Tag Archives: women

It Took More Than Two Years For Uber To Fire The Top Executive Who Secured Rape Victim’s Medical Records

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It’s all over the news – Uber has fired Eric Alexander for illegally securing medical records of a woman who had alleged rape by an Uber driver n December 2014. She was raped by, Shiv Kumar Yadav, an Uber driver in Delhi when she was on her way home after a party at night. Yadav, it was later found out, was a serial offender (women in his village knew this well and kept away from him – clearly Uber had not done its homework). After the incident, Alexander, then head of Uber’s Asia Pacific business, along with some other senior executives, had refused to believe the woman’s story and had obtained her medical records to prove that she was part of a conspiracy against Uber.

The story is all too familiar – woman cries rape, man says conspiracy. End of matter. It’s what we see everywhere – either there’s complete apathy to issues of women’s safety, or there’s extreme doubt (somewhere in between there are token actions amid cries of anger and candle light vigils).

Turns out that Alexander had shared the medical records with CEO, Travis Kalanick as well as with Emil Michael, another senior leader. They had come to the unanimous conclusion that Ola, Uber’s nemesis in India, had conspired to bring them down. End of story.

Not quite. It’s come back to bite them, and man am I glad. A law firm in now looking into the matter – as part of a larger, and unrelated to this incident – investigation. In fact, there are lots of other skeletons tumbling out – there’ve been multiple (more than multiple actually) incidents of misbehaviour within Uber and investigations are on. According to online magazine Racode, there have been 215 total incident reports, including sexual harassment, bullying, bias and retaliation.

215 incident reports? And now they wake up? Being made to wake up is more like it – the lawyers are now on them, so there’s little choice in the matter.

Coming back to the Delhi rape, the investigation report says that “Alexander carried around the document for about a year before other executives — presumably the legal department — obtained the report and destroyed his copy, according to the sources.” Wow.

From Donald Trump and Uber to Mahesh Murthy and Mulayam Singh – the thread seems to be similar (I know, quite a motley collection this group would make – and I can think of so many more) – malign the woman, because she is obviously the villain here.

Uber must pay for this big time – and why only the executives who were part of it? Sure, they’ve fired the employees (more than two years later)– but does that absolve the top management of their misconduct? What about Travis Kalanick and Emil Michael? Why must they duck the charges? If they are found to be complicit in this, they too must pay for it. This is a serious offense – to get medical records of a woman who has been raped and then destroy them. This must be a lesson for those who believe that rape is a figment of a woman’s imagination.

 

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Message In A Bottle That No One Gets – Because It’s A Bit OTT!

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If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, goes a popular saying.

It’s a pretty basic rule that I think most brands should really pay more heed to. But they don’t. Rather, they feel this need to better something that’s going well, or worse, make it deliver a social message. And then it backfires.

If you haven’t guessed already, I am talking about the new Dove campaign, which, hold your breath, is about “celebrating the many shapes and sizes of beauty”. And how do they achieve this noble aim? By releasing “six differently shaped bottles of body wash”. That’s right. It’s a part of its new “Real Beauty” campaign. Read on, it gets better.

The new ad declares that “beauty comes in all shapes and sizes”. The idea being that each shape sort-of correlates with a different body types. Needless to add there are all kinds of shapes shown to us – yup from the hourglass bottle and skinny one to the pear-shaped ones.

Not sure what Dove was thinking. That women are going to now go around buying bottles based on their shapes, by virtue of which they demonstrate to the world that they are proud of their bodies? Well, something like that, maybe. Except, that what sometimes sounds like a great idea in a power point presentation, does not really sound so great when the plan hits the ground!

It’s a classic case of a brand taking itself too seriously  – it’s ok Dove – you don’t have to send any feel-good messages – we women are doing quite alright – really, just sell your body wash. When I buy soap I want to know what it’s made of, at best, not what shape it is and the warm and fuzzy message it’s trying to give me.

Yes, they went too far with the whole celebrate-your-body-type thing. Quitting at the top is not something brands get right often. It was a good campaign – but now it reminds me of assorted bottles sitting awkwardly next to each other, trying to tell me something about my body that is totally lost on me.

Twitter was on fire and Dove’s UK Branch got the brunt of it (yup, their bright idea)

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So, the question to ask is? Why do brands, time and again, fall for it? For the need to appear sensitive and push social messages down people’s throats through their brands that is?

Maybe someone at Dove can explain.

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Nike’s Pro-Hijab Campaign Is A Good Thing

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No matter what your views are on the Hijab, you should see Nike’s ‘What Will They Say About You’ campaign. Reserve your judgement about the fact that this is a woman in a Hijab – because there are two, diverse schools of thought about women wearing Hijabs – and no matter what side you are on, there is one thing to appreciate here and that is the fact that  a brand has taken a clear stand on an issue which concerns women and minorities (in a post-trump, post-Brexit, right-swinging world, I think it’s a positive step). Sure, it’s a great marketing idea, but my point is – if it’s a great marketing idea and is also a great one for women and minorities, then why the hue and cry? (there’s been a sort-of backlash on social media, but that’s hardly surprising.) In today’s world of, you-can’t-wear-hijabs-on-our-beaches, I think it’s a bold, positive step.

The fact is that there are brands that indulge in serious gender stereotyping and do that whole pink-blue thing till they go blue in the face, which is revolting, if regressive. Not to mention ads like the ones Gap released last year, which tell little girls how to dress like a “social butterfly” and little boys like the “little scholar” (ugh).

So, contrast that with a brand that’s taking a stand, a very visual, pro-women (Muslim women at that) stand in today’s xenophobic environment. Not sure what the problem with that is. Yes, there’s the argument that this reinforces stereotypes and the whole, should-women-wear-hijabs thing. But that’s not a straightforward issue – are some women forced to wear Hijabs? Do some wear it out of choice? Do such Hijabs encourage more women to get into sports? Like I said, it’s not a simple argument.

Not sure what you think, but comments, on both sides, are welcome. Just keep it civil.

 

 

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Feminism Lite Is A Dangerous Thing

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If you don’t know who Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is, that’s ok. But, you really should.

To give the Wikipedia definition – she’s a Nigerian novelist, nonfiction writer and short story writer. But that’s not why I am writing about her. And that does not even begin to tell you who she is. I’ll let you Google her and find out more (there’s a lot).

Why am I bringing her up? Because she is a feminist, and I love her for it. I’ve always thought she’s the real thing – as in, a real feminist (which does not mean she wants to biff any man she sees on the head – it simply means she wants equality).

I read something she said recently and it made a lot of sense – and also tied in with what I’ve been saying for a long time. Here’s what she said – “Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional female equality. Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women, or you do not.”

I couldn’t agree more. But there’s more – which I completely, wholeheartedly agree with. She adds that – “Feminism Lite uses analogies like “He is the head and you are the neck.” Or, “He is driving but you are in the front seat.” More troubling is the idea, in Feminism Lite, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to “treat women well.”

I have heard this from so many of my female friends – even the so-called liberated ones. Male superiority is so deeply ingrained in our systems that we do not even realize it. I’ll give you an example – it’s a line I’ve heard so many of my friends use when they speak of their husbands. Things like, “he’s a really good father, he spends so much time with the kids, he’s really hands-on”. They say this beaming with pride and, in some cases, feeling blessed for having a man who spends time with his own kids. My question is – he’s the father, so what’s to be impressed by here? Do we, for instance, ever say this of the mother? – that she spends so much time with the kids, hence she’s awesome. So, why the accolade for the man?

Here’s why. Because “most-men” don’t do this, so the ones who do, deserve mention.  And that’s really the unfortunate part. It should really be the reverse. It goes to show who very far we are from an equal world.

Chimamanda goes on to say that – ‘feminism Lite uses the language of “allowing.”’. She e hits the nail on the head when she say that. It’s a word one hears a lot – “he allows her to work”. Inherent in that sentence is that the fact that the male has the power and he uses it the way he wants. So, remarks like – “he’s a good father”, or “he’s let her work”, or “he takes care of the house, so she’s really lucky”..the list goes on.

Men and women are equal partners – they shoulder responsibilities equally. That’s the truth – or rather, that’s the real truth, but it’s been stifled and gagged in a world run by men. Read how a British newspaper described Theresa May, the British Prime Minister’s husband: “Phillip May is known in politics as a man who has taken a back seat and allowed his wife, Theresa, to shine.”

I rest my case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Be Careful What You Tell Little Kids Through Toys

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I don’t much believe in women’s day – don’t ask, it’s a long argument – but suffice it is to say that for me, the fact that we need a woman’s day is unfortunate – will rant about this on another post soon.

However, there is one thing I do like about all this hullabaloo around Women’s day – the fact that there are these great stories that come out of every corner of the internet, and I make my girls read them – to drive home the point that they are no different from boys (they know that, but I feel the need to reinforce it in the face of so much inequality that women face today)

One such example of a story I read was about Lego – the toy company – making female NASA pioneers as Lego figures. I think it’s a brilliant idea and, refreshingly, moved away from the gender stereotyping the company has done in the past (Lego girls is pink with beach and salon stuff the boys one is blue with all the “boy stuff” to make – you know the typical). In my opinion, the company has redeemed itself a little bit.

This is what toy companies need to do – to make gender neutral toys (hear that Kinder?). Children have impressionable minds, and the toys they play with – or the ones people gift them – tell them something about who they are supposed to be. Sure, that’s not how it should be, but that’s exactly how it is – when you give a girl a kitchen set to play with, you’re telling her that this is what she’ll enjoy, because that’s really what should come naturally to her. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with girls playing with these. The problem happens when that is all they play with – the “girlie stuff” – that’s giving them a message, even if unintended. Anyway, I think I’ve made my point (and I’ve said it before – you can read more about it if you like)

So, back to Lego’s NASA women – it’s a great idea. And, I cannot believe I am saying this. Why? Because I have hated Lego Friends – it’s all that women stand against today and I look at it as exploitation for mercenary gain. But, this is more of  give-the-devil-the-due kin fog thing. Like I said, they’ve redeemed themselves a little – even if it is an overt way to compensate for their other follies.

The next time you want to gift a Lego, go for the NASA one – for both girls and boys. It’s equally important for boys to grow up believing that women are equal to men – in every possible way. They too need to question the inequality and help break it. So, if you have a son – go ahead and gift him a Lego female NASA pioneer set.

 

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The Appalling Attitude Towards Male and Female Birth Control

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So let me see if I understand this right. A male contraceptive trial was conducted on some 350 men as part of a study that would’ve paved the way (could’ve, would’ve who knows?) for men to share the responsibility for birth control. And even though the results looked promising – the combination of hormones was found to be nearly 96% effective – the study was brought to a screeching halt. Hmm. What on earth am I missing?

Turns out, not much. Except, of course, that this is men we’re talking about.

There were side effects – particularly depression and other mood disorders – in some men. That can be hard, sure, but was that rare or reported in too many men? Not to both.

So now let’s see what the side effects of the pill, or other forms of birth control which women have been taking for years, are. Let’s see..headaches, nausea, weight gain, menstrual cramps, yeast infections, acne, mood swings, vaginal-tissue irritation, vomiting, migraines and decreased libido, to name a few. And oh – ovarian cysts, depression and heavy menstrual bleeding.

And women have been going through this for years. A bit of history. In the 1950s a trial was carried out for the female hormonal contraceptive (the predecessor of the one used today) in Puerto Rico The doctor in charge of the trial recommended against its use. But, guess what? a U.S. pharmaceutical company released the same formulation anyway.

Wait there’s more.

As this article tells us – the same group of doctors that studied the female pill also considered one for men, but decided against it. Why? Because of the supposed side effects (testicle shrinkage being one) . Also, they believed women would be able to take the side effects better than men!

Not much seems to have changed in the past sixty odd years. The male contraceptive study has, once again, been abandoned as women, the uhm, weaker-sex, are stronger to tolerate the side effects.

And now, after years of women complaining, a recent Danish study found a correlation between the use of hormonal birth control and being diagnosed with clinical depression. Not that this is news to women.

So, to state the obvious here, it’s unfortunate, yet again to know what an unequal world it still is –  men must have an equal responsibility towards birth control, but they don’t. Far, far from it.

And the one chance we had of getting there just got snuffed out.

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The Thing About Gender Stereotyping

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I was standing near a teller’s counter in my bank the other day, waiting to be served. It is one of those so-called new-age banks that make a big deal about service and customers, and adding value to peoples’ lives.

As I waited, I noticed big, cheery posters behind the counter extolling the various virtues of the bank. As is typical of such ads, they trumpeted their superior expertise in helping people achieve their dreams, whatever those might be.

One particular poster caught my eye – not for any design brilliance, because in that it was much like the rest (they pretty much merged into each other), but because of the message it sent out. I can’t remember details about the exact financial product this ad offered but, in essence, it asked you to plan for the future – to put away enough money for your kid’s requirements when they grew up, the time that you’d need it. It showed a father with his grown-up son and daughter. They were all beaming with joy at the camera – the son in his graduation attire and the daughter in, you guessed it, a wedding one. So while the son’s aim is to graduate from a good college, the daughter’s is to get married. I wondered if anyone else around me had noticed the blatant stereotype. Of course, no one had. They were keen to get the teller’s attention and get out of there. I did too, because waiting at a bank is stuff of people’s nightmares (unless you are my father, for whom it is a social outing, and who would never go a bank like mine where he could not exchange details about his grandchildren with the teller). But that’s beside the point.

The truth is that to the people who created this ad and the ones who approved it,
this did not strike as odd. Nothing in the image looked incongruous to them, which is why it made it to the walls of the bank, and many others. If, however, the images had depicted the reverse – that is a delighted father flanked by a daughter in a graduation hat and a son in a groom’s dress, it would have seemed inconsistent – inconsistent with the reality that is. And reality is a matter of perception.

Toe me, this is a typical example of how stereotypes seep so deep into our psyche that we fail to notice it, or imagine any other truth. A daughter must get married, a son must get a job – that’s essentially the message that this ad is sending out. And everyone seems to be alright with it. Not quite new-age if you ask me.

Let me take this a little further. If you look at the other advertisements of the bank in question, or most banks or financial institutions for that matter, notice how they depict men and women. If it’s an ad about net banking to pay shopping bills, you’ll have a jubilant woman celebrating the fact that she can hereafter shop from home. However, if it is one about paying taxes online, there will be a content looking man quite chuffed at the convenience – again, women shop, men pay taxes (because women don’t get numbers)

To take this even further, I now come to the much-talked about Rajdeep’s question to Sania Mirza about motherhood and settling down. Did he think about what he was saying? I doubt it (if he had, he would not have asked it). Which is my point – stereotypes creep into your being and influence your thought process in ways that you don’t even realize.

The ad at ICICI and the question that Rajdeep posed have one thing in common – they equate womanhood with marriage and children. Such are the perils of falling for stereotypes – you stop thinking, even as you believe you are.

And only when this changes, will perceptions about women change. Only then will women will be treated as equal.

It’s a long road.

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