Disclaimer: This had happened to a friend of mine and the ‘I’ in the following write-y thing refers to her. This story goes to show how skewed a definition most people have of feminism.
It was a group discussion. There were six people. Three minutes to talk. The topic: ‘Do you agree that there should be a 50% quota for women in the Board of Directors of any company?’ That’s when I realized how problematic (to me; you can completely differ from my view, of course) the entire question and the outlook of the people in the GD were.
What everyone, and by everyone I mean all the five other worthy competitors (four were men, since we are talking gender), said was that the process of selecting a BoD should be based on merit and not gender (A+, guys). Then they went on to enlist their reasons: adding a woman to the Board would actually make the Board inefficient, ineffective, etc. Women in the Board will be meeker, more gullible to the suggestions of the men on the Board, would not be acquainted with the policies of the company and I could go on and on. They said that women empowerment is necessary; it’s even more important than an impending recession. Hell, terrorism isn’t as important. Then they go on to say that look, women should be empowered and I believe in this feminism shit, but women just can’t handle the responsibilities and she will be overpowered by the men. Well, yes, reserving Board seats might not be the way to empower women but neither is calling them underqualified helping.
These mature, well-read, students might probably even be correct in their stance against reservation, but what struck me as phenomenal was that the first thing they assumed is that the women who join the BoD through reservation are stupid. Yes, a candidate (no, not a man nor a woman but a candidate) should be judged on merit. But you cannot go against reservations for women by saying that the women will inherently and invariably be unable to carry out her responsibilities.
If I had gotten a chance to speak in the round (where I was successfully interrupted by all my five competitors every time I spoke) I would have painted a different story, which, I hope, most feminists would at least not reject at first glance. I was ‘gentlemanly’ enough to give the five a chance to put forth their stance before two of them voted me out of the discussion (because they saw me as a threat? WHAT? I hadn’t even been able to get one word in without someone or the other promptly speaking all over my words).
Coming to what I would’ve said.
Firstly, I would have reprimanded them for assuming that women are plain stupid to handle that job, not because I am a woman but because I am sure that Dumbness, Weakness and Inability do not see a woman and go, “Oh, look! Female! Our ally!” They made it seem that having a 50% quota for women in the Board of Directors was as incongruous as having a 50% quota on men giving birth.
It would be wrong to have reservations for any gender, right? Right.
I also believe that the words ‘reservation’ and ‘quota’ are not favourably looked upon in this world, especially not here in India. If you belong to an OBC/SC/ST background, people initially assume that you are where you are through quota. What if that person got their through merit but also reservation? Is there a rule saying that both can’t go hand in hand? Similarly, why can a woman not be meritorious as well as get into a BoD through reservation? I am not talking about the morality or ethics of reservation but the general stigma attached to it.
All in all, I would have gone with the general consensus that there should not be reservations for seats based on any criteria but economic background, and that too just in the education sector.
In a way, I did prove one of them right. If I had been in the GD through reservation, I would have let the ‘men’ walk all over me and interrupt me. But instead, I proved that I let them do that even though I was there on merit. Oops.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I made it through to the next event (there were 5 such GD rounds) though I just spoke once or twice in the entire group discussion. How, you may ask. Reservation, of course!