Branding feminists as anti-national, for raising their voices against manels sounds ridiculous, but that is exactly what it has come to. Over the past few days Skoch Group and its chairman Sameer Kochhar have been under fire for numerous manels at the company’s 2018 Skoch Summit. When one Twitter user questioned why there were so little female panellists at the summit, what they got in return was not an apology, but the accusations of being anti-national.

How lazy one has to be, to not do their job properly and then lament at others, and use the lethal A word to deflect all blame?

After being schooled by Twitter for coming up with excuses for lack of female representation at the summit, Kochhar asked those criticising him, to “recommend” and put him in contact of women to participate in the summit. Twitter did come through, so did some male panellists at the event, who even offered to step down to accommodate more women.

The summit ended up having more female representation than before but Mr Kochhar was still bitter about being schooled on social media. And he blamed the “armchair feminists” of Twitter for his grievances, even going to the extent of calling them “anti-national”.

Asking for equal rights and representation isn’t anti-national behaviour

This branding of feminists who merely questioned the manels at his company’s event makes it clear that a company whose Twitter page boasts of focusing on inclusive growth in the country, doesn’t know the definition of inclusion. How didn’t it occur to the creative minds behind this summit, that the manels were undermining the very virtues their “think tank” proclaimed to stand for?

SOME TAKEAWAYS-

  • Skoch Group chairman called feminists, anti-national for calling out manels at the company’s summit.
  • For an organisation, which roots for inclusion on its Twitter page, it a gross negligence to be stuck with so many manels.
  • But instead of taking constructive criticism in stride, Mr Kochhar chose to lash out at feminists.
  • He cannot chose the fronts where he wants to endorse inclusion and where he doesn’t. We all need to endorse inclusion in all real and virtual aspects of our lives.

It is a failure on the creative and management level, so was there a need to take the criticism personally? Organising conferences of such scale is no joke. It takes Himalayan efforts to curate panels and get everyone on right time and the right place. Curating these panels again, so close to the summit must have been indeed stressful, but then such an oversight in an organisation claiming to root for inclusion shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Moreover, in today’s digital era people promptly point out oversights like these. Therefore, the organisers of such events must always to be mentally prepared for criticism which comes their way.

If Skoch actually cared about what kind of message they were sending via this summit in terms of gender equality, they would have taken this criticism in their stride. In fact, they would have been grateful to the people for issuing a warning and giving them a chance to avoid a major faux pas.

Also, it is absolutely reckless to use a term anti-national so frivolously. It has become fashionable today to brand those who do not agree with your opinion or actions with that word. Do they realise how sprinkling the A word on every possible dissent has left that word ineffective? All it took here was some discomfort caused to organisers of a summit, for feminists to get branded anti-nationals.

Kochhar can call us “armchair feminists” or “anti-national”, the fact remains that manels are inexcusable in times like today.  His comments just show that it is easier to call feminists anti-national than getting rid of manels. They show how deep-rooted sexism is in our society, that mere questioning it could lead to a witch hunt.

Also Read : Are organisers to be blamed for “manels”?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own.

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