The ceiling of cobweb
June 2, 2011 Leave a comment
Returning home in the office cab may not be the best time to engage in kind of political discourse but the temptation to eavesdrop into a conversation is irresistible for most. The temptation is further accentuated when the conversation is in a language that you understand but the fact isn’t known to many, giving a near horny pleasure of the right kind.
The co-travelers in my journey back home were from the land of freebies, Tamil Nadu. Naturally the political conversation centered on the change of guard and the ramifications. While I was almost contemplating to stop eavesdropping to take a small nap, a comment, certainly loose cannon, made me abandon all thoughts of sleep and forced me into some reflective thinking – the result, a post after a long time.
It is part of the political culture of Tamil nadu that whoever comes back to power overthrowing the incumbent often cancels the schemes of the previous regime. One is entitled to criticize this and even brand it political vendetta or naivety depending on the individuals political dispensation but the gentleman who was discussing it called it the “function of the fickle woman’s mind”, as broad-brushed a comment as one can ever imagine.
I started wondering as to whether one would be inclined to comment upon Karunanidhi, for instance, as a “fickle minded man” if he chooses to cancel “Amma’s” schemes. And in fact he had done so previously in the round-robin political fortunes of the two major political forces in Tamil Nadu.
So how does one explain the blatantly condescending attitude towards women in politics? Why does one feel emboldened to drag “gender” into what should essentially be a debate of policies. Ideally the debate should be based on facts ; The ‘impromptu panel’ in the backseats of the cab was most economical with the facts not because they wanted to be so, but they may not have the sources for the facts. While I don’t hold that against them, the debate can still, I feel, be based on ‘political affiliations’ in the worst case but I was appalled to find it based on a misplaced gender chauvinism.
I have often heard about the existence of a “glass ceiling” for women in the corporate world. Despite the stupendous success of Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochar, Naina Lal Kidwai to name a few, Corporate India doesn’t have too many examples of women who have broken through the ‘glass ceiling’. But I think and continue to believe that the glass ceiling is creaking if not cracking and women are going through the invisible channel.
Outside the corporate world, the scenario continues to be bleak.
In general, Indian women are either gloriously glamorized as incarnation of Devi or content being arm candies or door mats of the Ekta Kapoor variety. It explains as to why the number of women who exhibit any kind of interest in joining politics or mainstream is very few.
The comment coming as it does at a time when 30% of Indian population is led by Chief Ministers who are women is deeply reflective of the impoverished state of the Indian thinking, more specifically the Indian male mindset.
By no means am I making a case for Indian men to be less critical of Maya, Mamta or Amma or the Queen Bee Sonia but can we be more legitimate in the criticism than give vent to gender biases ?
A politician is bad for bad policies, graft, mismanagement, lack of ability and so on, but not, for chrissake, for being a woman.
Comments such as the one I overheard make me really wonder whether “political reservation” for women is really the way forward.
Whether one accepts them or not, I am of the view that the political prowess of women has reached a tipping point, waiting to be unleashed. It would certainly be important for men to evaluate them on the basis of their performance or otherwise, certainly not on their gender.
The time has come for the Indian male mindset to clear it’s mental cobwebs about women in politics. Because today’s woman has no patience for such mental cobwebs precluding them for being equal partners in the cause of nation building or joining the loot. Either way.