Why is it hard to acknowledge a woman for her achievements?

When Ex-Foreign Minister of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar paid a visit to India in 2011, what evidently snatched the attention from her was her Birkin bag. Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard – the First Woman Prime Minister of Australia, was verbally attacked in 2014 for being “childless” and “unmarried”.

Earlier this month, I was wondering – Why is the entire world talking about the Human Rights Lawyer, Amal Clooney? The most significant reason would be her continued fight against ISIS. Well, NO! Much to my dismay it’s her maternity wardrobe making headlines.

Women donning a powerful personality, high ambitions, flourishing career or a compelling confidence level automatically become more vulnerable to sexist dissection. They get categorized as unruly, seen in a negative light or fall in trap of a more subtle second-generation bias. This situation, whether inside the walls of an organization, or, right under the sun, does not differ. In fact, attacking women in power goes back centuries. Why?

Are they are perceived as intimidating?
With more gender diversity coming into existence, disparity between genders in terms of opportunities, remuneration, benefits or economic contributions is shrinking every year leading to an equal environment. Women today are soaring higher than earlier times, they are better educated, well-informed, financially independent and crashing stereotypes. So, where does the problem lie? The problem lies with the fact that men are no more sole decision makers. Many men feel their male authority and dominance is being challenged on multiple fronts. The perception of a successful woman is perfectly aligned with that of a dominating one and that flares up sexism. As per the recent vocabulary trends, women are being termed as “survivors” or “badass”, to me, both the words do not conspire as “equal”. For equality to be properly implanted, there is a long way to go.

Do we focus more on physicality?
Our culture is so tangled up with physical stereotypes. A woman’s appearance being the first filter eclipses her intellect on a variety of meaningful grounds. When Julia Gillard was accused of being “childless”, did someone bother to throw light on her career accreditations? No! When Serena Williams owned the court in French Open, June 2015, a Twitter user mocked her by calling her “a gorilla”, another described her “unbelievably dominant and manly”. When the former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, made a remark on an opposition Member of Parliament, Rosy Bindi – “You’re more beautiful than you are intelligent”, his remarks were not only sexist but also displayed how disgracefully women are treated in a public forum. A study conducted in 2009 by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that some 73% of women felt a youthful appearance played an important role in getting them a job, promoted or keeping clients. There underlining problem over here is – we tend to self-invite doubt, discrimination, jealousy, competition…by simply categorizing gender and giving it a physical dimension.

Do we duly credit women for their success?
It is pointless to talk about how impactful recognition is to anyone, irrespective of sexes. When PV Sindhu won Silver in 2016 Rio Olympics or Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu set a new world record and won her first Olympic gold, in both the cases the focus fell on their coaches who happened to be “males”. When Hilary Clinton became the first female to stand for presidential elections, her husband, in return, got wide coverage by some of the most prestigious publications. Women seldom don a crown of being ‘self-made’, in majority of the cases they pass on their credit to others – This could be more than an imposter syndrome. Ask yourself – when was the last time you stood up for or happily applauded a woman who scored big? When was the last time you considered her equal indeed? Examples like these are indicative of the fact that – we may have come a long way in terms of ‘gender’ or ‘equality’ but the intricacy of this concept still remains to be understood and well-accepted, especially, in the areas where it lacks miserably.

Women alone cannot cut the weeds of sexism, we need more feminist men. Yes, in order to be a feminist, one doesn’t need to be a woman. Do we have any? We have plenty. There are men who selflessly work towards equality (so, when a woman wins big, it could be a man cheering from behind, “You can do it!”. Not because, he finds her weak but because he sees her in equal light. I would rather count my husband also into it!). Only if there will be equal participation, we would be able to get rid of filthy comparisons and shaming.

-Manvi

(P.S. – The featured image neither belongs to me nor this platform)

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