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Shabana Azmi, Raveena Tandon Root For Smashing Gender Stereotypes

A special panel on ‘Unlocking India's Women Power’ was held at the launch of BW Marketing Whitebook 2018 in Mumbai which was attended by Shabana Azmi, Raveena Tandon and Nandita Puri

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At the recent launch of the 14th edition of Times Network presents BW Businessworld Marketing Whitebook powered by Adobe, a special panel on ‘Unlocking India's Women Power’ was attended by Shabana Azmi, Indian Film, TV & Theatre Actor,  Raveena Tandon, Actor, Producer & Columnist and Nandita Puri, Celebrity Author & Journalist.

The panel debated issues like gender equality and representation of women on the big and small screens, and whether creative professionals are smashing stereotypes. Explaining the reason behind having fewer women in prestigious positions across professional industries, Shabana Azmi stated that this issue was not specific to India but a challenge globally. She said, “I don’t think it is very different from anywhere in the world except the Scandinavian countries.  The fact is that women are underrepresented all over the world and globally you might find more women in junior positions and when it comes to leadership you will see there is fall in their numbers.”

According to Azmi, this underrepresentation
 of women on professional front was also to a great extent because of maternity, which in large cases gets in the way a woman’s career and sets it at the back for the period when she is expecting the child and when she has the child. She also reiterated that corporates need to make special provisions to ensure that maternity does not become a stumbling block in a woman’s career.

“Now it is being recognized that for women to be included in the workforce, the demand that they should behave exactly like men is unfair and unhealthy for the society. Women and men are different and this difference needs to be included in the global dialogue that is taking place. Moreover, there is urgent need to have some special provisions for women like flexi timings, maternity and paternity leave, the inclusion of the male in household work etc to ensure her professional growth,” stated Azmi.

The veteran actress also spoke about how both men and women have become victims of the patriarchal mindset.  She added, “Patriarchy has its roots so deep in our society that often a woman’s work is considered less important, her position is considered lesser in stature and women in the hierarchy of equal opportunity get thrown by the wayside. I think as women it becomes our duty to mentor other women and help them reduce the barriers that come in their way.”

While speaking on the issue of safety of women at the workplace and otherwise, Raveena Tandon denounced the recent report that India is one of the most dangerous places when it comes to women safety. According to her, there are many countries that had worst record but strangely they never figured in such reports.  

“Statistically, I do not agree with such reports. I have been working with a lot of NGOs and there are many countries which have no laws for women and they do not feature in such reports because geographically they are smaller. As a woman I think I have many rights in this country and I proudly say so”, said Tandon.

Talking about women empowerment, Nandita Puri opined that women have their fair share of advantages and they have to learn how to negotiate it. She said, “Women try to get away with misconduct. If the woman at the helm is misbehaving, we just take it as misconduct, while as if the man on the top is misbehaving it becomes a different ballgame altogether. I think women also have their advantages and they have to learn how to negotiate it. We are living in a very patriarchal society and it is going to take another 50 years, especially for women from the backward regions, to get at par with men and almost another 20 years for women in urban areas to be at par with their male counterparts.”

When asked about the representation of women in popular cultures like cinema, TV and advertising,  Raveena Tandon stated that there was a perceptible shift in the representation of women on screen and the mainstream cinema has to a large extent smashed the stereotype. She said, “Our audiences have become more discerning to understand the complexities and issues that we are dealing with. Also, today’s mainstream cinema does what parallel cinema used to do 15 years ago. The need of the hour for all companies including corporates is to try and become more inclusive.  We have heard enough about patriarchy but what are we doing about it as women? Somewhere we have to share the blame.”

Underlining the critical role that media plays in constructing gender identities, Shabana Azmi spoke about the need to have an inclusive approach which can mitigate the gender gap. Elaborating on this, Azmi said, “We all talk about the world becoming richer because of diversity and inclusion. Any company, any society or any country that celebrates its diversity is the most successful one. So we need to have more women in the workplace. In our country we often say that we worship women like goddesses’, but we don’t want to be treated like goddesses, we don’t want to be put on a pedestal. All we want is to be treated as equals. In this a very important role has to be played by the media, especially TV and cinema, as the images they construct of women, subliminally and otherwise, are creating identities of women and a conscious effort needs to be made in that direction.”

Azmi also added that the notion of masculinity needs to be redefined in order to sensitize youth about gender equality. She also spoke about the work that filmmaker and actor Farhan Akhtar has done around gender sensitivity. “The issue of patriarchy cannot be changed unless you take men as partners and not adversaries.  One of the initiatives in this direction is by Farhan Akhtar who has started the organization called ‘Men Against Racial Discrimination’ (MARD). They are redefining the notion of masculinity and going to colleges to sensitize youth that the real definition of masculinity is not about muscles, power and six-pack abs but about consideration, gentleness and compassion.”


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