GENDER SENSITIVITY – A SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERIMENT!
Last week, I posted an emotional note citing that none of the big organizations in the state I belong to or have been part of, did any official event or congratulatory social media post for my Fulbright Award. I listed the organizations and what they could have done to acknowledge my achievement. My post ended with tangible actions that organizations could take to recognize the womens’ and other minorities’ achievements regularly. I also asked women to keep blowing their trumpets in order to get them acknowledged. For many women, it’s difficult to even showcase or share their achievements. And here is where gender-responsive media must be functional!
Well, my casual FB post then ignited the social scientist in me and I then analyzed the types of responses from the various comments in the post just to realize (not surprised) the deep-rooted patriarchy in our society. And Patriarchal notions play even without us realizing that it exists. Our conditioned mindset comes out evident in the way we respond to a gender issue. Instead of taking action towards curbing the practice, most of us end up solacing the victim. Several comments came below my post where I have expressed my concern of getting “ignored” and the content analysis helped me to arrive at the below patterns.
1. Glorification of me / my achievements
“You are far above these local people and small organizations that you don’t need to be appreciated by them!”
2. Justification of others
“They are unable to comprehend your achievement coz they have other priorities”.
3. Sympathy and Empathy
“I understand this is wrong and how it’s painful to u. Please don’t worry and relax. Take deep breaths, relax, and don’t get bothered about these”; “I was also ignored by my organization when I won XYZ Award. It’s out of professional jealousy and politics!”
“I think you should start thinking who you really are. You will then realize these recognitions are useless. Even, you will stop posting about these on FB”.
“Chase the goal, not the credit “
6. Comparison to similar victims.
One person compared me to Sreelekha IPS, who was not respected, but she inspires young girls. By my achievement, I have a paved path for the future generation.
“ If you are not valued, then take this as feedback” (and correct yourself)
(Well, this is the most insensitive of all comments. It simply means that the leaders (men) in such organizations do not like me. Hence, they decided NOT to appreciate me. )
Some people, especially women, mentioned that though they discussed this or raised this issue in their lunchroom chats, they could not raise it to the leadership because they lack the courage to talk against the powerful men!
9. Equalizing to men
“Well, this is not a gender issue, even Men do not get appreciated”
10. Trivializing Gender issue as a Personal issue
“You were not appreciated because of your bad behaviour before. Don’t cry using the ticket of gender every time you want something!” (Opinionated women are usually arrogant bitches according to men). In this case, this is a personal problem and not a societal / gender problem.
11. I am powerless
“Our organization has policies and decisions are taken collectively. I am not in the leadership circle. I am helpless”
“I think you should focus on your research works instead of posting on social media and trying to change society. Also, this must be done by a third party, not by you. You are degrading your value by doing this and asking for a press release or an event openly”
13. Appreciation for the courage
“I appreciate your courage in expressing it”.
“Thank you for expressing this and making people aware”.
15. Love and respect
“I love the way you stand for other women’s rights”.
16. Appreciation for opening-up
“Glad that you opened up at least now”
“Many kept silent or ignored to say anything”
Those were some of the response types. Of these responses, except for items 14,15 and 16, all the other categories are either regressive or gender insensitive or point to the patriarchy and power politics that women face in the world. Most of the responses point the finger to deeper societal issues and power politics which deny women’s voices! And most importantly, none of the responses tackles the misogyny underlying that led to the situation!
And the irony of this exercise is that none of the commentators took any action to solve the situation, at least prevent it from happening in the future. (Probably they will take in due course or even speak when required).
So, here is what I have done. I have taken the below actions.
1. We started a social media recognition feature for all women to post their achievements (big or small) through our social media platform Prayaana on Instagram and Facebook. And the significant ones will be featured as a story in SheSight magazine. Any woman, anywhere in the world can share her achievement to our page/insta inbox, and my team of social media executives will make a poster and share it with the world. (They started with my poster to start with! But more will come soon, and this will be a regular feature henceforth!)
2. I wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of CUSAT asking him to review the processes by which women and minorities’ achievements are promoted well in media and their website. I (After which, the PR director took action to get the story out in media. Well, my objective was to ensure that in the future students’ and faculty achievements don’t go unnoticed and the key person in big organizations needs to set up systems and procedures if it does not exist as of now)
3. I did not write to other organizations because this is an academic achievement and probably may not be of great interest to them. Moreover, my intentions of “asking for rights” will be interpreted as me “crying for publicity”!
To conclude, a gender-responsive organization believes in setting up processes. Not giving excuses after missing.
Well, in my case, I don’t expect any big change because now that I have created a negative image for myself and created more enemies for being openly talking and naming organizations of repute! But I am sure, in future, every organization will think or at least “rethink” when they miss out on recognitions of women’s achievements!
Our history is already skewed with only highlighting men’s achievements and it will take at least several decades to balance the media imbalance.
The renowned historian, Margaret Rossiter whose life work was to identify and acknowledge the works of women scientists says that “It is important to note early that women’s historically subordinate ‘place,’ in science (and thus their invisibility to even experienced historians of science) was not a coincidence and was not due to any lack of merit on their part. It was due to the camouflage intentionally placed over their presence in science.”
Well, hope the above statements remain as history and let the future do not end up skewed. Let us put measures to acknowledge women’s contribution in every arena, not just science or academics.
This Women’s Month, as there will be several women’s shows and events across the world, let us also make conscious efforts to acknowledge the contributions of women in all domains. We can start with looking around for women with small or big achievements and trying to appreciate them/ praise them for their contributions. Organizations can make women at your workplace “Chief Guests” instead of bringing someone outside and giving them a talk.
Gender sensitivity comes with awareness and actions. And actions require conscious efforts.
Let the world bloom to a better world – an equal world.