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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

What it feels to be the only person of your sex in office

Hindustan Times  Mumbai, December 10, 2012
First Published: 13:11 IST(10/12/2012) | Last Updated: 12:24 IST(7/8/2013)

At a time when gender roles have become irrelevant at the work place, we try to figure what it feels to be the only person of your sex in office.You would think men are absolutely clueless about fashion and women can’t make a joke, or take one, if their life depended on it. But here are two individuals who are fighting these very stereotypes every day, talking about work and their daily gender wars.

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Chic and cheerful
“You work for a fashion magazine? You must meet hot models every day.” It’s a question I got used to being asked by my guy friends. They were mostly engineers, lawyers, bankers... you know, those who did the kind of jobs guys normally do. A guy — and for disclaimer’s sake, a straight guy — in a fashion magazine? I was like a mutant of the species. Anyway, to answer the above question, no, my job description didn’t involve meeting hot models every day (though I have shared a bottle of champagne on the private terrace of a hotel with a popular, leggy model in a bathrobe). My regular work involved more humdrum things — word documents, page layouts and chasing writers to finish their stories on deadline.

Were there challenges to being the only guy in an otherwise all-girl team? Of course there were. It took me a month to get used to the sound of heels going clickety-click on the wooden floor. It took me another six to learn the names of international designers and the types of cuts, checks and fabric. And to this day, I wonder why all of that stuff costs so much! And while I have felt lost amid excited discussions over the latest lipstick, when it came to work, it didn’t matter whether I was dealing with a guy or a girl. Women can be extremely driven and extremely apathetic, very friendly and very mean. I have met them all. But then, that is just as true of a male-dominated workplace.

What did I gain from the experience? I met some amazing people and made amazing friends. I can also rattle off two dozen designers’ names without thinking and give a woman advice on what make-up brand to buy and what handbag to carry. Why would you need to know this? Trust me, the ladies appreciate it.

The writer, Sarit Ray, has previously worked for a fashion magazine.

Tomboy all the way.
Being a tomboy in an all-girls school and a woman in a man’s profession, I have had the unfortunate advantage of being an outsider wherever I go. And both experiences have been almost the same. Just as we wasted hours under the guise of maths tuitions while discussing Milind Soman and Justin Timberlake, conversations backstage, after a show, start with earnest declarations of “If Emma Watson was in my class in college, I would totally have a chance with her.”

My mirror still reflects the same lingering looks that I’d give myself on the much-awaited traditional day during convent school. Fellow male comics give themselves the same before they get up on stage. (“I dunno if I should wear the waistcoat — do I look like a waiter now?”) What were bitchy remarks about a common enemy in the classroom, have turned into hilarious and offensives jibes at the each other in the green room. I wish I had dramatic stories of how I had to fight for my right to have my period and go shopping, but stand-up is one of those professions where the audience is the boss. If they find you funny, it barely matters what gender you are. If you want respect, you give it to yourself and others will follow suit. And as a woman, am I not in the ideal situation? After all, every one of my co-workers posses the number one quality a woman wants in a man — a sense of humour.

The writer, Aditi Mittal, is a stand-up comic.


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