I was attending a party hosted by the President of the company my husband worked in, for all newly married couples of the year. Conversation veered around to blood donations, and he mentioned that Blood Group O is the universal receiver. I gently corrected him to say that Blood group O is the Universal Donor.
Minor, eh? There was a hushed silence in the room. It was broken by a large-hearted admission from the Big Man “I stand corrected.” The expression was not so congenial though.
I flipped through Sarah Cooper’s book, “How to be Successful without hurting men’s feelings – Non-threatening Strategies for a Woman Leader.”
The book starts with repercussions of correcting a male colleague, and it brought back a flood of memories. All the negativity I faced for offering to handle difficult tasks without support, or actually doing so, is the stuff of another book to be written.
BEING ABOVE AVERAGE IS NOT OKAY
Sadly, women are a part of these reactions too. But men always are.
It is safe to be Average. If you venture at being anything Above Average, you are at the receiving end of a hostile tirade. Maybe they feel threatened. Maybe they don’t want the bar to be raised. Maybe, they don’t want comparison in the mind of a boss or partner.
The mildest version can be your achievements being ignored. Social talk moves around general topics, or topics which are safe for others to prove their supremacy on. Somehow, nobody in the family or friend circle ever talks about the book you wrote, the new initiative or business venture you launched. They can be large-hearted enough to compliment you on your culinary skills or painting. Those are safe, womanly pursuits which don’t make anyone feel threatened. Those are the places you should plan your life to move around in.
Dressing well is termed as ‘overspending’ or ‘being frivolous’. Lounging around in pyjamas is a lofty purpose in a honourable woman’s life, as she does not find it worthwhile to seek attention. I guess she doesn’t have mirrors in the house too. The comments from female colleagues in office can be like,
“How do you find all that time? We barely manage putting on a lip gloss.”
I wonder what it is about – their inefficiency or a lack of worthwhile work in my daily routines.
Male colleagues or bosses have often come up with,
“Of course, I don’t expect you to handle that tough assignment alone/ travel ….” or something else.
I pause for a moment before saying it’s an assignment I’d love to have, or that travel is not an issue with me. And then, things change …not always for good.
Sarah Cooper does a wonderful job at sarcasm, and detailing how a woman should be seen, but not heard.
Seen only in a way others would like her to be seen.
Heard, but not too loud.
Co-operative if she suffers sexual harassment silently. Too combative, if she dares to complain.
Disguise her own achievements as team effort, but applaud the senior who has done nothing but ask for updates.
The ignominy of being a woman achiever does not end here.
After all, there are female puppets the bosses flaunt as an example of woman power. And others snigger behind their backs to say she must have been ….. you know the drift. Does she really hold any power? But not being too independent , and always being grateful for the opportunity helps in flaunting the labels on various platforms. And they accept it as ‘better than being invisible.”
WHAT IS FEMINISM AT WORK?
We agree that it is not about calling out wrongdoings of others, unless it puts normal functioning in jeopardy.
It is about putting out our best, without being asked to be subdued.
It is about being acting from a position of power, without being pulled down.
It is about being given an equal opportunity, not the one that comes through ‘reservations’ or ‘diversity compulsions’.
Let’s hope that the unfamiliar becomes familiar, unusual becomes usual with repetition and multiplication. Let us see workplaces swamped by true leaders, who happen to be female, till the culture is transformed.
Let the light shine through….
The book is available on Amazon
Author: Reena Saxena
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