For most part of my life, I believed that women were only subdued and expected to play a less significant role in society only in India. I was somehow under the impression that women enjoyed greater equality in the west based on everything I had read about the role of women in the Industrial Revolution. When I read Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’, I learnt that this inequality exists across the globe expect that it’s a 100 times worse in India. I am not sure I really felt the impact of these statistics when I read the book about a year ago. I also never realised that despite having women from across the world (healthy mix of developing and developed countries) in my MBA program, we only have a 26% representation by women in the program.
My MBA teammates thought I was the German (read Hitler) of the group. I tried to justify my aggressive leadership style by explaining how I worked in a factory full of men and the only way to get through to them was by speaking with the same tone as them. I’m not sure if the justification mattered to them but in hindsight, I didn’t need to justify who I was. I would have had to justify my actions only they were completely contrary to my personality. Anyway, we all laughed it off. In another episode of when I expressed my interest to take up teaching as a career, one of my teammates said he’d pity my students since I would be really strict with them. Yet again, I thought it was a comment on my personal leadership style and wondered if I was being too aggressive with my team. Ever since whenever I have been conscious of energy building up inside of me that could be perceived as aggression, I have shot it down immediately.
In a completely different episode at home, when I suggested to my flatmate that we watch a movie during a free weekend on the laptop, he refused since he thought that my suggestion seemed more like an order than a request. I thought that was by far the strangest excuse I had ever heard in my entire life. Despite laughing it off, I wondered if I was being aggressive or imposing my ideas on others and tried to be more submissive going forward. But still, there were moments when I couldn’t help but be myself. Recently, when my flatmate was rude to me (he didn’t mean to but he was aware of his actions), I expressed a need for his apology (yes, that’s how I am going to word it). Apparently, he would have apologised at the right moment (which still hadn’t arrived after 12 days!!), but he didn’t see the need to because I was ‘demanding’ for an apology instead of just being hurt and sad.
It was at this moment I realised that there’s no place in this world where a woman is allowed to turn off her mute button. The world obsesses over gender stereotypes and anyone who doesn’t abide by that deserves no mercy. I am not saying only women are victims of such gender stereotyping but stereotyping men would mean a whole new blogpost (sometime, for sure!).