It’s my day to go retro – moving 6 years back. Podcasts did exist, but were not so common. I was not a Youtuber till that point of time.
Here’s a conversation between “Empowered Women” that took place on social media interactions.
The discussion started with a post in a women’s group, and ballooned into a meaningful dialogue, highlighting different perspectives. I felt compelled to share this on a wider platform, to invite further views.
The participants in the discussion are from diverse backgrounds:
Garima Srivastava, a lawyer/entrepreneur/astrologer
Prachika Saxena, Human Resources Leader
Mani Kant, Professor of English
Reena Saxena , Financial Coach
Is Maa Durga (a Hindu Goddess) a manifestation of this mindset? History shows feminine power being awakened, when revenge was called for, after a bout of repression. We need to glorify proactivity, instead of reactivity.
Oppression triggers reactivity. Mythologically, Maa Durga was an oppressed householder, before she said ‘Enough’. Proactivity may not necessarily be triggered by oppression. It calls for awareness and foresight and resistance, on a routine basis as opposed to reactivity.
The most powerful Gods and Goddesses are essentially destroyers; whether Durga, Kali, Shiva or Krishna unlike Laxmi, Saraswati, Vishnu, Brahma, who are worshipped as Creators or Preservers. They don’t negotiate with the oppressors.
Feminine energy is almost always equated with patience, endurance, sacrifice, the nurture principle, compassion and ability to basically put up with glorified nonsense. The women’s sexuality is stripped off, by symbolically worshipping her as ‘Maa’ (Mother), and its variants. Any deviation from this archetype projects her in a bad light.
No wonder men get confused when they come across girls who don’t fit traditional stereotypes. If a father has an extramarital affair, he faces resentment, but the mother has to face shame, as well.
I agree that men in present times, are confused. They cannot decide whether to play the Protector, Provider, Master or a Partner, and are compelled to switch roles.
Women who have grown under a benevolent male mentor, are lauded as achievers. A woman who fights her way to the top, is labelled aggressive, and hits the glass ceiling.
The world will not change a mind-set that suits them, unless they are compelled to. Quiet achievement is one way of doing it, other than the retaliatory ‘Durga’ energy that the system induces. It takes a much longer time, and most of us give up, somewhere on the way. There are safer havens available with financial security. And this reinforces the image of women not treating a career as a lifelong mission. They were not allowed to do so, without a mentor. And to have a godfather, one needs to accept someone as God, which is not an easy proposition.
It is all a complex web, to be dealt with, from multiple angles.
Your analysis has hit the nail on the head. Have no idea of other professions but in my profession, women are kicking ass, despite the persistent threat of sexual harassment, prejudice in judicial appointments and disparity in pay. Sadly, very few women lawyers are supportive of fellow women lawyers in terms of mentoring and motivation. That leaves me with this lesson — DIY. The only encouragement I have ever received, is from a few male judges. Guess they are wired or brought up to be protective, in a predominantly hostile environment for women. Would I want to let go of their support? No. Let more women into the workforce, and I am very sure the scenario will change. 99% will bullshit, talk us down, seek to invalidate our achievements, but the 1% who stand by us, will matter at the end of the day.
A long time ago, my mother told me “I don’t think you have it in you (to become a lawyer)”. A female lawyer I assisted a few years ago, was of the same opinion. They are not recognized lawyers anyway, so these disparaging comments did not discourage me, and a few words of encouragement from eminent people sufficed to neutralize the humiliation. Will the increase of women in the workforce, create a better work environment for women? I don’t think so.
Women who have made it big, have at some point challenged the traditional societal setup. A good mentor and/or a supportive team are more often than not, a short-lived affair. At the end of the day, women need to have the grit to move forward. The only solution is to induct more and more women into boards. It will help women get rid of sexist jokes, undermining caliber and help them earn due respect. A man earns plaudits with powerful words, but a woman needs to go through execution of the task, maybe multiple times, to be branded an asset. Often women are given tasks much lower than their potential. In my view, women are comparatively more balanced and professional, natural multitaskers and make simultaneous use of head and heart. Women are more far sighted, and weigh stakes before committing. Men often take this as a battle of brain or balls.
Hiring of an executive assistant is often limited to beauty of a lesser sex, who will meekly give in to odd requests and trivial jobs. A man might resist. Suppression will backfire into oppression, with more like minded women following suit. Movies like ‘Parched’ bear testimony to such theories.
Prachika, I respectfully disagree on the ‘more women in the workforce’ theory, unless they support each other. Women are serious about their loyalty to a boss or mentor, and this trait is exploited to serve vested interests. Male bonding is driven by common business interests, and leveraged to their mutual benefit. Men decide how to conduct the meeting, before reaching the boardroom, maybe, over a drink the previous evening. Women take pride in coming and leaving on time, and miss out on the decision-making process. Women can be driven by an erroneous sense of righteousness in doing their job well, not realizing that they have turned into puppets.
Feminine power is also exercised through subtle manipulation — charm, dedication, loyalty, boss management… rather than taking something head on. The former is seen as Power, and the latter Aggression. It is almost as if men enjoy being manipulated. A woman’s power has to be a ‘gift’ from them, not a matter of right.
I don’t think that the word ‘aggression’ has a pejorative connotation. The more women bother about these labels, the more they will suffer these operative prejudices, if a man’s aggression is justified, so is a woman’s.
Men always snatch credit for the success of a woman, and women are often heard saying this “I couldn’t have done this without the support of my hubby”. If she declares that she made it on her own, she is labelled arrogant. Across the board, the attempt is to deprive women of their agency, whether by attributing their success to manipulation, or the necessary male support in their achievements.
I agree with you to disagree. Every woman is a subdued “DURGA”, but is unaware of the latent force. IMO, elements of envy, resentment and rivalry do exist amongst women, in varying degrees. It is the woman who suppresses, harasses and ill-treats those of her own ilk. The support comes from a male, compassionate benefactor.
Rebellion always arises from oppression. A woman who is mocked at, ill-treated and insulted, becomes aware of her latent energy, resistance and power, and claims her human rights. Durga is activated after undergoing this process. Humiliation propels her on the path to Success. Only those women who challenge the traditions, and defy social norms are ACHIEVERS. She builds a career, and furthers the cause by helping her family and society.
Yet I would say that they do need a Male Mentor — a father, friend, husband or any such associate. Take my example — a malevolent MIL derided my meagre household management skills, and held the view that academics will not help me in life. It was my husband, whose encouragement and support have made me what I am today.
I therefore, disagree with a few of us. A woman in our Society cannot achieve anything alone. She needs male support — as women don’t help. There is no competition with a man, as we complete each other.
This takes the conversation back to the starting point. Women have had to battle it out, both at work and home, and that constitutes Reactivity. This could be the undeniable truth for a large part of the female population. The initiative of identifying our reality, and charting the path forward is our own. At the same time, supporting those who can benefit from our help is also a responsibility, which we cannot shirk. The good guys have been shaped by the women in their lives. As they say, the finest men in the world are always married. They have experienced the female point of view.
Personally for me, Proactivity stems from the courage to say No to inconvenient arrangements. It is not about choosing between a career and home, intellectual tasks and drudgery, aggressive or passive roles. It is choosing ‘I want’ over ‘I should’. It is just about doing what I believe in, and that is more of individualism, than feminism.
The least that an emancipated woman can do, is to generate further discussion and enlighten others. And that was the effort behind this piece.