There’s a reason why women such as Mary Ann Evans and Joanne Rowling started off their careers by being professionally known as the masculine George Eliot and the gender-masking J.K. Rowling. Neither Pratibha Patil nor Kiran Bedi, however, thought of that kind of option. And not being authors hiding behind pages, neither President Patil nor Ms Bedi, currently upset at not being made Delhi Police Commissioner, could they have taken such a recourse. Both President and policewoman, however, have no choice but to be sucked into that old practice by which gender does enter the equation of proving one’s worth.
To be fair to Ms Bedi, we don’t remember her playing the ‘gender card’. But such is the nature of being a woman in a professional space, that her being bypassed for the police chief’s job already smacks of a question in a gender studies exam: “Did she not get the job because she is a woman?” And its journalistic corollary: “Do you think that you have been made a victim of gender bias?” Like proving the non-existence of God, it is impossible to know whether Ms Bedi didn’t get the job because men didn’t trust her capabilities. But she has given a mixed signal about what she thinks: in one she’s not ruled out the possibility; in another, she claims that “it will send out a very wrong message for women”. Not totally subscribing to Foreign Secretary-wannabe Veena Sikri school of dejection, but close.
We wonder what kind of tactical message could be given out each time a woman doesn’t get her way. Is there a gender bias, for instance, that keeps Dr Shilpa Shetty from getting an Oscar? Hang on. Could we be getting gender bias and racism confused?