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A Story about Gender Discrimination

May 19, 2009

[Post Contribution by Kislay Chandra of Orange Blog]

The not very unlikely juxtaposition of a quote from Solilo‘s post and a conversation with a friend of mine sowed the seed of thought for this post. This is the quote from Solilo’s blog post “Brusque” –

“Do not keep quiet in the face of injustice and gender bias. Those who knowingly
keep quiet are as guilty as the perpetrators of injustice”

And how are they related? Well, they are related because my friend is a woman, working in a reputable multinational software company has been the victim of sexual discrimination. This MNC tries hard to maintain a decent sex-ratio, and I guess it is because of some tax incentive they get. Now my friend, let’s call her Mridul (she is very polite), and her colleague and friend, let’s call her Aparajita (she is very spunky), have together faced the brunt. Their victimization has been so subtle, nondescript, and insidious, that even they failed to notice it. Or, they did sense it, but did nothing about it, because as a woman, you are used to facing a more than average resistance than your average man faces. They, being the decent and helpful creatures (and confound them for being nice), have been facing a slew of shit since the day they joined their team.

Before I start telling you their story, let me tell you, that it suddenly dawned upon me ; what they have been facing is not just due to the misfortune of working in a software company in recession hit times as a fresher, but a significant portion of this “crap” has been dumped upon them on account of their sex. In one moment of epiphany, all the stories I heard over the past 5 months fell in place, illustrating the real picture. And it is ugly, sad and absolutely preposterous.

Here is the scenario – Mridul and Aparajita are freshers as I told you, and they were on bench for quite some time. For those fortunate enough never to have heard this term before, let me tell you what it means. It means that you are rusting. Your company has no work for you. And in these times, the axe may fall anytime. So these girls , along with another guy , one of the protagonists of our bitter-and-real life story , whom I shall name Mahamoorkh Chapanduk Pakhandi ( A big fool – A duffer – A hypocrite ) , i.e. M.C.P. , were grouped informally as a team , to be trained for the particular project soon-to-be-their team was working on. They were not formally allocated , but rather on their way to allocation. That is a like a state of limbo, between heaven and hell, neither here nor there.So the three of them started their training. This involved mastering a technology, by doing and learning. And these three, as unofficial members of the team, had no access to individual computers, but rather had to share one. Three people – One computer. That is shocking on an altogether different level, for the MNC is multi-billion dollar company.
Anyway, I think you all get an idea of what happened. One computer shared by three people, all of whom were supposed to practice their theory. Clashes were imminent and unavoidable. But after the initial unrest, the girls worked out things between them. But then, one computer, shared by two girls and one M.C.Pakhandi. This jackass, instead of being a gentleman and a professional, and trying to adapt to the situation, eventually turned out to be a pukka MCP, one that would make any other MCP proud. Like a wolf in a sheep’s clothing, eventually he showed his true ugly colors. Now, Shreeman Pakhandi , hogged the computer , rarely offered them the one chair they all had to share or relinquished control of the mouse/keyboard .He went through the material they all had to study together at his own pace. If he ever did offer any help and/or the computer, it was more out of condescension, rather than a genuine sense of fair play and team spirit. It was a gesture of magnanimity, doled out to make the other feel small and insignificant. Whenever these girls expressed their difficulty in grasping some concept or the other, it emanated a smile from him, one which said “You dumb girls”, the emphasis being more on ‘girl’ than ‘dumb’.A completely unrelated, and yet, a significant incident. There is a quiz where you have to write the name of girl, the first one that comes to your mind. Now the jackass who came up with this quiz, was probably banking upon the fact , that like him , most other males would also write the name of the girl they are secretly or openly in love with. The purpose of this charade being to ascertain the name of your love, so that your friends can have a nice time pulling your leg. So our friend, Mahamoorkh, in the presence of Mridul and Aparajita, wrote a name. And as expected, the girls started teasing. And can you take a shot in the dark, and think up what his response was?“I do not think of her like that. She is NOT beautiful”. Now you call me a loon, but this gives an insight into his character. Had the words been “I am not attracted to her”, it would have been no more than a blip on the radar. But the ones that actually came out suggest that, to him, Love is a by-product of sexual attraction. From that, I conclude that either he is sees woman as sex-objects, and only those beautiful or hot enough are worthy of his love. I may be wrong. I hope I am.Our friend, M.C.Pakhandi, then ganged up with a fellow pig, lets call him Sidekick Swine (Pigs are in the air, eh?) , and two of them together, then made fun of the girls. Now, a very interesting observation is that, in this entire episode, he has never passed a single lewd remark, or made any obscene gesture. He has done nothing, which can actually be construed as actual sexual harassment. But, even this is sexual harassment. And I do not need a pair of ovaries, and a dose of estrogen to come to this conclusion. In the events that have unfolded in the past 5 months, the actions of MCP and his two bit sidekick, SS, have been more or less influenced by the fact, they Mridul and Aparajita are two girls, normal girls, neither bitchy nor meek. He behaves so, because, maybe, he sees them as not worthy of competing against him, or his bloated ego cannot digest a challenge from the fairer and apparently weaker sex.This was one man. Now for some more.In this team, all the girls, the ones who were lucky enough to get allocated got testing, as compared to the guys, who got development. Testing is commonly perceived as a job beneath the dignity of any coder worth his salt. But in a company, where most of the employees have not studied CS as their major, most of them are not coders.

So the assignment should be done purely on the basis of their performance in the training program, and not on their sex. But, the girls get testing, not because they are not good at coding, but because they are girlsWhat some guys actually think about the role of the female members the team – To act as a stress buster, for the overworked male colleague, by letting them flirt with them anytime they want, objects to practice their macho act on and an interesting way to engage yourself when at leisure.There was a team meeting in which the members were supposed to write down suggestions and ideas to improve the performance of the project. Our troika attended that meeting as well, even though they were not contributing towards the project. As they had no idea about what actually was going on, Mridul and Aparajita, could not have possibly come up with any idea or suggestion. So while they stared at their blank post-its, it caught the attention of senior male colleague. Initially, he coaxed them to write something. And soon it turned into a game, where another team member joined them, and unloaded a pile of post-its. They took verbal jabs at them, had fun at their expense, and shared this awesome in-joke. And guess what, M.C. Pakhandi, and S. Swine were nowhere around. Sexist? Or I am over imaginative?Personally, I would thrash guys like MCP and SS within inches of their lives, but that would not do anyone any good. His complex, his antagonism towards woman, in general or particular would only increase. I just don’t how can people like these be cured.Now that the story is over, some of you may challenge the neutrality of the story teller, i.e. yours truly. For the past 5 months, whenever I heard their stories, Mr. Pakhandi was never the villain. He was just a male colleague, sometimes very irritating and obnoxious, and un-co-operative, but never the enemy. The girls never saw him in that light till I pointed it out, and they gave an unbiased account, telling it as it happened . As I said before, the realization that something sexist was going on was sudden, and hence, the story.It is high time the girls kicked some serious MCP ass. I hope they get his balls as a trophy.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Arnav permalink
    May 19, 2009 12:03 pm

    Its really sad, the irony is that though a few “lucky and really hard working” intelligent ladies manage to get to the top – a thousand others succumb to this discrimination often silently..
    Its high time ,people start raising a voice…

  2. Usha Pisharody permalink
    May 19, 2009 1:19 pm

    I know, Arnav, as you say the silent suffering at some point has got to go. More assertive, as against reactionary responses to it is the key. But then, here, and elsewhere too, the gender bias has been going on too long that it will take time.

    Kislay, to repeat what I had, written on your blog, I do hope those girls will kick ass…!

  3. R.D.B permalink
    May 24, 2009 8:08 pm

    WOW… this is soo very true.. This is a story which reverberates thr’ evry office.. But sadly even a suggestion of it being sexual harassment is looked down upon and the complainant’s problems double and triple… It only acts as a deterrent for others to be meek n silent sufferer Itz high tym We Unite and stand together against this kind of behaviour.

    Also if u see more closely, There are hardly any women in senior mngmt. in most of our “Respected” Business houses. Discouragement has many faces for all the talented females in corporate world ruled mostly by MCPs

  4. indianhomemaker permalink
    May 26, 2009 1:04 pm

    Most of these stories are never even considered worth a discussion. We are so conditioned to believe that this is the way it should be or is.

  5. R.D.B. permalink
    May 27, 2009 1:02 pm

    Yes I agree with U IHM…

    but even if we aren’t “conditioned” to ignore and adjust by our parents… the society makes sure.. that we do.. !!! 🙂

    And it is such a rude shock… Confusing if parents were wrong somewher in their upbringing or itz just U who’s “different”.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    August 9, 2009 1:36 am

    I don't know whether there is any point posting this so long after the post, but still here it is. Do you know how many girls I have seen telling men they don't like them because they are not handsome. This was the only point in your post which I could not accept. Otherwise what you described was a perfect MCP.

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