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Why we must say no to sexism at work place

11 September 2015 07:48 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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For years, sexism at work place has been a constant reminder to women that they must put up with a ‘mere male’ agenda – sexist jokes, remarks and even gestures bordering on the obscene have been tolerated by women in the work force for decades. In the 60s, as so beautifully depicted in the hit TV series Mad Men, publicly making insulting comments about women was acceptable in the office environment. It was what the boys did and if you wanted to climb the ladder of success, you had to live with it.
Things have changed – or better put, things have gone too much the other way. While in Sri Lanka, it must be acknowledged that sexism whether in the office or on the road still exists in many ways; women can almost always expect sexist remarks and even unwelcome groping in public transport; the story is not the same for other countries. A politically correct feminism agenda seems to be dominating over common sense at least in the so-called developed world.
In the UK, where a feminist agenda seems to have lost all its original meaning, males in senior capacity are increasingly being called out for making so-called sexist comments. The latest is one embroiling two senior lawyers. Now it has hit the headlines and not for the right reasons.
Barrister Charlotte Proudman received a message on LinkedIn, the site for professional connections, from another Barrister Alexander Carter-Silk which said that he was delighted to connect with her. People connect on LinkedIn all the time but what offended Proudman was the comment he made next – he said her picture on her profile was stunning!
Proudman found the comment sexist and offensive – she responded that she is on LinkedIn for professional and business purposes and not to be complimented on her physical appearance or for being ‘objectified by sexist men’.
Now the row has become public, with many weighting in on the side of the man – to be fair, it was a compliment, after all. If Proudman could not take the compliment the right way, then it could be considered worrisome. And it seemed that Proudman was sticking to her guns; commenting on Twitter, she maintained that ‘Widespread, casual, demeaning behaviour directed towards women is a form of social policing, gender control and a form of hidden social violence.”



Genuine compliment 
Clearly, a genuine compliment had gone too far in the politically correct realm to be construed as a form of ‘hidden social violence’ – it certainly wasn’t meant to be so but the question is just where do you draw the line when it comes to understanding what sexism truly is…for most, sexism would broadly be defined as making sexist remarks, making sexist gestures and sticking to an obvious sexist agenda. Making a compliment doesn’t exactly fit the bill.
There are women out there who are fighting genuine sexism in the work place; their claims get sidestepped when every little gesture, every compliment or reference to being female, is misconstrued as sexism. 
As I write, there are women travelling in public transport being leered at or groped; there are women forced to become sex slaves in exchange for work or money. There are others who must endure painful comments and gestures from men who think nothing of it. There are women who come to work every day, despite the harassment sometimes physically and often times mentally, simply because they need the job. Their fight to overcome open sexism is real and justified – but with flimsy claims such as this, their quest for justice gets a little dimmer every time such claims are made.  
In an awfully politically correct world, a man would be afraid to pay a genuine compliment without being accused of being sexist. Whatever happened to good old manners and femininity – the feminist agenda probably has no place for both. It shouldn’t be a case of we-are-waiting-until-you-put-a-foot wrong either. For every male chauvinist out there, there are decent, well-meaning men who do not believe they are on a sexist agenda at all.
A balanced approach works best – we need to know what truly is a sexist agenda and which isn’t. If the current form of feminism has its way, it is going to be a dangerous place for tomorrow’s generations, whether male or female. Already, there are signs that the next generation of women are not likely to put up with any kind of a sexist agenda, hidden or not. We need to find the balance our way- the sooner we do it, the better it is for all.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional,can be contacted at nayominiweerasooriya@gmail.com)
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