Whether you are the CEO of a multinational company, the author of a best-selling novel, a cut-throat corporate lawyer, an accomplished civil servant or even a Presidential hopeful, if you are a woman, chances are that the media – and society, at large – will judge you first on inconsequentialities like your looks, your fashion sense and even your personal life; sparing time for your professional success only if and when it suits them. This blatant objectification of women and viewing them as the sum total of their physical appearances is a grave injustice to the work they do, every day.
In India, recent victims of this outrageously sexist attitude have been civil servants. From IAS officer Smita Sabharwal, who was referred to as ‘eye candy’ in a popular national magazine, to Zilla Panchayat officer, Rohini Sindhuri who was called ‘fair and beautiful,’ by a Karnataka Minister, these comments reek of a myopic view on women and their capabilities. It takes little for such a misogynistic attitude to manifest itself in the form sexual harassment, as in the case of IAS officer, Riju Bafna and ex-IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj.
The most recent case of objectification of women comes from a regional media house which has released a list of women IAS and IPS officers, ranked not according to their achievements or their professional success, but according to their looks.
IPS officer Merin Joseph, one of the 11 women officers on the list, took to Facebook recently to express her anger at the move.
Image Source: Facebook
Merin Joseph made history last year by becoming the youngest IPS officer in the Kerala cadre at the age of 25. The Assistant Superintendent of Police of Munnar, Kerala is also the third Malayali woman officer in the cadre.
After clearing the UPSC exams in her very first attempt in 2012, Merin joined the IPS. A gruelling period of training saw her start her day at 4.45 am, run 4 to 5 kms, swim, go horse-back riding, undergo weapons training and take on taxing 40-km route marches.
She was even given the honour of leading the Indian Delegation at the Y20 Summit for G20 countries.
It was only understandable then that when the when a media house chose to ignore her achievements and focus instead on her looks, Merin released a scathing take down on her Facebook profile.
In a post that has been shared more than 200 times and gotten close to two thousand reactions, Merin says: “These are bold and brave officers working in the complex bureaucratic system in India, negotiating their way through the good, bad and ugly of our body politic- and here we have a list of officers whom people can ogle at.”
“Have you ever wondered why we never see a list of the most handsome males in the IAS and IPS?” she asks, and rightly so.
Here is the complete text of her post:
“This perfectly sums up what is wrong with the press in India, especially the vernacular press. Shameless objectification of women and propagation of patriarchal structures, reducing a lady’s worth to her face value. These are bold and brave officers working in the complex bureaucratic system in India, negotiating their way through the good, bad and ugly of our body politic- and here we have a list of officers whom people can ogle at. It’s seriously disgusting, constricting and very very demeaning to our identities as smart, intelligent self made women. Have you ever wondered why we never see a list of the most handsome males in the IAS and IPS??”
It is time we understood that unless we respect women and see them as more than just objects, India cannot lay claim to any real progress or development.