Now that I’m living and working in India, people always ask me what I miss most about the U.S. I’ve developed a standard snarky answer that I have yet to get tired of. “Oh, nothing much. Just my freedom and independence.” Hilarious right? It’s a bit of an exaggeration but unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the attitude toward women in India is sub-par. It makes me miss home.
My coworker friend Ted likes to hover over my shoulder whenever I’d rather not be disturbed. I’ll be scouting swimsuits for my upcoming trip to the Maldives, streaming the latest episode of Walking Dead, or doing other super important work stuff. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the proposed law changes and women in India. During one such session, Ted came by to breathe on me for a while. Here’s how our convo went.
Ted: What are you doing?
Me: Reading feminist blogs and pretending to organize my email.
Ted: Feminist blogs – why are you reading feminist blogs?
Me: Cause I’m a feminist.
Ted: You are NOT a feminist.
Me: In what way am I not a feminist?
Ted: …Do you even know what that is?
Me: Yes, do YOU?
So we looked it up. First definition of feminism was the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
Me: K that’s the definition, so how am I not a feminist?
Ted: Well believing everyone is equal doesn’t make you a feminist. I’ve seen some feminists, and you are not like that.
Me: First, believing everyone is equal, particularly men and women, is the key piece to feminism. Besides, what am I not like? A bra-burning hippie?
Ted: Exactly. Feminists are gross. They don’t shave their legs.
He’s always had surprisingly stoopid logic. Suffice it to say that this conversation went on for about 15 minutes and at the end we were no further than where we started. I am a feminist, and I’m very conscious of how having lady parts affects me at work. I’ve never thought that men and women were equal at home because if nothing else, the people in power are men. And men have an easier time relating to other men, which in turn makes it harder for women. Here’s a few things that’ve happened recently:
- Work happy hour and the conversation turned to fantasy football (for like an hour), effectively icing me out of it. Maybe you’re a girl that likes sports, congratulations. I don’t. But even if you do, odds are the people you’re talking to aren’t taking you seriously anyway and assume you drafted a player for the color of his jersey or how good-looking he is. When was the last time a guy at work solicited your sports opinion? Never, that’s when. But they’re asking that other guy, I’m sure of it. Not being able to join in sports talk or not being taken seriously when discussing sports eliminates a lot of water cooler convos. And by my calculation work is about 84% water cooler convos.
- Senior manager and partner talking about going to the strip club, then turning to me as an after-thought with a “Oh, sorry. I forgot you were here.” What the hell? Would you apologize to a male underling for talking about boobs? No, so treat me the same and save your apology for your wife. If you’re really uncomfortable talking about something in front of a female staff person, then it’s not appropriate for work, period. I mean I may be wrong but the male-only topics I can think of (jock itch, wet dreams, how bad your balls itch) are not appropriate for work.
- My coworker friend was told in review that she should “put more effort into a professional appearance”. She wears a collared shirt (blouse, sweater, etc) and work pants to work. So…work clothes. And I can personally vouch for the fact that she’s wrinkle-free and hygienic. Know what dudes wear to work? Collared shirts and work pants. I find it extremely hard to believe that any of them got reviews telling them to work on their appearance. So… I guess they didn’t like her hair or the fact that she doesn’t wear makeup? Steering clear of any debate as to whether women should or shouldn’t wear makeup, I think that we can all agree that women spend way more time getting ready than men do. So if I am going to be scolded in reviews for not styling my hair and makeup, and men aren’t expected to spend any time styling their hair and makeup, then BALLS – that’s what.
That was all in the U.S. Now that I’m in India it’s worse. People will ask me a question and then tell me to my face that they’re going to do what my male coworker says instead. The managers dump the shittiest projects onto the female staff, and give the guys the long-term, interesting projects. And so on and so on. I just want to go back to a place where I can be criticized for not being pretty enough but my work contributions are taken semi-seriously. Is that so much to ask?