Casual Sexism: Why Do Women Find It Difficult To Stay In The Indian Workforce?

Casual Sexism: Why Do Women Find It Difficult To Stay In The Indian Workforce? - Sakshi Post

By Aashisha Chakraborty - a PM Yuva author and Write India Winner

Casual sexism is the kind of elephant in the room which people have learned to pretend doesn’t exist. It’s called casual because it’s barely noticed and yet, it ends up offending women and causes them discomfort which they don’t know how to deal with.

‘Grow a thicker skin; it’s a joke- don’t take it seriously. The corporate scene can be difficult for gullible women.’

‘They didn’t know any better; they are from a different generation.’

The above are just a few comments that women often overlook because they put them in a dilemma. Are these even worth complaining about? Or should they just wait it out and search for a more inclusive culture elsewhere?

The Pew Research Centre in the US says 42% of women face some form of sexism in the workplace. Casual sexism is patriarchy-inspired behavior hiding out in the open. For the sake of maintaining peace and staying away from issues, we let these remarks slide and let our historic immunity overcome the slight discomforts that act as pinpricks in our conscience.

Five dialogues that reek of casual sexism at the workplace:

“Can I speak to your manager, please?”

I am she, you poor victim of unconscious bias. How many times have women in high positions been mistaken for PAs, telecallers, and what not? Sometimes, it’s even flattering but as the treatment persists, you realize that these are the remnants of patriarchy which refuse to leave our societal systems.

“Man up, this profession requires tough ones.”

To ‘man up’ equates being tough. I have often heard men being chastened for going easy or being sensitive and then being tagged not ‘manly enough’. Then there are women termed aggressive, bossy and termagants for the same kind of behavior which on a man would merely invite the adjective- assertive. Till date, we see professions having gender preferences. In many instances, I have observed whispered hiring conversations avoiding the woman and accepting the man for the same job, perhaps seeing that they have started a family or might be going for a maternity leave. And then we have the irony of ‘diversity hiring’ where organizations try to make up for casual daily undetected sexism by setting up such policies to circumvent their guilty conscience.These policies would only work when women find a welcoming workplace.

“They are from a different generation and don’t know how to behave.”

Is that an us-problem or a they-problem? Should women be penalized for even this? How many such generations should be excused for simply not knowing how to behave? Many organizations have cited the performance and importance of high-level employees who despite having committed objectionable acts during their tenure and hence, transferred them or changed titles and hushed things up to avoid bad publicity.

“Discussing with you doesn’t feel like discussing with a girl; your insights are fab.”

Such back-handed compliments can be undetectably nasty. At one point of time, a few years ago, when guys used to say, “you are very different; sometimes, I forget you are a girl,” I used to glow from inside, thinking that I wasn’t catty or bitchy like other girls. And then many years later, I realized what I was doing. I was normalizing, internalizing and accepting casual sexism. Such behaviors and mannerisms end up being a part of our core so much so that instead of fostering sisterhood, we end up being pitched against each other. When I hear these comments now, I feel as if we have a long way to go.

“We will send you to make an impression on the new client. Dress well.”

One of the oldest and worst statements of objectification, these comments demean women the most. Saying that the application of ‘G’ factor helps sail many boats in choppy waters and the sheer ease with which women can make their way, thanks to their charm are all nuanced forms of slut shaming. Jokes which feel like insults and caustic comments couched under care fall under the umbrella of something called benevolent sexism which can drive and reinforce gender stereotyping in the workplace. For instance, a woman adept at statistics and numbers is seen as a big deal, almost an abnormality, in fact. Such thought processes can make women feel apprehensive about being themselves because they might be perceived as weak.

It’s easy to enforce rules and talk about diversity but what really matters is how comfortable are we able to make the workplace for them.  By comfort, we mean equal treatment without any preconceived notions clouding the lens of colleagues. The way women are treated on a daily basis decides how long they wish to remain in the workforce.

Also Read: The Lack of Information Among Sexually Active Women- Facts and Myths  

whatsapp channel

Read More:

Back to Top