Politics of Silence – Part 2

Silence is power . You’d realize that If you are in a relationship and more so just after an argument or the first date. The person who speaks first loses bargaining power.

Silence is prudent. Someone at work often pulls me up for my eagerness to lay all the information out on the table for everyone’s consumption. He insists knowledge is power , so one should never volunteer information.

Silence is like a pawn on a chess board. A game associated with Politics – the larger subject I am exploring in this series .

So far so good you’d say , but imagine if the silence in question just becomes a vast expanse of lull with no end in sight?

Silence is deafening. When people in power position take the path of least resistance . When industry leaders chose to not critique demonetization or opinion leaders make an appearance only when there is a movie to promote.

Silence is acceptance. We now know how not being silent sounds as the most prominent public figures are marching on roads & the most prominent tech firms are calling out on poor policymaking in certain parts of the world.

To each his own , as far as industry speak is concerned . It’s their business , it’s their monies and it’s their area of expertise.

But like I mentioned in my last post , we need to raise the right questions to get the answers that matter. She may remain quiet as an industry spokesperson but to speak doesn’t remain optional for Sheryl Sandberg , the post-it girl for Feminism at workplace when millions of women take it to the streets in the strongest act of dissent recorded in modern history. This article here felt like a pin dropping in a quiet room. Could her silence mean politics? No one can answer that .

I am taking forward my idea of ‘Silence is political’ beyond Politics and Journalism & exploring it’s dynamics at workplace. Exploring what we can safely say , the tip of the iceberg.

With the entire TVF episode opening a can of worms , let me start from the start. Women lack representation across sectors as workforce. India ranks amongst the bottom 20 countries in a list of 131 in female labour force participation (FLFP) as per an ILO report [ Source : SHEROES report on Women who Work]  & this number is seeing a double digit decline every year. In plain English there are 24 women in every 100 working people [ Source: WEF report]. Let that sink in.

We are a minority. By virtue of mathematics we are the smaller group , our voices are easier to drown , we carry less weight , we stand little chance . Whichever way you put it , we matter less – 3/4 times lesser than the other gender.

If you are imagining a coffee guzzling , presentation making group of people in AC offices , so yes , we do form a negligible 5% in senior roles [ against Global average of 20%] but even if we look beyond that visual , it’s not just private or public sector. We are the invisible workforce across sectors as we don’t get paid for what we do.

Thanks to the views such as those of Ms Mira Rajput & many more – almost 48% women in India drop out of the workforce before they reach the middle of their careers & let’s not even get started on the wage gap as per which we earn Rs 62 against every Rs 100 that our male counterpart’s earn in India.

I am not going to state any more facts , we can all google them , only to conveniently ignore them and go on to say why don’t women speak up?  So here I am , speaking up.

We are habitually told what to do. We are mostly the workers . At home , in factories , at workplace or toiling away in tea plants or paddy fields. If we give out orders , we all know how horrible we are as bosses right? The worst. Now , before you throw your hands up in the air and say , ‘don’t talk about Mansplaining again!’ it’s not just in the boardroom , the most iconic moment of ‘Men trying to interrupt women with a burning need to express themselves’ happened during an acceptance speech for an entertainment awards!

During the 2009 VMA’s Kanye needed to talk so bad , he had to get on the stage , snatch the mike from the recipient of ‘Best Female Performer’ and say this “Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’m gonna let you finish, but I’m sorry, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.” I am sure , your expressions mirror Beyoncé and Taylor’s face at that moment . Nope , we can’t even accept awards in peace without men jumping in to share their opinion about us.

Another personal favorite incident is when a random guy tried to explain how space works to an astronaut . Come to think of it , being mansplained is actually slightly better than being told we are a distraction by the most educated of them folks, say a Nobel Prize winner ?

“Three things happen when [women] are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry,” Sir Tim Hunt justified his proposal of single – sex labs at a World Conference of Science Journalists . Um , Okay then.

So we battle low representation , we battle job continuity , we also battle being called a distraction because of our gender and the story just gets worse from there . This article here talks about how Women ARE interrupted more than Men – as doctors by patients , in classrooms to get teacher’s attention , in professional meetings – to assert more power or as an expression of domination.

Last week , a post by a female blogger quoted by a male blogger went viral . The man’s quote literally got the woman’s view more reach – it’s a fact , not an observation . Ironically , the post was about an experiment conducted by the pair to adopt each other’s gender [signatures to be precise ] and experience ‘sexism’ at workplace up – close . To my dismay my reaction that women don’t have it easy , they make things work inspite of their gender got negative reactions from , yet women .

Anyway , those are trivialities , the larger point is , how much ever we love the idea of Feminist men , if their being our spokesperson gets us more attention – should we take it in our stride or should we call that out as a problem as well?

Rhetoric’s aside , I’d rather have men raising the decibel levels for us , than trying to silence us . After all , what’s the worse that can happen in a typical workday for a girl? Someone ‘rephrasing’ your point to walk away with the credit or someone tell you mid sentence , ‘Oh we know what you mean, sit down’. Atleast , it’s not going to be as bad as what those poor girls at TVF went through huh?

Some women like me , really do have all the luck with pretty much uneventful careers , commanding the seat on the table and the voice in the room and live to tell the story.

Silence is consent . Silence is weakness . Silence is being Okay.  If Silence makes you uncomfortable then , be funny , be sarcastic , be arrogant , be loud , be whiny but be heard.

The views expressed in this post are completely in a personal capacity and have no bearing to my professional environment.

Raising voice on social media didn’t matter to me until I realized , if not me , who and if not here , where? I’ve realized that a politically correct existence especially online isn’t what I am fine with. In this series , I’ll be covering topics such as Everyday Sexism & Women at Workplace etc when it’ll become too stifling to stay silent.

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