March 13, 2001,
The importance of being a woman
When beauty evokes the beast
AN attractive person of any age is more appealing than one who is unattractive. It is very rewarding to be with someone who is physically attractive. A woman who is attractive is more sought after for dates than a woman who is plain and simple. In addition, people tend to be more tolerant in their attitudes and judgments of an attractive woman. In the business world, an attractive female worker can be less efficient and less conscientious than an unattractive one and yet win a promotion. We tend to place a considerable worth upon physical attractiveness and youthfulness. Girls also discover that an attractive appearance increases their acceptance by members of the opposite sex as well as by members of their own sex. They discover that an attractive appearance helps them to make good first impressions. It gives them poise and self confidence in social situations thus helping them to meet more successfully the new social problems that all adolescents face.
So what happens when these same attractive women go for jobs and vocational advancement? It is not quite the same now. They discover that they attract malejibes, vibes and drives. Surely we wouldn’t call this a perk. Take the case of Neeru, who came to me for counselling sometime back. She got the job that she was waiting for almost a year. She felt euphoric as it was a big break. When she entered her workplace she got noticed instantly. But for all the wrong reasons. A few weeks later she gets invited for a party where there are hardly any other women from her organisation. She says "I wonder what impression I must have given." She felt cheap and left the job subsequently.
A beautiful woman gets an instant response where ever she goes whether it’s positive or negative. Men automatically size her up, based on her face, figure, clothes, make up and whether she smokes or not. The signs may not always be obvious but a compliment here ,a small favour there, an accidental touch are the way men test whether a woman is available or not. Often it is the boss himself who you have to be careful of. Some women do give in and have an affair with the boss. Like Ankita, a pretty widow working in a firm. Her boss helped her in dealing with her problems pertaining to property, children, money. She says "I knew it was coming but just didn’t want to accept it. When he did ask for that I felt under such an obligation that I gave in. I didn’t feel good about it then and even now. I don’t want to remember it. "Ankita mistakenly assumed that if a man does you many favours he has the right to your body. There are innumerable women who suffer harassment, both physical and mental and there are ways of combating them effectively without really fighting. Here are a few tips which could help all of us in tackling such situations.
Find out if it is an innocent gesture or a pass
The most foolproof method of distinguishing between a pass and an innocent gesture is to see his behaviour towards you and also towards other women in his workplace. If there is a discrepancy then tread cautiously. In most cases, a woman’s gut feeling is enough. Also be selective regarding friends. Try to find out if the compliment he has given you is genuine or there’s an underlying message. Look him in the eye and you will know it. There are some men who make you feel naked .On the face of it they are paying you a compliment, but they disrobe you with their eyes. Beware of such men.
If your boss himself is being slimy
Often it is the boss himself who you have to be careful of. Since a woman’s instincts are her best weapons, she can use them to help her decode her boss’s many late night work requests, or frequent calls to his cabin. Beware of male bosses who put too many favours your way, give you too many unjustified compliments or leeway in anything you do.
The best behaviour is always the friendly but firm, distant and professional behaviour. People might call you a snob or arrogant but at least you won’t be harassed or exploited. Getting over-friendly, especially when you still have to establish your professional credentials ,can be harmful. Remember office is a place you come to work and earn your living, not to make friends.
Dress soberly for work
A well-groomed, no nonsense smart woman sends out the signal that she knows how to take care of herself. She knows what outfits to wear for work and what outfits to wear at home .You cannot flaunt your clothes or your body. Dress accordingly, keeping in mind the nature of work, the kind of people you will be interacting with.
Handle a pass with dignity
There are three ways to handle unwanted passes. One, never shrug it off. If you ignore a pass, men mistake it to be a come on. They feel you have accepted the first move. Secondly, confront the person making passes at you. Now this doesn’t mean fighting. It only means that you are asserting yourself and that you don’t appreciate that kind of attention. Thirdly, If nothing works then threaten him or confide in your boss. Most times the boss will help you but if it is the boss himself who is harassing you then warn him that you will tell the entire staff and walk out. Of course, it will damage your career so be on the look out for another job. Now let’s be honest. Good looking women do have an edge. That’s what Pinky Keith, a stunning, self-employed woman has to say: "They make better first impressions, get appointments faster, are more likely to get favours .Not fair ,but it happens. But in the long run they have to work equally hard to prove their competence."
The combination of beauty and intelligence can be lethal. Beauty is like a double-edged sword and it has it’s own complications. So pretty woman, the going may be tough but ultimately it’s the tough who get going.
The importance of being a woman
I have been a staunch supporter of feminism all my life, at times carrying the crusade to extremes.
In fact, this extremist attitude made see red every time when women sought equality but wanted preferential treatment on the virtue their being a member of the 'weaker' (fairer) sex.
The separate queues, reserved seats/coaches in buses and train, concessions at the workplace, the works. It made me feel nauseated at the very thought of being a woman as I felt that my fellow women were holding their gender as a begging bowl.
But over the years the attitude mellowed down. The intrigues and the intricacies of the workplace seeped in with a slow deciphering process.
Male-bonding, the all-male 'club' at the office with its private language, a Bohemian evening over drinks with the boss discussing 'important' office issues, (including promotions). It all added up to one thing — the worthy gentlemen used every trick in the book to take advantage of the comradery (camaraderie) existing within their sex.
Only then it made me ponder that why can't and shouldn't women pay back in the same coin. Moreover, when society was more than willing to oblige the damsel whether she was in distress or not then why not.
It also made me realise the importance of being a woman. Only a woman could open impossible doors, make headway where nothing existed. Only she could turn a weakness into an advantage.
I also remembered the famous ‘Star Trek’ opening lines.........‘to explore new worlds, to boldly go where no man has gone before’. Surely it must be a reference to the feisty female of the species.
The situations which had vexed me earlier suddenly took a funny hue. The knights were back in their shining armours.
Enter a crowded bus and the mad rush by male occupants to surrender their seats.
A long queue at the theatre, bank or any public office, and men give up their places willingly. The male clerk at the counter also not only directs them to do so, but is all smiles when you hand over your papers.
At the petrol station, the attendant beckons you to come forward even if though you are at the end of the line. And then he solicitously opens the petrol tank of your vehicle and lock it after filing it up. Can a mere male dream of such privileges?
I was reminded of a university trip to Agra where we bought a lot of heavy stone statues and our fellow male students willingly bore the burden. At various stops they cheerfully carried our luggage as well.
But a recent incident evokes mirth though it makes my husband see red every time I mention it. For my daughter’s birthday we wanted to reserve a table at a fast food joint here. Twice my husband approached the manager for the booking but was turned back on some pretext or other. And then I approached independently and the staff bent over backwards to book the order. ‘‘How many guests Ma’am? Will there be decorations? Right away Ma’am’’. It still tickles my funny bone.
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