Last week a wonderful woman in India, Gitanjali Venugopal, emailed me to see if we could do a blog collaboration for International Women’s Day.
Who is Gitanjali?
Gitanjali is a 20 year old amateur blogger who believes in making “OMG! So Relatable” cross her reader’s mind at least once.
She is an Indian Blogger (Snake charmer? Curry eater?) who’s based in Dubai (Rides a camel? Uses Arabic in an English conversation?) .
Her hobbies include cartooning, anagrams, Sudoku, swimming etc.
A firm believer in One Love and quotes Drake and Bob Marley on a regular basis.
To check out her blog and discover a few ‘Oh! So relatable’ posts, hop on to https://sleepywritertalk.wordpress.com/ and don’t forget to click “follow” as that makes her smile and chuckle in her happy place.
She sent me questions about women, feminism, and my own influences, and these made me think hard–so I appreciate the opportunity. I also love this model of writers interviewing each other. I answered the questions on her blog, so go check it out! I talk about Tillie Olsen, Maxine Hong Kingston, climate change as a feminist issue, and a bunch of other things
I then turned things around and asked her to answer the same questions, as the questions themselves were so wonderful.
Here are her answers:
- Who is your biggest influence? (Barring family)
The company one keeps acts a major influence in his/her decisions. I also look up to various celebrated personalities such as Indira Gandhi, Elizabeth Stanton etc. and try to imbibe a few qualities from them.
- What do you think is the single biggest issue currently facing women/ feminism?
As per my understanding, although feminism has gone a long way, sexism still seems an insurmountable obstacle. Although there are several issues currently facing feminism, the one I’m most passionate about is Media portrayal of women. The media does a lot to perpetuate unhelpful stereotypes, and culprits range from Weetabix (whose sexist ad implies your lad can be a superhero but your lass can’t), to Unilever (skinny women aren’t “real” women and/or dark-skinned women should get paler). Although organizations such as UK Feminista and AnyBody are campaigning hard against these issues, I still believe, we have a long, long way to go.
- Since you’ve worked in different industries in different positions throughout the years, do you remember any personal incident where you were made to feel inferior/superior solely for being a woman?
Fortunately, I haven’t had such experiences. However I have heard of girls being advised against becoming a pilot or a police officer as “it’s not the right job for a woman” or “the timings will not be suitable for a woman once she has children to care for.”I have also heard of girls being advised against becoming a doctor but are supported if they want to be a nurse. Not that I’m averse to the idea of nursing, it just goes to show that “timing” and “children” are not the real reasons. Instead, “society” and “what will the neighbors think?” are more detrimental factors.
- In your opinion, why are traits such as “innocent”, “sensitive”, “nurturing” etc. associated with women as compared to more aggressive, competitive terms for men. How can we best promote a more accepting, gender neutral society?
There have been a lot of instances wherein women have reversed these gender based structural barriers and vice versa. However, in most cases, women choose to emphasize their feminine attributes so as not overtly challenge traditional masculine assumptions and to prove their legitimacy in a domain that, for the most part, is dominated by men. I think that, in recent times, a lot of effort has been taken to gender neutralize and accept various orientations of diverse people, be it, gender neutral pronouns, or the efforts undertaken by the LGBT community. Although our society is evolving for the better, we still have a long way to go in terms of gender equality and gender neutrality.
- How do you feel about how women are represented in the media, film and pop culture? Can you see yourself in any of them?
Speaking in terms of music videos, women are overly sexualized with a lot of emphasis drawn to their physical attributes. They are shown as sexual objects with little or no emphasis on their other talents. This is almost always the case in Hip Hop and Rap. However, Rock, R&B etc. show women in a comparatively positive light. In music videos, men are also often presented in a stereotypical same way; they are usually shown to be powerful, dominant and masculine with less focus on their physical appearance and more on their expectations as a male in society. Quoting Kanye West from “On Sight”
“A monster about to come alive again
Soon as I pull up and park the Benz
We get this b***h shaking like Parkinsons”
This man is a father as well, so I can’t wait for North West to get old enough to ask questions. Was that mommy??
- What barriers did you face, as a woman, to becoming successful in the current blogging field? How did you overcome them?
I’m fairly new to Blogging, so I face the most basic problems that I’m sure all bloggers have faced at some point or the other. Fortunately, barring the occasional sexist and racist comments, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive nothing but love and support.
- How do you feel about campaigns like “#ReadWomen” that encourage people to read more books by women?
Although it is universally acknowledged that women read more than men and women publish equal number of books as compared to men, it is unfortunate that there even exists a movement like this. However trends such as these doing rounds on social media are bound to do some good. Not only will it get people to read books by women authors, but will also give women authors confidence that they’re books will be given a chance even if they’re not girly, or related to romantic escapades with Barbie lookalike girls.
- What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?
I would like to be a little idealistic. I think women can expect not to be tied down and stopped from pursuing their dreams because of societal constraints. Also women can expect corporations to bridge the pay gap so that equal pay and recognition is given to a job well done instead of sexually discriminating between equally hardworking employees.
- If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
Failing is winning. This might sound funny to you now, but believe me when I tell you that all of your failures are laying out a path for you to succeed big-time. I would advise my younger self to enjoy the curve balls life throws at us, and, to quote Bob Marley, “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Thank you so much, Gitanjali, and I hope we can stay connected through blogging. Happy International Women’s Day!