London 2009

Women are their own worst enemies

On women in business:

Women are the biggest offenders. Women know about women,” he said. “They think to themselves, she’s young, she’s attractive, she’s going to get a boyfriend, what’s going to happen. Women think about it more than men, in my opinion.

– Lord Alan Sugar, 8th of November 2009

Yes, Mr Sugar. We don’t want to hire other women because we’re intimidated by the fact the other is attractive, we worry –more than men- that she might get a boyfriend because of said attractiveness and the only way this can end is in pregnancy. Pregnancy=bad for business.

Nice one, Alan.

The sad truth is that yes, unlike the so-called ‘Gay Mafia’ (not my words, also, no negative connotation associated with it for me or any of my LGBT friends), the idea of sisterhood (power in numbers, lets help each other out, because we are discriminated against) is, not on the whole, popular anymore. When I told my father, who -due to age and his job, I guess- relatively conservative (by my standards) about a friend who had started working at a certain magazine, which was sort of a gay mafia, he said: ‘Yes, sure I know that magazine, that’s what I was going to say’. But then immediately stated: ‘But I think it’s good, discriminated groups should help each other out.’

My father isn’t socially conservative but believes in reduction of debt in governments, feels the UK’s recent decision in the hike in tuition fees is a good idea, believes in liberal (but fair) economics to a large extent.

I like having discussions with my parents at the table, I have noticed (recently having had moved back home). And I enjoy his pondering of issues that I raise that don’t normally cross his mind much. I raise issue with him singling out alternative women candidates who could be the the next head of Germany’s government by ‘Oh she, but shes such a ‘steely blonde’’. What he means is that this woman is hard-nosed, and by extension ‘masculine’. I challenge him, saying a meritocracy developed over centuries by those who led by example. None of those were women, excluded by law. Therefore, even if you say there is no discrimination anymore, the ‘merit’ is awarded to those who have ‘masculine’ ways of working. This hard-nosed woman, in his view, is not a great option because she is imitating men/maleness. I challenge him on 1) Why is ‘hardness’ equated with masculinity? 2) Why do women only reach an echelon of power when they (apparently) imitate these ‘masculine’ qualities?

I have become –I am sure- a little bit harsh on the old man. He admitted that my arguments were correct in the end of the day. I argued that this is down to a history of discrimination against over half of the population, that masculinity and femininity are fluid, not as strict and prescriptive as they once were seen as. A view of the masculine as tough, unbreakable, un-empathetic is unfair to men and actually contributes to violence against women, other men and members of the LGBT community, tribal/civil war and the spread of HIV/AIDS. What does upset me is that my father, for his age-group, upbringing and being the sole breadwinner (Mom stayed at home) is open to these arguments and thought processes but never had to think about it. The add-on effect of gender inequality is still prevalent. You never have to mention the fact that someone is a man. That is not a quality, aspect of his personality or ‘merit’. Yet talking about politicians, CEOs and so on, the fact that the person is a woman is almost always a factor, endlessly scrutinised in the media and at dinner party conversations.

Back to Alan Sugar and the good ole UK. I just read an article about women being discriminated against due to pregnancy there.

I thought it interesting and timely. Yes, in a society where people speak of being post-feminist and both genders are equal in rights and opportunity, the most apparent discrimination is in the workplace. The paygap, the small number of women in boardrooms and national parliament (AKA decision makers) and the bad working and hiring conditions for women (who have children/do not/might have one day) are all still mentioned in the media in, what I would call- ‘domestic gender inequality issues’.

Some of the commentators really depressed me. “Businesses should not have to pay for women’s lifestyle choices.” Yes, having the biological predisposition to bearing children and reproducing the next generation of workers is a lifestyle choice -Sorry you missed that one, girls!

Biology is not destiny. The Personal is Political.

It’s not over, baby. It’s not in oh-so-socially-advanced-England, it’s blatantly not over in India (where I currently live and work) and it’s a struggle that we sometimes forget is still relevant. Let’s collectively prove silly little A. Sugar wrong- create a Fem-Mafia! It’s worked for the white hetero man for so long; surely our gay brothers are doing well with it, what’s stopping us from going back to our roots as feminists for the right reasons of sisterhood? We still got some way to go, wherever we are, whatever our most pressing issues.