Maybe there will be a shift some day between the power held by blogs versus mainstream media. For now, no matter how you slice it, the media still rules with its ability to reach critical mass, stir up discussion and engage with citizens in dialogue. While blogs like Ultra Violet are doing a bang-up job of articulating what it means to be a feminist in our society, it’s mainstream media that’s still lagging in using its powers to shatter stereotypes. And often, their retrograde attitudes spill over onto new media platforms as well. Today, I read a blog post by ‘journalist’ Sumita Chatterjee on NDTV.com. Sumita tackles a topic that might have been a strong debate for the feminist movement but quickly waters it down with her gutless and facile stance.
Her post talks about her experience among predominantly male journalist colleagues (who need their brains tested, but let’s come back to that later) at an X-Box conference. Her colleagues blatantly questioned her presence “What do YOU know about technology?” Not only did Sumita have no rebuttal for the question but she further trivializes the issue with her poor writing skills and colloquialisms. Examples follow:
I said a polite “Hi”
(Would the obnoxious question have been justified if you she had said an impolite ‘Hi’?)
I gave him a disgusting glare.
(She means ‘disgusted’, I hope.)
And so on.
Grammar and writing aside, it’s her light tackling of the matter that annoys me the most. She talks about how she was on the verge of “giving him a long lecture” but didn’t because she saw that the room was full of men.
With my eyes wide open, I gave him a very disgusting glare. My feminist instincts were at its high and I was ready to give the two a long lecture. But then I happened to look around the room and found that majority present there were actually men.
I decided to shut up!
Why? Because if more men say it, then it becomes true? Then, as though we are being let in on a giant scoop, she goes on to state,
I want to share a secret, I am not a major tech savvy person, but I get all my gadget gyaan from a lady geek!
Are we supposed to take that as a big plus for womankind? She trivializes this statement instantly with her exclamation mark, revealing that she thinks this is an anomaly. So even the most tech-savvy women should twiddle their carpel-tunnel thumbs until their men bestow upon them the ability to use their advanced minds? But what rankles me most is this statement:
The fact is women take time to understand gadgets, but once they do, they fall in love with it.
We’re slow on the uptake but indulge us and we’ll get it.
She ends the post without solidifying in any way her case that many women are tech-savvy but get treated like idiots in gadget stores. Her final words are not those of indignation or empowerment. Instead, she says:
All you men out there, try gifting a mobile or an ipod to your lady love on her birthday and you will know what I mean!
So despite her humiliating experience she continues to be ambiguous and unable to stand up for what she thinks. (Of course, the assumption is that she thinks that women shouldn’t be judged by these superficial means and men need to come out of their stereotype-ridden shells.)
Is this woman really a journalist? Aren’t facts and research the weapons that journalists wield? Why couldn’t she talk about how many women are in the IT workforce despite the odds (lack of education, unsupportive communities and discriminatory employers)? Why couldn’t she point to studies that prove women are much better at translating geekspeak into business practices? Or those which reveal that a woman has ways of channeling multiple skills – and can be both technically and managerially sound?
At the very least, why couldn’t she stand up for herself and explain to her colleague that he was perpetuating an unnecessary stereotype? I have exhausted myself with questions. The end of this post had me sympathizing with Sumita – she is a victim of her own device. A product of the disease herself.
The ZEE TVs of the world are regressive enough with their bedecked bahus being servile to glaring in-laws. But does a news organization need to reinforce the stereotype? Women in the media, listen up. You have more power than most of us behind the scenes. Use it well. Yes, Ekta Kapoor, I’m talking to you too.
Nithya works in digital and emerging media in New York City and is a passionate observer of selectivity in media and stereotypical portrayals of women in popular culture. She also volunteers with Room to Read, an organization dedicated to literacy and education in developing countries.