“We Are After All Not Just Pretty Faces” – Celebrating Womanhood At SJMSOM Mumbai
On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2018, we asked the women of top b-schools across India to highlight their achievements, views on feminism, the #MeToo campaign and their perception of gender inequality in our country.
I’m Sharmistha and I hail from a small town named Duliajan, which is in the beautiful state of Assam. I grew up multilingual – speaking English, Hindi, Bengali and Assamese with equal fluency. In these 25 years of my existence, I have lived in five states across India, thanks to which I’ve always been around people coming from varied cultures and backgrounds. Coming to my interests, I’m a painter and I hold a Junior Diploma in it. Also, I enjoy reading novels and I’m a big fan of Bollywood movies.
How would you explain feminism to a 10-year old?
You go to school and the teacher gives a common task to a boy and a girl. Let’s call the boy Ross and the girl Rachel. Now both the kids get the task done but the teacher gives a chocolate only to Ross. Rachel complains but she is told – ‘Even though you did the task just as well as Ross, you cannot have the Chocolate because you’re a girl’. There, now do you think this is something unfair? If you want to tell the teacher that NO, both the kids did the task, so both deserve a chocolate – you are a feminist and this is feminism. And just to set the records straight this exact scenario is at times repeated at workplaces. So, let’s wrap it up by concluding that feminism is humanism. Feminism is equality. It is just a fancy word for playing fair and not letting gender come in the way.
Which female icon has inspired you the most and why?
Priyanka Chopra. I think the lady has proven to the world that there are no barriers when it comes to chasing dreams. The other day I was watching one of her interviews where she talked about how she had taken career-ending risks in her life. How taking risks and chasing dreams no matter what, is the key to success and long-term happiness. She spoke about backing all her risks with her one hundred percent – something that really inspired me.
What kind of impact do you think the #MeToo Campaign created?
The #MeToo Campaign gave women on the internet a platform to unite and share stories of being sexually harassed at some point in their lives. The movement fostered a sense of community, which helped many to express themselves. The result of this campaign has been mind-boggling – thousands of tweets flooded in pointing towards the magnitude of the issue. Men coming in and sharing stories of sexual assault and child abuse showed that the world is perhaps ready to fight this evil together. The impact according to me is in the very fact that now the world has seen how common the problem is, how it is about time that we shake off our negligence towards such incidents and strive to make the world a better place to live in.
What are your thoughts and feelings about such movements?
Well, I believe such movements are necessary in order to let the world see the magnanimity of the issue at hand. It is very common for us to turn a blind eye towards these incidents as long as it’s happening to people we don’t know. But we all need to understand that this can happen to anyone and we need to be together in the efforts to erase such occurrences. Yes I agree that such movements wouldn’t help in changing the patterns or the frequency of abuse in the world, but I also believe that these very movements will go a long way in creating awareness and providing people with the courage and responsibility to do the right thing when they face or see someone else face sexual abuse.
What attitudes towards women have you encountered by men in education – professors and students – that you wish to be corrected?
I have been very lucky to be taught by professors that have never discriminated between their male and female students. But I have gotten to know that there is a belief running among the male students that female students have it easy when it comes to mugging up the syllabus or getting placed. Such kind of attitude belittles the efforts that we put in order to succeed. So I guess given a choice, I’d like to change that. We are after all not just pretty faces.
Having gotten the benefit of elite education, how do you plan to pass it on to other disadvantaged women?
I think in order to survive in this world today, education is the key. My heart reaches out to those who cannot afford basic education. There is little I can do at this stage of my life to help them economically, it is on my long-term agenda though. But I do plan to pass on my knowledge in any which way that I can go forward in life. In fact, last summer I taught my domestic helper’s kids how to write the English alphabets. The last time I was home, I found them structuring short, but full sentences in English! It made me really happy.