrenched insider. As the husband of a confident woman and father of two young girls, this not only gladdened my heart but also set me thinking about the privileges of being a man in any profession.
There have been studies galore that have brought out the fact that women are discriminated against in terms of their pay, benefits, performance as well as in career progression. Even though we are nearly half a century from the day when Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes”, the actual war seems to have been a no contest with men lording it over the women. Leave aside these obvious disparities in pay and performance, do we as men even realise how difficult day-to-day activities are for women when compared to men?
A recent Twitter thread really brought this home to me.
A gentleman called Martin Schneider (@SchneidRemarks) shared his amazing experience. He and a colleague Nicole used to work for a firm. Their common manager used to come down heavily on Nicole because she seemed to be taking longer to close deals than Martin. Martin was assigned to help Nicole get up to speed. One day Martin was having a particularly tough time with a sneering, condescending client over an email conversation when he realised that since Nicole and he shared a mailbox, all his emails to this client had been sent signed as Nicole. The minute he changed it to his own name, the client suddenly became reasonable.
Martin and Nicole then decided to switch identities for a week with Nicole signing her emails as Martin and vice versa. Lo and Behold. Her rate of client closure suddenly went up. Martin on the other hand found that he had to expend an enormous amount of effort to just get his clients to agree on basic requirements. One client even propositioned him for a date.
When Martin mentioned this to Nicole, she mentioned that this was normal and that she was used to it. Think about it folks. She didn’t think there was anything abnormal about it. Millions of women go to work everyday and have similar experiences and the sad part is that they have learnt to accept it and find nothing abnormal about it. This doesn’t even take into account all the other bodily disruptions like periods, pregnancy and menopause that women have to deal with and men don’t.
Gender privilege, anyone?