Fired and proud? I most certainly am! Female Academics and the Dress Stereotyping

This article is an extension to the discussion on female academics and their dressing initiated by Francesca Stavrakopoulou through her article ‘Female academics: don’t power dress, forget heels – and no flowing hair allowed’.

Francesca has very well put the policing and discrimination of women’s bodies by the society and in particular academia. There is no doubt about the sexist assumptions about a woman’s intellectual capacities based on her appearances. However my story went a little too extreme.

I was offered a position at a university in Dubai (name of institution remains anonymous). I was in the UK when I got the job offer and fascinated by the charm of the golden land, I decided to pursue it.

The first shock hit me during the induction by our HR where my male colleague signed the employment contract for a salary of 17000 Dirham per month while I was offered only 12000, despite negotiation.

Fast forward 25 days, I got fired! Reason: I objected to the management’s notice that was circulated to female staff ordering them to wear skirts and trousers to look ‘professional’ (read: sexy). It was the first year of the university and in order to attract students, the management wanted to sexualize and objectify female staff (bodies) which would give the students the impression that we were a modern and progressive culture institution.

As a female academic, it offended me deeply because there are times of the month when I want to be really comfortable and most importantly, my contract did not specify that I was supposed to be wearing a uniform as such. In a multi cultural institution, how can all female academics be forced to wear in a certain way?

I wrote back to the HR explaining my concerns but as I doubted, it was not the HR lady behind the circular, it was the VP and the male management. Despite the email confidentiality clause in every academic email, he got involved in the matter and called me in to harass me for voicing my opinion. He wanted me to apologize and beg to keep the job. I only said that it wouldn’t happen again and left.

When they harassed me again, this time in group, I took the matter to Dubai Courts. They instantly fired me. I did win the initial arguments and got flight tickets back to the UK which they gave just so I wouldn’t go ahead with my allegations in the court. I didn’t because I had run out of my savings staying in hotels and needed to get a grip of my life as soon as possible.

I returned back to the UK without a spoon of my own in the country. Began life from scratch. Yet, I learned few substantial lessons:

  1. No matter what’s in my brain, people judge me by my body and what I wear.
  2. No matter what, I must always stand for what I feel is right no matter what the price.
  3. Getting fired from a job can be an adventurous story.

I know some people would say that I went too far to be politically correct. I should have gone with the flow like the other twenty female academics. Why did it matter so much to me?

As the HR lady once told me in secret, “just play along and give fake smiles until you find a better position elsewhere and the moment you do, dump this job and laugh on their face.”

I know that most people there were just faking hard work because all they wanted was to move ahead, as they told me themselves. But I found it unethical to just play along when I wasn’t comfortable with the harassment and constant critiquing by the male management staff. Within a few days of my work, I had arranged five field trips for our students at Dubai’s most exciting businesses and factories. I was a competent employee and couldn’t fake hard work like others advised me to.

Being a woman in this world is difficult enough and academia is no exception. I am a person of color and twice I have been questioned what I was doing in the staff area at my university in the UK since students are not allowed to be there. When I would flash my staff card, they would get embarrassed and say “you look so young; I mistook you for a student”.

Francesca raised a wonderful point that when men dress in a jeans and hoodie, look shabby, they are too occupied in their work as presumed by the society. God forbid a woman dresses that way!

What Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and Abu Azmi need to know about rape and false rape accusations

That Feminist Life

The media shocked the world recently when they broadcasted insensitive remarks of CM Mulayam Singh Yadav and Abu Azmi about rape:

 “rape accused should not be hanged. Men make mistakes… Handing death sentence for rape is not fair… boys make mistakes… there will be changes in the law if we come to power . Efforts will be made to change such a law so that those misusing it are punished. Those filing false reports will also be taken to task. When their friendship ends, the girl complains she has been raped.” The SP chief was citing the recent example of the Shakti Mills gang rape case where a young photo journalist was gang raped by five men inside the compound, out of which three of the accused had also earlier raped a 19 year old girl. The three accused were given the death penalty. Following in the heels of…

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The LOOSER WRITER- Are you one?

That Feminist Life

Recently, I came across a rather unusual TED talk video. I am a big fan of TED Talk videos for many reasons and I love listening to scholars and accomplishers speaking about various issues. This particular video got my attention because it was rude, aggressive and straight in-your-face kind of truth revealed in 15 minutes.

The presenter of the video is Professor Larry Smith, an Economist who talks about Why you will fail to have a great career?

He is right! Most of us do fail. And the reason is simply because we do not want to pursue a dream or a passion but rather go-with-the-flow. As a writer, I feel this video is all the more relevant because unless you have a big, fat advance cheque for your upcoming book, you are basically putting all that hard work and effort in an empty box which has no worth. When…

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10 Ways Men Can Combat Sexist Entitlement in Public

Change From Within

After the tragic mass murder in Isla Vista, CA in May, violence driven by Elliot Rodger’s misogyny and racism, countless women used the hashtag #YesAllWomen to voice the endless ways in which overt and microaggressive misogyny shows up in their everyday lives.  It was an incredible response to a terrible tragedy, one with the power to raise awareness of the constant assault on their lives, bodies, personhood, and livelihoods that women-identified people face.  I, along with a number of other pro-feminist men, called on men to read as many of the tweets and to reflect on what they cumulatively call on us to change.

Sadly, though, many men saw it as a chance to question and challenge women’s experiences with misogyny rather than to listen.

One of the most common refrains, despite the thousands of voices cumulatively calling on men to realize the harsh realities of misogyny, was “PROVE IT!”…

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2 Lies We Need To Stop Telling Indian Men

Patriarchy hurts men too; I guess we already established that. The toxic myths of masculinity suppress men’s emotions and personalities altering the real person entirely.

Indian men have seen the worst of it because of extreme sexism, racism and classism.

When I say, ‘the rights of Indian men’, most people look at me with raised eyebrows. I don’t blame them. Since the last few years, all the cases of violence against women have been paramount. India has been labeled as the worst place in the entire world to be a woman. No doubt, women are suffering the burnout but I would like you to know a few things.

Let’s talk about rape. Do you know that 4% of men commit more than 97% of sexual offences? That means these men are repeat offenders. This also means that most men out there are not rapists. Although the stats are not from India but on average this statistic is applicable almost everywhere in the world give or take few numbers.

However, the male community shares that outrage with the actual criminals. If you think about it, the actual culprit here is the system- patriarchy. It’s not the men because they are victims too.

I know you may not want to admit that. After all the word victim somehow challenges their masculinity. But the truth is it’s just a myth. Masculinity does NOT imply that men cannot be vulnerable.

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Read full article on Campus DIaries

Why Stereotyping All Women As Victims Is A Deadly Mistake Our Society Is Making

I was at a famous mall in Dubai. In the same cookies aisle as I was, there was a couple with a toddler. Malls in Dubai are magnanimous and probably the child was tired of walking. He was pestering his parents to buy some cookie and within minutes his words turned into loud screams. Both the parents pinned him by his arm and threw heavy weight palms to smash his face, back and whatever they could hit.

The feminist movement and gender equality protests has brought into the limelight, the most ferocious crimes against women.

The good news is that now, our society has learnt to recognize comments on the street as harassment and forced intercourse as rape.

As more and more women speak of their horror stories, the world consumes that information and translates that as a stereotype.

All women are considered victims and as a general consensus, all men are rapists. Most people know that not all men are really rapists but men do share the infamous reputation created by few fellow members of their community.

The reason why stereotyping all women as victims is deadly is because violence is not about sex or sexual urges. It is about power.

It is the feeling that ‘I am more powerful than you and I can use it to do any damn thing I want.’

We usually see men as criminals or abusers of their power because of their physical stature (which many men do use to intimidate women, sure).

But if you flip the coin and hold women in power, then what?

Would women abuse their power like men?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes, although disproportionately.

Let me explain.

Men are taught/groomed to be aggressive, dominant and emotionless by the patriarch society under the myth of masculinity. The only emotions we allow men to express are anger, disappointment and violence. This certainly plays a huge role. To be approved by fellow men or family/society, men act in a certain way that would qualify them to be called ‘the man of the family’.

However, this is about violence and misuse of power over the less powerful. Women may not be able to exercise their power over men due to various reasons (some do), but they do it on children.

Before I go ahead, let me emphasize it enough that not all women abuse children (just like not all men rape and beat).

However, many evidences have come in the media recently where women were found guilty of battering babies like a dead punching bag. Watch here

http://www.click2houston.com/news/caught-on-camera-mother-beats-toddler/26007746

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2266431/Monster-nanny-caught-camera-beating-child-wouldnt-eat-soup-locking-kitchen-own.html

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/nanny-cam-mother-catches-bad-nanny-camera-26208480

Child abuse can be done by nannies, mothers, fathers, step parents, teachers, the list is endless regardless of their gender.

Stereotyping all women as victims eliminates the fear that a woman would ever do such a thing. I, as a woman, cannot imagine such person (man or woman) beating up a child like that but when I see other women do that, I learn that there are all sorts of people in this world.

Power is the crucial element and the culprit of these crimes. The ability to hurt another individual and use intimidation to suppress their voices.

I call this kind of stereotyping deadly because when men suppressed women, women took a stand and stood up for their rights, told their survivor stories and made the world recognize their pain.

I wonder how these babies will ever be able to speak up against these women (or men) who abuse them. They don’t have a voice. If their parents do not find out or if they are orphans, their abusers will hide forever as the oppressed victims of the society and enjoy a place they don’t deserve.

If I have learnt anything from my recent course on Violence at Emory University, it is to stop believing in the stereotypes of violence, stop connecting violence with certain religions, countries or genders.

The truth is that violence is an individual’s ability to exercise power, trust or authority abusively when they know the other person is powerless.

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Please Keep Football RAPIST FREE- An Open Letter to ITV, Judy Finnigan and Sheffield United

Dear Judy Finnigan,ITV and Sheffield United,

This is regarding your comments/sympathy for Ched Evans that appeared on the talk show.

I am sure you have heard this before but let me explain and ask you a few things-

Causing bodily harm

You said “he did not cause any bodily harm”. Isn’t the act of rape itself an act of violating someone’s physical boundaries and causing them physical and mental harm?

I am not sure if you are aware but may be you must dig deeper about the mental trauma that any victim has ever gone through. Especially if their rapist has a celebrity status which makes the victim vulnerable to secondary victimization and a target of his fans and followers. Rape is violence. Period.

If by ‘causing bodily harm’ you meant raped by an iron rod or hanged on a tree to death (as happened in India) then yes, I agree.  Ched may not have done that. But what are you implying here? That unless a woman is no longer a woman but a dead piece of meat, the rapist deserves just a 2 year jail time?

Who suffered more?

You mentioned that the girl was drunk and in no position to give consent. However when she did realize what had happened, do you have any idea of the amount of trauma she must have gone through for the rape alone? Moreover, being raped by someone with name and fame, making her the easy target of his fans, causing threat to her life? Being raped is in itself a mountain of trauma to handle and to top it off this poor girl may have to spend the rest of her life hiding her identity from the rapist Ched Evans and his misogynist fans.

Please don’t trivialize the experiences of thousands of survivors out there by encouraging celebrities like Ched to rape them and get away with it so easy. You defend him by saying that ‘he served his time’ and that somehow gives him the right to get on with his life as if nothing happened. Do you have any idea about the impact of this rape that the girl will have to live with for the rest of her life?

For this girl, it didn’t end when he was convicted and certainly not when he comes out of the prison. For her, the trauma can be lifelong like most survivors and this need to be understood and respected by the society.

Celebrity privilege

I am unhappy that he is even getting out in just 2 years but personal opinions aside, let’s talk about a regular sex offender. When a regular street man is registered as a sex offender, how is he treated by the society and by the police? How many places is he prohibited to go and how many careers he is denied? I totally believe in restorative justice but as the law dictates, preventive measures need to be taken with sex offenders.

Just because Ched Evans is a celebrity, he must be allowed to go back to his original job and enjoy the same status and fame? Remaining in that position, how many other fans including children are going to be around him? How is that going to ‘keep the sex offender under the cautious eyes of the police’?

You asked what he would do after he is out. As media reports, he has been honing painting and decorating skills while inside the prison. He can come out and practice those skills as a professional builder may be.

If ITV and Judy, you are so worried about his welfare and how would he pay his bills, may be you can offer him a janitor’s position at ITV or offer him painting your office?

Keep Football RAPIST FREE

And if somehow he does get a chance to play football, should we label football as the career choice for rapists? People like Craig Thomson, Peter Storey, Graham Rix, Marlon King, Ched Evans and of course thousands others involved in using their partners as punching bags cannot work at other reputed places such as schools, hospitals, retail industry etc and the football will always welcome them back. Is that what football really is?

I am sorry but there are thousands of other dignified and gentlemen footballers out there who do not take advantage of their position and the love offered by their fans. By welcoming rapist Ched Evans back, the industry will discredit the trust and image of the industry in the minds of all people around the world. Since stereotyping is one of the many flaws of human nature, trivializing rape and welcoming rapists back will soon label athletes and sports as a rapist’s profession (many people already do believe in that).

Please help save the sport industry and keep it ‘rapist free’.

With Love.

PS

Sign the petition here

Refuse to reinstate Ched Evans as a player at Sheffield United.

3 Awesome #Blurred Lines Songs That Will Make You LOL And ROFL Like Never Before in Life

Hello my brilliant readers,

So, we had the #blurred lines song discussion since the pop song by Robin Thicke was out. Some of us loved it, many of us hated it because of the sexist lyrics, choreography (everything in fact) and made sure the song gets banned at as many places as possible.

However, since the song #blurred lines sort of was an open ended one point story out there,….there had to be answers right. The other part of the story that gives us the entire picture. You may have seen these videos before, but if you haven’t, you will literally roll on the floor laughing until your stomach hurts.

3rd best on the list is

#GOAWAY

2nd best on the list is

#EVERYBIGOTSHUTUP 😀

And the WINNER IS….

#DOUCHE

I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did. There couldnt be a better way of responding to the chauvinistic, misogynistic songs like this. Keep up the good work all you THINKERS AND DOERS out there.

God Bless,

Love and Light

Shahla

#lamelines

Finding Me A Husband??? Here Is My Matrimonial Bio Data- GOOD LUCK

Arranged marriages in India are mainstream. A friend of the family has been extremely worried about me turning 28 and still single. Her worry can be felt in her questions every time we happen to chat such as:

“Poor you, why did you go for a PhD, now how are you ever going to find a man who doesn’t feel intimidated?”

“I can understand your pains how difficult it is to be without a man.”

“You must be sleepless at nights! How are you ever going to stop your biological clock until you find the perfect husband?”

“Send me your bio data, I will find you a rich family guy, I promise.”

Since, she insisted on the last one ad infinitum, I decided to make my matrimonial bio data at last and send it to her so she can find me a guy. Not to mention she blissfully ignores that there is an option of ‘voluntary singlehood’ that women can choose too, other than marriage. Anyways, here it goes…

biodata

On a serious note:

I am a feminist, yes. No, I don’t hate men. Yes, I might get married someday but not until I feel like it. You see, it’s just that I believe partnership needs time and attention. Currently, I am busy building myself and my passions. I don’t think it would be fair for me to marry someone only to ignore the person and spend time with my personal projects. Besides, what’s the rush?

Since the last 7 years of my life, I get asked this question a lot “when are you getting married?” I understand that people who care for me and want to see me happy are worried for me. But they don’t ask this question to me because I seem somehow unhappy (cause the truth is quite the opposite, I love being single to bits). They ask because this is the norm.

Embedded deep in the patriarchal society, most of us (Indian Muslims specifically) don’t even think that women are not just wives and mothers, they are humans first. They can have a life of their own. They can think and dream and work hard to accomplish things in life.

Marriage itself isn’t bad. But getting married due to age, honor, neighbor’s marriage, your ex’s marriage and/or the availability of a wealthy guy is horrendous.

I speak with men who are unhappy in their marriages because they went for the homely, educated but indoor living, soap watching women so that she could remain at home and take care of the family. They complain when they realize that these women do not share their goals and ambitions and can barely laugh or argue about a book they read or a movie they saw. It’s not the women’s fault; they have been grown up to believe that they are only good for laundry, cooking and child bearing. Hence their limited outlook on life.

Men  get trapped in their own double standards. They ask for a homely, disciplined, head-down-complacent-yes-sir attitude kind of a wife and later regret because she is absolutely dependent on the husband for every single thing in her life. She doesn’t earn (isn’t allowed to step out of the house on her own) so the husband has to be rich or she is in deep shit. She would never go to a bank or run errands in case the husband is busy. She wouldn’t share the enthusiasm and charm of working on an exciting project (you cannot expect Rock or Jazz singer to enjoy Ghazals, can you?)  neither would she understand most things about his work and colleagues. (This of course is not what happens with everyone but with most people).

Women who choose for themselves are the best spectacle to watch.

That’s because they do make mistakes, they fall down, get hurt, drag on the ground, learn to stand up, slowly and gradually they take their first step and one day their start to run (their life) and ultimately take a flight to the world of their dreams.

It is like watching a child learn how to walk or a baby bird learn how to fly.

Women must not be reduced to their body parts. Just because I have ovaries doesn’t mean I am my ovaries. I can use them as and when I like. In India (at least in my community), women’s lives are spent preparing for married life. We are grown up to learn how to cook and clean and serve so one day we can impress the husband’s family. I am sure every Indian has heard the ages old phrase:

Sasural jaaegi, badnaami karegi hamari.. Seekh le kuch ghar ke kaam…

In English, it means “when you go to your husband’s abode, you will bring us a bad impression and shame. Learn household chores.

This is such a narrow, shallow and orthodox view of women. It is a waste of being a woman. Women can choose to be single and independent and instead of wasting themselves in the kitchen, do much more with their lives.

As our beloved Shakira said:

The worst mistake of a woman is to go to the kitchen, because then she never gets out of there.

An independent woman who can support herself financially, emotionally and mentally is the best combination of God and man’s work (usually her Dad in this case but could be anyone).  Because we live in a patriarchal society, men hold much more power than women and hence it is crucial for fathers to raise their daughters this way. Fathers play a prominent role in the building a woman. And I am glad my father did.

I want to point out another double standard here that we barely notice. Why an educated, accomplished woman has to find a husband who is more accomplished than her? Why can’t we accept men as partners instead of competitors? Why is there so much pressure on me to find a guy who is in some way ‘more’ than me? Why can’t his care be a reason good enough?

Some might say that it’s because men get intimidated and this would create problems in the marriage. Well, in that case if I am marrying a ‘man child’ who has issues with his own masculinity and needs to compete with me, I don’t think he needs me, I think he needs counseling and a rational upbringing.

Asking women to underachieve in life to cheer up the male ego is like… sorry I couldn’t find anything synonymous that is dumber than this.

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night puts it precisely, “The rule seemed to be that a great woman must either die unwed … or find a still greater man to marry her. … The great man, on the other hand, could marry where he liked, not being restricted to great women; indeed, it was often found sweet and commendable in him to choose a woman of no sort of greatness at all.”

So all you girls out there; marry when you feel like it, not when you are rushed into it because your ovaries might expire or your neighbors birthing their 7th child and you are still single.

And all you guys out there; think twice multiplied by 10, before you pick your wife. A homely wife may be good in home but you will be stepping out of the house too and might need a companion for life not just for the home. And when you do become the father of a girl, raise her to choose her own way in life.

And those offering to find me a husband….thanks and good luck 😉

Cheers

6 COOL THINGS GUYS CAN DO TO STOP STREET HARASSMENT

Street Harassment is a form of violence agaisnt women that hurts when in public spaces in broad day light. Yet not many people speak against it. Any sort of flashing, commenting, staring, groping, mockery or extreme assault like rape MUST come to an end. A street is to use and enjoy for others as much as it is for you. Cool guys, you know, the ones who are not perverts…. can actually do a lot to help but sometimes they dont know how to. Here are some easy and quick ideas. For more information, please log on http://www.safespaceseurope.com