• Under the Raintree Festival

'Double Standards' by Anita Guha

When I was just a little girl, they said I could have it all

I only had to study hard and heed my parents’ call,

I followed rules, learned many new things, did what was expected,

Yet once I joined the workplace, I didn’t feel so accepted.

Were my parents incorrect; did they not have a clue?

Why’s what I wear and how I look more important than what I do?

I wanted to contribute, but when I spoke with passion

The boss said it’s more agreeable if I simply stick to fashion!

When Rohit argued fiercely, he got praised for being decisive

But I was told that being demure was better than incisive.

Arvind was made Leader: assertive, strong and true

I was called aggressive, with a rebellious point of view.

And so, I tried to change my traits to conform to what they wanted,

Fairly desperate to be liked, I persevered undaunted.

Weeks turned to months; I found myself diminished by self-negation

The firm where I was working lost my spark of innovation.

The gender double standard to which I vainly tried to adapt

“Be nice,” “don’t argue,” “smile” – became a handicap

To navigate workplace politics where authority often rules

Must I use feminine wiles to be perceived as cool?

Being sweet & meek and kind of dumb was so unlike the real me

I couldn’t hunker down no more, I needed to be free

Of all the shoulds & musts & don’ts – the mien that was expected

My own unique identity could no longer be neglected.

I sought a more inclusive firm: “Accept all that I am

I’m mind and body, strong and soft, not a pretty, docile lamb.”

I’ve finally begun to find my voice, stand tall and shout out loud.

It’s time you also shed your fears; throw off that feminine shroud!

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