Mary’s run in with sexism

Over lunch with Mary the other day, she asked if Indian women really lead horrible lives. She’d read an article and seen some pictures along those lines … like this one:

Well, I’ve no idea of what life is like for women in India, but I think it’s interesting that that’s how they’re portrayed on a Chinese website – and how that view of Indian society filters through to Mary. Beijing-based journalist Pallavi Aiyar in her book Smoke and Mirrors talks about on-the-street Chinese impressions of Indian women being, in order: 1. surely they all sing and dance like in the films? 2. isn’t it very dirty there?

In any case, it got us talking about gender equality in China – the greatest legacy of the Mao era, after millenia of patriarchy. (Though there’s a Chinese proverb from way back in the day – yin sheng yang shuai – female strength/superiority over male.) I always thought that equality between the sexes was something admirable in modern Chinese society.

Then Mary told me of her job application last March to a coal mining engineering company. He had a strong CV, good experience etc. etc. But they told her outright that they didn’t want a girl. Their reasons were equally forthcoming: some kind of unease of sending women down the coal shafts, and also the other role was filled by a guy – meaning a separate dormitory had to be set up, at added cost to them.

She has a female friend who had almost exactly the same experience … and who has a boyfriend with exactly the same qualifications as them who got the job. So it’s depressing to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.