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More Than A Glamorous Extra

Scene 1 : I was interviewing the leader a political party for a story. As I was packing up, he told me, ‘you are so smart! Join our party and we will make you the head of our North-east (the region of India bordering Myanmar, China and Bangladesh. I come from there) unit.

First I was flattered. I thought, by making me an offer like that he was complimenting my intelligence and my knowledge of the North east - a cluster of 7 hill states with cultural complexities and therefore seen as a difficult domain by almost all the parties.

But as hours passed by, the feelings started waning as his word ‘smart’ kept ringing in my ears. I asked myself, 'how could he offer a complete stranger to head a regional unit?' 'What qualifications did I have, other than being a local?' And then I knew what he meant: a colorful element.

Scene 2: My news editor called. The leader of India’s largest political party was launching a cross country road show and he wanted me to join the team to cover it live. For any political news reporter worth her salt, this could be the opportunity of a lifetime; the road show, coming up weeks before the general election would attract millions. Covering it meant travelling with the OB van, doing multiple sign offs a day, rubbing shoulder with the who’s who in the media.

Suddenly, I heard my editor talking about tasks: X does the interviews, Y gets the audience’s reaction and you take care of glamour quotient’ he said bluntly.

Smart. Beautiful. Glamorous. Colorful. The adjectives vary, but women are often seen as an added element – be that in politics or media. In India, film actresses with absolutely no connection with politics whatsoever, are suddenly given tickets by political parties to, hold your breath, fight parliamentary elections! After winning (they are offered ‘safe seats’or stronghold of the parties) they hardly ever attend the parliament, and the parties seem perfectly ok with that. After all, they women did their expected bit by adding the ‘glamour quotient’ to the election.

And to think how millions of dedicated, but ordinary women political workers slog for years to inch forward!

Coming back to my story, I said no to the political party when they called me again. And though I did go to cover the road show, I did what my male colleagues did; interviews, breaking news and news analysis. My furious editor called me back on the 4th day (while others stayed for the entire stretch of the show). But a few weeks later, I was selected by the managing editor to cover the general election. He selected me after watching me reporting on the road show.

Have you ever been asked to play an extra? Have you been asked to contribute your physical appeal to an office/event, despite possessing enough skills and intelligence? If yes, what did you do? I would like to hear your stories.

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Comments

Amei's picture

A new pespective ...

I haven't thought in this perspective prior to reading your post. This has casued me to reflect and the comeplexities of the issues do not get any simpler. I am glad I do not have a story to share and I hope this request from our oposite gender will cease.

Hmmm.. am I being discrimatory by accusing the opposit gender! Would such request come from our own gender as well? Do share your stories.

Well done Stella and thank you for sharing the story.

I am feeling happy to be part of WP just to be able to read your post. Have a lovely day.

Cheers
Amei

Stella Paul's picture

Happy, always

Dear Amei

The best thing about being here is that I can share any story - even the ones untold for ages - and I know, someone will understand. This has been one such story that might appear too trivial at first, but does pinch on like a tiny, yet stubborn thorn stuck to your dress.

I don't know if women also make such requests. But what I know is that when one woman agrees to be that glamorous extra, somewhere she hurts another woman who has ample talents, but lacks that glamour quotient and therefore gets ignored.

I can't thank you enough for reading!

Best!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Nusrat Ara's picture

I guess all women have faced

I guess all women have faced such situations. You know I strictly stayed away from writing on women issues as everyone ( all men) expected me to do so. It somehow made me more determined to stay away till the time I learned something different.

Regards

Nusrat

Stella Paul's picture

Saying No is important

Its a huge challenge to say no at times. You dealt well with that challenge and saved yourself from being typecast. Feel proud of yourself :)

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

amiesissoho's picture

We need many more

It is with courage that women can take their stand, it is important to appreciate genuine compliments but not to accept that there is emptiness beneath their beauty. I feel the strength in you to say NO! to any form of abuse.

Well do girl,

Amie

Amie

Stella Paul's picture

Late

Dear Amie

I happened to read this a bit late, but once read, I couldn't but thank you for reading. You are so right, denying the presence of a woman's brain is also a form of abuse and its this abuse that we all need to stand against.

Thanks again!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

udoka29's picture

I can definitely relate to that

In my university girls are thought of mostly as a glamorous addition to any and every event. They're not even expected to be intelligent or smart or even make any sense at all when they open their mouths.

I feel very shamed when I see girls rush to compete in beauty contests and they can't even answer what the difference between a man and a woman is. And that was a direct question, by the way.

I remember a time when I and a few others, some I'd never met, gathered together to brainstorm about a campus event. When I made an important observation, one of the guys there said, snidely that he thanks God that some people here are not just air heads and actually know what they're talking about.

In a way I don't blame him. When girls are brought up to think that they're not supposed to be intelligent or smart you would get a lot of them saying rubbish

Stella Paul's picture

It can change

Dear Friend

Yes I understand that moment of irritation when your male friends made the smart Alec comment. But this change, though this time around, its the girls who have to start the change. They need to make their intelligence and brilliance more visible. There is nothing wrong with being beautiful, well dressed etc etc, but none of that should overshadow the beautify and the power within. And yes, the best way to deal with a catty remark is by smiling,sometimes it works like a wonderful kick.

Thanks for reading through dear!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

shantelle143's picture

I am glad I do not have a

I am glad I do not have a story to share and I hope this request from our oposite gender will cease. -Paul Perito

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