The Swarup Foundation held an event yesterday in which panelists such as Aparna Jain, Susan Dias, Vijay Nair, Phalguni Desai and Ruchita Madhok discussed gender in the cultural workspaces. Vijay Nair, the founder of OML Media, which represents Mallika Dua, AIB and the like, spoke passionately about what men can do when it comes to making the workplace a better place for women. He said that at OML, they used to manage mostly male artistes, but now they are increasingly managing more female artistes.
“I am petrified before they put up the video. I know the first five comments, and in the top five, body shaming will always be there,” he said. “We have to train our artistes to be insensitive,” said Nair.
It’s not just internet, even while making deals face to face, female artistes face disparaging remarks. Nair also spoke about sometimes female artistes can pull each other down, and how that is changing and a support system is developing.
“Every day, I get more aware of my privilege. I’ve had no struggle. I’m a Hindu, male from a middle-class family. Things would have been different if I was a girl. But none of my time has gone with those issues.”
Susan Dias, who worked at Ernst and Young before starting her own company, spoke about how she couldn’t come out in a corporate environment.
“I couldn’t come out at EnY. I could be out to my family and friends, but not in workplace. I didn’t have an agency. How could I be taken seriously as a tax consultant and be out?”
Nair spoke about how compared to women, he has had fewer struggles. “Every day, I get more aware of my privilege. I’ve had no struggle. I’m a Hindu, male from a middle-class family. Things would have been different if I was a girl. But none of my time has gone with those issues. It is anyway difficult to run a business in this country.” He said he cannot imagine the extra trouble women have to face.
He also spoke about the subconscious messages men and women get. I had this belief that I had gotten from seniors that when you are doing production, you should hire men. I didn’t realize it till I saw my production head dismiss resumes of girls.
He said that the increasing amount of conversation out there on gender issues and gender roles, no matter how repetitive, is good, because it challenges pre-set notions. Reading and taking part in conversations has helped him a lot too. He realized that he may have once said things in meetings that he should have thought more carefully about.
“I have also said things like you’re aggressive and shrill because I have worked around men who have said these things. I realized how many women I harassed when I was 10 years old during Holi because the elders make you and we do it for their acceptance. It takes a fair bit to accept when I have subconsciously been unfair. And it’s ok to be wrong multiple times.”
Nair is now very cognizant of women in his company and his female artists, and even the girls who come for his concerts. In order to stop sexual harassment at concerts, the company plays a video about how girls are sexually harassed in concerts and what they go through between artiste acts. They have taken care to ensure that female toilets are clean, safe and usable at concert venues, and this move has garnered a tremendous response.
He said that celebrities and artistes have a tremendous role to play in changing mindsets. Gender biases and stereotypes have become institutionalized and men often do not realize. Men should also start having these conversations internally, he said.
Also Read: The Woman Card: Who Uses It More Often?