Note: This post has been in writing for a while now. I wrote some bits of it a year back but never completed it. It is a long post.
These are some snippets from some of the conversations I have on a daily basis as a small business owner. Most vendors I interact with assume that I am a man and I have to keep correcting them. I initiate a lot of conversations with vendors via email and WhatsApp but every time someone calls me and realizes I am a woman – they are initially perplexed and many times ask to speak with the “business owner” instead. It annoys me a lot that people are still shocked at women being at the helm of things.
Another fact that annoys me every day is that most roads in Delhi are named after great men from history. Infact only 3 major roads in Delhi are named after women – Amrita Shergill Marg, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, and Mother Teresa Crescent Road. A group did a check on how many streets are named after women across major cities around the world and found that only 27.5% are named after women.
But maybe I am overreating, so I decided to do a quick fact check-
- Only 8% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. “Having a total of 41 women chief executives amounts to female leadership for just 8.1% of the Fortune 500.”
- According to the UN – “As of 1 September 2021, there are 26 women serving as Heads of State and/or Government in 24 countries. At the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years.” This is down to 25 since Angela Merkel stepped down in December 2021. (There are 193 UN member states.)
- The United States of America hasn’t had a single woman president ever.
- Out of the 42 Indian startups that turned unicorn in 2021, only 4 were led by women (less than 10%).
- “Amongst the Fortune 100 companies in India, only five have women CEOs.“
- “In Turkmenistan, women are no longer allowed to wear “tight-fitting” clothes, dye their hair, or use beauty accessories such as false nails or eyelashes. Traffic police in Turkmenistan also now prohibits male drivers of private vehicles from picking up women unless they are related. Females are also banned from sitting in the front seat next to the driver.”
- Since coming back to power, Taliban has barred girls from attending secondary school. They have forced a lot of women out of jobs and criminalized a lot of women’s clothes.
While things have changed around the globe for the better for a lot of women (including me), it still often feels like the odds are stacked against women. Some examples –
- I interacted with a senior from my B-school a few months back who casually mentioned that I shouldn’t be focusing on my business since it is my age to get married and have kids. Would he have said this to a man calling him?
- In my old organization (a global bank), a very senior man was casually discussing hiring for an open role with his junior and said – “Don’t hire her because she just got married and will potentially take maternity leave.”
- An unmarried middle-aged woman in most TV shows, movies, is portrayed as sad and lonely whereas a middle-aged man who is single is portrayed as hot and desirable.
- Equal pay is still a dream in most industries.
- The onus of being safe and the blame if something happens is placed on women instead of targeting men who perpetuate crime against women. (she was walking alone at night, she was wearing a short skirt, she took a cab alone, she was drunk – ARGH)
- A close male friend of mine often picks up arguments with me because he thinks feminists are asking for “more than what we deserve”
I wanted to check with other bloggers if they felt like the world was still largely patriarchal. I reached out to my blogging bestie, Libby from The Goddess Attainable and here’s what she had to say –
I don’t think, I know my society is patriarchal.
Our government is currently threatening to overturn a law that legalizes abortion in our country. And if this law is overturned, women will not be able to legally abort a pregnancy, no matter the circumstances. This is upsetting to so many people, because this is less about the issue of abortion, and more (or, I should say, exclusively) about men in power wanting to exert control over a woman’s body. They’re wanting to legalize propertization and objectification of females. And I will add that our country was founded by a handful of white men, and of all of our 46 presidents, who have served over the last 225 years, all of them have been men. This country is 100% patriarchal, and always has been.
I also reached out to Natalie from The Hot Goddess as she is an expat and has traveled extensively. I wanted to see how patriarchy had affected her journey and this is what she said –
I live in a country where a gun-worshipping, mask-refusing, freedom-shrieking patriarchy uses a grossly hypocritical claim that “life is sacred” to tell women what to do with their own bodies. I know it could be worse. I know patriarchal control is a daily threat to life for women in some countries. As a first-time solo traveler, I experienced the frightening reality of male domination during a 70-day around-the-world trip to celebrate my retirement and upcoming 60th birthday.
I have not shared these experiences on Instagram or The Hot Goddess blog. I haven’t wanted to post negative comments about other countries and contribute to the wave of xenophobia that seems to be spreading throughout my country. I want to stress that Morocco and Egypt are breathtakingly beautiful countries that belong on everyone’s bucket list. I met many warm and friendly people – women and men – who showed me such kindness in both countries. I had many wonderful experiences in North Africa that I will never forget.
That said, I will also never forget a few instances of harassment by domineering men who felt a woman should know her place. In Morocco, aggressive local men would follow me through the souks of Marrakech’s Old Medina because I was a foreign woman walking alone. It was so unnerving that I began staying in my riad unless I was going on a group excursion, and even then I made sure the tours would be over well before 5PM when it started to get dark.
In Egypt, an Uber driver used Siri and Google Translate to ask me if I was married. When I lied and said I was he/Siri replied that if I was married my husband wouldn’t let me take Uber by myself. He then drove me around for 40 minutes, not stopping to let me out at my requested destination in Cairo. As the driver spoke in Arabic Siri’s female voice pestered me in English for a date, and quizzed me about my plans and my husband. I spoke into his phone and heard Siri speak my responses in Arabic. I hoped she was getting the words right. My irritation didn’t turn to real apprehension until I heard Siri say, “I want to show you my intention.”
I had rehearsed self-defense scenarios in my overthinking mind as part of my constant worst-case planning. I was prepared to hurt this man if I had to. I was also prepared to hurt myself if I had to jump from his car as he sped along a freeway that was not for the faint of heart. The driver never touched me, though, and I maintained a polite, confident demeanor despite my growing fear. I listened to Siri relay his comments about two sons, a wife, and a former job as an engineer. I made up stories about my husband, a business executive who’d be waiting for me at our hotel after a long day of meetings with important men. The driver drove to my hotel in Giza where he finally stopped the car. As I got out he/Siri reminded me, “I have your phone number.”
If that driver’s intention was to scare me and piss me off, he accomplished that. I know the real intention, though, was much worse. It was to control me. To control a woman who didn’t have permission from a man to do what she wanted. And that, after all, is exactly where we are now in my own country…where I’m scared for our rights as women and pissed off at the hypocrisy and audacity of the men trying to control us.
The world is skewed and men have had the upper hand for centuries. But now more than ever, we need more men to join the feminism bandwagon. We also need more women in leadership positions to try and change things for future generations of women. We don’t just want one day a year celebrating us, we’d rather that every day be celebrated as Human’s Day where we all have equal rights and opportunities.
Do you think the society you live in is patriarchal?
PS: Feminism means asking for “equal” rights and “equal” opportunities for women. It does not mean that we are asking for concessions or something special.
If you haven’t already, check out my other recent posts –