“Cry baby or fighting fit”- 29 April 2018.

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Saturday, 02 June 2018 10:46

As a seasoned practising psychologist, observing and analysing human behaviour comes like a reflex action- one does not have to go into deep thought with a magnifying glass. The only outward manifestation of all thoughts, beliefs and attitudes is -behaviour- whether verbal language or non verbal body language. Beliefs systems and thoughts can be gleaned through outward behaviour. It is pathetic to realise, which I do time and again, that the attitudes towards women are still archaic, traditional and stereotyped whether you are in the company of the best of men you would so believe, or in the company of not –so- enlightened men. They seem to be all the same under the skin whether they wear western suits with bows and ties or wear dhoti and pyjamas! I find the kurta-clad socialist types the best minds open to change, somewhat.

When a woman was trying to make a point to the managing team of an organisation regarding representation of women in an event, she was interestingly called a ‘cry baby’ by a senior post bearer and another senior member called her ‘fighting fit’ in contrast! Both the instances of ‘name calling’ - the tag attached to the woman’s request was very interesting. When a man thumbs the desk and puts his opinion in strong bombastic sounding words, he is being a MAN! The purpose of his loud statement is to drown the voice of all others and seal the discussion. If the woman yet persists in making her opinion clear, she is a Rani Jhansi or a fighter so to say. This name calling has a tone of condescendence for whatever she does she will be judged and labelled. The ‘cry baby’ tag was puzzling and amusing, which seemed to reflect more the background of the man who said it rather than the woman protagonist. Women are often called ‘cry babies’ which is also a label used by men when they do not want to address the real problem but would like to ‘shut her up’. Silencing a woman into submission is an age old practice.

Tags and labels are commonly used to abuse, condemn and put down the other. For example, when people say, ‘Boss, Hitler, Dog’ for their seniors they actually condemn their behaviour and vent out their anger, not realising that these are negative defences that harm them and their relationships in the long run. For, it is a type of cognitive distortion or an irrational thought pattern that blocks rational /logical thought and serves the purpose of venting anger but keeps the problem unresolved. The problem does not get solved at all but persists, for a problem can get solved, only when an open democratic mind is ready for two way communication / a dialogue so to say. Without opening a discussion when a person expresses an opinion and follows it up with, ‘matters are closed’ as ‘the decision is taken’, it speaks of a closed mind.

Many surveys are published by forums on the state of gender inequality. The World Economic Forum publishes a Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) score each year for every nation. According to the Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Forum (WEF) in 2011 India ranked 113 on the GGGI among the 135 countries. Since then India improved its rankings on the GGGI to 105 /136 in 2013. It has again slid down to 108th position out of 144 countries that polled in 2017! It is pathetic that India slides down the ranks on gender equality in spite of all the hullaballoo about ‘save the girl child’ and the types of such campaigns. India takes a step forward and then takes two steps backwards. Nothing will happen until people change their attitudes and beliefs about the status and role of women in society and life.

In a social system that is patriarchal in nature, men are at a privilege as they are considered the primary authority figures controlling the social, economic and moral systems. They also hence control the lives of women and children at home. The birth of a son who will inherit the property of the father and follow the systems laid down tends to perpetuate the culture. The son will also support his parents in old age and take care of them as daughters leave home for her marital home and so on.

When men see women in the workplace competing equally with them and doing even better at times, it rubs their inflated egos in the negative leading to surfacing of the suppressed hostility and anger which is always there. The upper polished crust of so called social demeanour and facade of sophistication can crumble any time as the true nature peeps out through tags and name calling. We call them in psychology –‘Freudian slips of the tongue’! Even if the man apologises and says ‘sorry’ the unconscious mind has revealed itself. There is a cause and determination of every action and nothing happens ‘just like that’. There is a huge social psychological baggage lying hidden buried underneath the conscious mind that keeps peeping out time and again and we remind them by saying –‘sorry, your slip is showing’!

Changing beliefs and attitudes requires a daily dose of introspection, with a strong flavour of honesty and truthfulness and a desire for transformation. The report by Lean.In and Mc.Kinsey & Company on the ‘Women in the Workplace Report 2017’ (of corporate America), states clearly that ‘men are less committed to gender diversity efforts’. In fact it says further that ‘some men even feel that gender diversity efforts disadvantage them: 15 percent men think their gender will make it harder for them to advance. ‘Despite the commitment to diversity, progress continues to be slow- and may even be stalling. One of the most powerful reasons for this is a simple one: we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we can’t solve problems that we don’t see or understand clearly’. If this is the state of affairs in America, what can we dream of in India!