Things have changed, haven’t they?

Women can get educated today.

We can go to work!

Oh! We can even vote now.

It is true that women have reached places we were never expected to. We are in boardrooms, in the CEO’s office, in the forces, and on stage…

But wait. We are the lucky few; the privileged.

If we start a conversation regarding the ones who do not have this ‘privilege’—the privilege of making a choice—that discussion could go on forever. So, this conversation was not about the privileges we have and haven’t been “granted’’. This was about shaming. Because, no matter if you have reached the stars, the movie screens, the boardrooms or the cabinet, your privilege to disagree hangs by the thin thread of your ‘moral character.’ Say something they don’t want to hear, and they call you names.

No. They never intended to debate the difference in opinion. The fact that you have an opinion itself is the problem.

This discussion was about character assassination being the weapon of cowards when faced by a woman who doesn’t agree to their views—be it about a popular actor, a political opponent or from a female boss.

In a one-of-a-kind panel discussion held at The Reading Room, Trivandrum, women and men from all walks of life came together to share their thoughts and opinions on this pressing issue we face today.

Our panel consisted of four amazing women with years of experience in their respective fields:

  • Atheetha R.S., Lawyer and heir to a successful business;

The Reading Room: Panel Discussion

  • Devi R. Das, Clinical Psychologist;

The Reading Room: Panel Discussion

  • Abhirami Suresh, Artiste, Singer and Performer of the band Amrutham Gamaya, and

The Reading Room: Panel Discussion

  • Archana Gopinath, Civil Engineer and Project Manager, and a social entrepreneur.

The Reading Room: Panel Discussion

The discussion, moderated by Film Director and Producer Parthan Mohan, was a real eye-opener to the issues faced by women all over the world.

The Reading Room: Panel Discussion

Why do some people think shaming is the easiest way to shut down smart, successful and assertive women? This was the central theme of the evening.

Initiating the discussion, Devi R. Das talked about how family plays an important role in shaping a child’s values and prejudices. According to her, people who find satisfaction in shaming others are simply manifesting their own insecurities. Shaming, after all, is just another kind of bullying. And we all know that bullying is the weapon of the weak.

A number of thought-provoking questions were raised by the audience regarding how to raise their children’ right’ and what could be done to give them the right values. Devi ma’am’s suggestions on modelling the right behaviour starting at home, with mothers and fathers displaying equality and mutual respect, were very poignant.

‘The role teachers and the media plays in modelling gender roles and weaknesses have a huge impact on the little minds as well,’ she stated.

The Reading Room: Panel Discussion

What about social media? Has it made life easier for women?

A well-known artist, who is highly influential in the social media landscape, Abhirami Suresh shared with us the horrible online abuse successful women have to face every day. She shared with the audience very shameful instances of social-media shaming and the ways in which she handled all the crude judgemental remarks that are constantly made about her and all other women artists.

Hearing her speak about how she has not allowed it from affecting her dreams and aspirations was a great inspiration to the crowd. Parthan, through his skillful moderation, involved everyone in the discussion, asking the right questions and creating quite a lively atmosphere throughout the evening.

The Reading Room: Panel Discussion

Bringing up children

As Atheetha and Archana, both shared various experiences from their professional lives, where women are constantly looked down upon—from everything based on what they wear to the office, to a million other situations they face while working in a male-dominated profession like construction—a number of working professionals in the audience, both men and women, shared their own experiences based on relatability.

Since both ladies are also mothers trying to bring up sensitive and kind little boys, they shared a number of experiences on how some of the seemingly harmless casual remarks from adults could impact a child’s mind. From “boys don’t cry” to “do not hit a girl”, they pointed out how, without immediate intervention and the right guidance from home, these remarks can colour the child’s mind forever.

There were a number of questions from the audience regarding why women could not just ignore these remarks and move forward. To which the panelists, as well as a number of men from the audience, responded vehemently with, ‘But the whole point is that they shouldn’t have to!’

The Reading Room: Panel Discussion

The threat is real

Also, to the question, if the threat we feel is real or perceived, a very sensible and poignant debate followed opening a few eyes as to why such a threat is perceived in the first place. The support and pertinent examples from the audience, especially men, were one of the biggest highlights of the day.

One of the more important points that were raised by the audience was how women could make and break this precedence. A lot of experiences shared by the audience was regarding women shaming each other, while on the other hand, a number of experiences of how a woman standing up for another helped to put an end to such shaming immediately.

Overall, the evening saw an extremely lively, participative and informative discussion in the quiet beach city of Thiruvananthapuram. We sincerely hope that all the change-makers who were at the session—parents, teachers, other seniors, and mentors—took back some basic and simple solutions to curb such problems even before they occur in the future. Moreover, we hope this discussion spurs more dialogue surrounding the topic so that we can contribute our bit to the betterment of society.

-Archana Gopinath

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