“Have my actions, somehow have been anti-feminist in this particular situation!!

Sharing an email.
Dear IHM,
I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now .. Somehow you and many regular commentators really seem like nice, mature friends. So I thought I should write to you. Sorry for any spelling mistakes etc. as I am writing on the go…
I am a very successful professional, who has had very good academic record as well. I come from small town, have always advanced on my own merit and despite of my dislike for corporate world, have done extremely well there too. My parents and my husband are perhaps the most chilled out people I have ever seen as far as gender issues are concerned. I want to live my life simply, retire early, volunteer for animal rights in one way or another.  I have been planning to take a one year break next year. And I know many young girls in my family/ friend circle think they want to be me when they grow up.
Sounds like an epitome of “Double Income No Kids With A Dog successful Indian modern woman”. Great right?
But for the last 1 year, my job has become a site of frustration. I have never liked corporate world, but since I succeeded easily and made good money , I went along the tide. Now after reaching a senior level , for the first time I am facing office politics of the worst kind for the last 2 years almost. I have analysed it left, right and center, I have fought it. I have tried to adjust to it.
 Then due to some major changes in the company: some extremely cunning, ambitious and mediocre people  have got power. And now the only thing I can think of is when do I start my break which I have preponed – almost by a year-  from my original plan.
But, and here I come to the point on which I want some advice/ thoughts.
 As my break nears, I am troubled by the thought of it!! Is it because I am a woman that I am socially allowed to indulge in a break? Is it because I am a woman that people around me support my decision to not be part of office politics? If it was my husband – would he be expected to tough it out and be a man ? ( Personally, he is far more relaxed and unambitious than me, as far as the career is concerned, but I am talking about social perceptions here. )
As these people in my office are what you would call ‘sexist old boys club’ : I hope I haven’t bowed down and accepted defeat too early? I am troubled by a thought that they might think ” Oh she was a woman, so she wasn’t serious about fighting anyway”.  
I know that’s what they will think when I resign. And although in my rational mind, I don’t give a ** about them, it troubles me that they ( and maybe other colleagues) might think I was a weak woman who couldn’t stay up there with the tough boys, I am also worried that maybe I have disappointed a feminist in me!! Should I have stayed back and had a jolly good fight for the heck of it? !!!
I am not sure if I am making my point with clarity: but I wish my break had happened without this sour taste in my mouth, you know? I am not worried about what people think, but whether my actions, somehow have been anti-feminist in this particular situation!!
This is more a rant than an issue, and pardon me if I have been self- indulgent!! But I am feeling better after writing this and will feel superbest if I get some response.
What do you think? 

39 thoughts on ““Have my actions, somehow have been anti-feminist in this particular situation!!

  1. Do what you want to – the essence of feminism. Choosing to go somewhere where your skills will be appreciated is a perfectly acceptable choice. As is leaving to recharge. Or quitting this fight. When everyone does what they want to, humanism takes over…not about gender any more!


  2. 1. What exactly is this office politics you are talking about and have they been sexist in nature?
    2. If they have been sexist, have you approached the HR department to try and raise an issue about the lack of workplace equality?

    Taking a break by itself is not a non-feminist action. A feminist action is one where a person does whatever she wants to do. Without sounding judgmental, I would like to say that you are concerned about what other people think of you and are confusing it with anti-feminism. But, the fundamental point to be analysed is the nature of the office politics which will give a clearer picture to all readers about a sensible response.


  3. Oh no, you just took your break a little earlier than planned. And every man or woman has the right to disengage from something unacceptable to them. It’s not as if you’re giving up on life. You made a choice as a human being. Is all good, enjoy your break! I can fully empathize with your disgust at your mediocre colleagues.


  4. I think you planned it, you go for it!
    As nomatter what you do, majority of people in your life will find some reason to bitch about you.
    So why not do what you want and be happy while they continue thinking whatever they want?
    Just my opinion formed from personal life!


  5. To say if something is anti-feminist or not, feminism needs to be first defined. The truth is that – like religion- it means different things to different people. That means that you get to define what it means to you, and act accordingly.

    As far as your actions go, do what makes you happy. Viewing your actions through the lens of an ideology is less important than doing what brings you the most peace of mind.

    Maybe this will help to put you at ease-tell your husband that if he ever needed a sabbatical or change of career, you would be completely supportive.


  6. Dear lady
    the first perception we need to change about gender is our own.Yes our gender is a major part of who we are,how we do what we do and most importantly how we are perceived by others.But all I would like to tell you that it is almost criminal to reduce all conflict to gender.In your situation fighting back or withdrawing is a personal decision much more to do with your career priorities and a a very small bit to do with your gender.
    I know a lot of men who would have taken a break here easily and happily and i also know a lot of women who chose to continue and fight in a situation like this.
    Sexual perceptions are one thing and personal priorities are another,that is how I see it,although I agree there are huge areas of our lives and personalities where these two intermingle.As long as people who matter support your decisions it is alright.


  7. Hey OP, first things first, you’re not a lesser feminist for either of those reasons. A feminist is a feminist is a feminist.

    It *may* be more socially acceptable for you to take a break because you’re a woman but it doesn’t make you any less entitled to one if you decide you want a break. If you were to rely on what society thinks, we’d never have feminists 🙂 And if your husband decides he wants to take a break from his career, never mind what society things, were you to step up at that point and say “It’s fine, I can take responsibility for us and our lives and lifestyle”, you’d still be a feminist. Feminism isn’t just about demanding equal treatment for women, it’s about equality all across. some people like to say that equality all across would make it ‘humanism’ but considering just how far we have to go in terms of women being treated fairly, feminism is here for a while and we could simply make equality for all another thing feminism promotes and fights for, along with all the other things.

    As far as your decision to take a break early owing to office politics is concerned, it sounds as if you’ve fought the battle as long as you could. It isn’t un-feminist of you to leave. Maybe leaving without a fight would have been un-feminist, maybe. My point is, one always has to choose their battles wisely and if you’ve already made the effort and decided you can’t do any more than this, there’s no need for you to doubt your decision. It’s unfortunate that we still have to encounter sexism and old boys’ club thinking, but the point is, clubs like those will *always* think you’re the weaker sex and not capable of taking on the boys. Luckily, they are on their way out. Very very slowly, I will admit, but they are going to be an endangered species someday. And hopefully extinct soon after.

    In my opinion, refusing to play the game doesn’t mean you’ve lost. You haven’t forfeited. It just means you’ve left the other team no one to play with, and put an end to the game. You’ve still taken a stand. And that’s far, far better than not taking any stand at all.


    • I agree with everything in this comment. Just to supplement:
      1. It may be that (for once!) you’re getting the better deal of social sanction because you’re a woman. But that’s not the main reason you’re making your decision nor are you banking on that support, presumably you’d have done this without the support too. Let me add that my husband has been planning and looking forward to a similar break (and office politics of late have made him long for it more). He may face social censure but he’s still doing it. So it’s not just women (banking on social support) who take career breaks, though it is harder for men.

      2. You can be a feminist and still have limitations as to how much you can physically fight. While we admire those who are heroic, not everyone can be. That’s okay.

      You could consider writing to HR and documenting why you believe the office politics are sexist. However, the corporate world is so sucky that it might only impact you badly. When I was leaving due to a particularly crap boss, I chose not to name her in my exit interview because I knew that her clique had enough power to negate my remarks. You make your decision based on how much impact you think you can have and how much risk to yourself you can stomach,.


  8. I have never worked in the corporate sector so I don’t know much about it and am therefore not qualified to give good advice but here it is for what it is worth– I guess your taking a break at this point will indeed make it look like you are chickening out and aren’t up to taking the challenges by their horns–a perception that will suit those sexist old boys only too well. I do feel that you would do well to fight it out and not prepone your break. Wish you the best!


  9. You are a person long before you are the banner holder for any movement/group identity. What brings joy and peace in your life is what is important.

    If the feminist in you should ever try to poke you with negative thoughts, remind her, gently, that the essence of freedom is to live life on one’s own terms. Those terms do not have to fit into the definitions and preconceptions of others.


  10. No, it is not about being a female. Believe me, if my wife agrees to support me for a year, I will be more than happy to take a break. Also, it is not easy for females. Consider a situation where a person has taken a loan. Taking a break will be an equally stressful decision irrespective of your gender.
    Secondly, do what you wish to do. Do not turn your decisions into a war. If you try to teach every jerk in this world a lesson, you will go crazy. Do it for yourself, not to make someone feel ashamed especially if that person is a nobody.
    People will always talk behind your back. You will always have enemies. Make your peace with it.


  11. No, I see nothing negative about your choice. If you personally, considered it a right for you to take a break from a stressful office-environment, but thought that men have a obligation to endure the same thing without a break, then that would be sexist.

    But that’s not what you’re saying: you’re saying you’d like a break, and it sounds to me as if you’d consider it fair for a man in the same situation to also get a break.


  12. Man, woman, child, or juvenile delinquent..everyone deserves a break from office politics..just chill and think how you’ll enjoy your break rather than thinking about those sadist uncles in ur office..Btw I’m typing this sitting next to one of the biggest corporate pigs i know, if i were u, I’d be so happy to not be seeing people like him everyday 😀


  13. In corporate India, office politics is inevitable and is an unfortunate reality. While your situation (of being “eased out”) IS partly due to your gender, you cannot mount a one-woman battle against a toxic work environment and deeply-held prejudices.

    In my experience, the glass ceiling is a frequently encountered reality for most female professionals in white collar occupations.

    It wouldn’t matter a bit if you became “one of the boys”, you’d still be sidelined and eased out. We can be true to our feminist ideals without having to sell out to “the old boys club”.

    At its core, feminism is about choices. You doing what works for you is a perfectly legitimate choice to make.

    What would you enjoy more: Clawing your way up a bloodied corporate ladder or working for animals?


  14. “.taking a break from job”

    well definitely not a prevailing exercise for Male cadidates.

    “Preponed the break”

    Doesn’t this clearly says you are quitting.

    at end of the day, if you are able to answer your self and be happy. all else is well.


  15. On the top, you will see all kinds of pepple – even medocre ones because they are skilled at winning in power politics. So you will mingle with a lot of flavors – The question is can you keep up and keep at it – they are wishing that you will lquit as well and associate a lot of variables .

    What is the point here – Do you want to quit ? Do you want to keep up the fight ? or Do you want to do what you want ? – people will talk anyway. because that is how we all are.

    we all want good things to be talked about us / but every coin is 3 dimensional !

    – You know what to do .


  16. Is it because I am a woman that I am socially allowed to indulge in a break? If it was my husband, would he be expected to tough it out and be a man ?
    – Yes, ‘they’ would probably say ‘haan theek hai, why does she need to work anyway, they have enough’. Does it matter? Nope. The feminist thing to do here is not for you to deprive yourself of a break, but for your husband to take one too, if he ever needs it. Screw ‘them’. 😉

    I hope I haven’t bowed down and accepted defeat too early?
    – If the job environment doesn’t suit you anymore, it’s perfectly valid to move on. This is not not a man/ woman thing. Another company/job will value and respect your work. If your company’s management/ HR cannot provide a fair and comfortable working environment, it will be their loss. I bet you wouldn’t feel ‘anti-feminist’ for changing jobs. So why feel that way about taking a break, if you can afford to? I bet you wouldn’t hold your husband back if he similarly needed a break.

    It troubles me that they ( and maybe other colleagues) might think I was a weak woman who couldn’t stay up there with the tough boys.
    – You’re giving them too much power over you. It doesn’t matter what they think. They don’t matter. You only have to make yourself happy, not some random good-for-nothing bullies that happened to work alongside you at some point.

    I wish my break had happened without this sour taste in my mouth, you know?
    – Ofcourse. This is not your fault though. Don’t blame yourself for someone else’s bad behaviour.


  17. This has nothing to do with being a woman. It has everything to do with bad office politics. Once the organisation gets overrun with mediocrity, it is time to run! There are still organisations out there that have a gender bias. I don’t know if its better to let them go to hell or to stay and change the world. My suggestion is that unless you are a leader in that office, choose the former.


  18. Don’t bother about people who don’t bother about you. Office politics could be tricky at times and I myself feel getting over it is the best one could do, for our own good. It is always a bigger relief to find a place where you are respected as a colleague, rather than finding your way through politics which is uncomprehending. You aren’t quitting. You’re just moving to find pastures which you think will be greener ones and give you pleasure and prosperity. As a human being, you are entitled to it.


  19. Being a feminist means believing both genders are socially of equal status and acting accordingly. The notion that in a difficult situation males always fight it out while females surrender is a Patriarchial one and is not true.


  20. The true essence of feminism (at least in my eyes) lies in doing what you as a person like to do. It is very easy to get prejudiced based on the views of society but the more important thing here is, there is no need to fit in a particular definition. Why to even think along the lines of if you fit in the definition of a feminist or not?
    And again, the society may think that it is easier for a woman to take a break, but then again, it is the society’s perception. I feel on an individual level it will be equally difficult (or easy) to take a break for a man or woman depending on whether the break is voluntary or a forced one.


  21. Unfortunately, the answer to your questions is most likely a Yes. Yes, the old-boy network in your company will think they won easy because you’re a woman. It happens all over, all the time. What this will mean to the company is not in your control. Will the next woman who tries for such a position face a harder time because of your actions? Maybe. Maybe not, it depends on so many factors. All you can control is your reaction to it. Feminism at its root is about the right of women to be treated as equal to men, with the same rights – which means responsibilities. Would a man who eschewed office politics and chose to opt out be dismissed as weak? Probably. Would he care? Should he? That’s up to the man. (My husband is one such man – hates office politics and had chosen to remain in a technical role to escape the toxicity of management) Similarly, it’s up to you how you choose to deal with the perception your departure will have. Easier said than done, I know, so here’s wishing you strength and all luck to do what you need to.


  22. Feminism means believing and acting as if both males and females are socially equal. It is patriarchal to think males always fight it out in a difficult situation and females surrender. You live your life without worrying much about the society at large and thus you become a feminist.


  23. Its your choice, and that is what feminism is all about…to have that choice. And dont worry about the sexist people at work, their thinking will not change even if you stayed and fought it out, so why bother?


  24. Been there, done that. After 8+ years of corporate experience I recently landed in this job where I had to work with a sexist coworker. This guy is an Indian who recently moved to the US. He is very insecure and felt threatened by me. He tried to push me around a lot more just because I am an Indian woman. When I didn’t budge he started throwing massive tantrums and made my life miserable over there. I decided to leave that place for my own sanity sake. Like you, I also felt like I was accepting defeat at that time. I had a sour taste in my mouth for a few weeks after I left. Looking back now (a few months later) I have no doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do. More than anything, I am a better mother to my child now than I was during that time and that is huge for me (happy people raise happy kids who then hopefully become happy citizens, not sexists/rapists/manipulators etc). I learned that staying and fighting with irrationality is pointless. It takes a toll on almost every aspect of your life. If you have the financial freedom to do so, please RUN! Some people are stuck in their own heads, there is nothing you can do about them. No matter how hard you fight chances are they will not appreciate your worth. It’s their problem ofcourse, not yours. Feminism doesn’t have anything do with this in my opinion. I told my husband also that anytime he is stuck in an unhappy or abusive situation at work I will support him 100% if he decides to take a break.Take your talents and skills to another place where they are appreciated or take a break like you planned already. Walk out of there with your head held high. It is sad that “old boys clubs” still exist even in the most advanced societies. Someone mentioned HR so I will say this – in most companies it is almost useless to go to HR with such complaints. I wouldn’t go down that road if I were you but that’s up to you. Be prepared to face disappointments if you end up taking that route. Good luck!


  25. Toxic politics are an unfortunate reality in a staggeringly large number of workplaces. While I’m not denying that there might be something of an ‘old boys club’ at your workplace and while I am not denying the sexism that also continues to foster in many workplaces, I must tell you that most corporate workplaces become progressively less fun as you hit middle-management and beyond.

    Corporate life is not for everyone. This is a fact. Like any other kind of workplace, corporate workplaces have their pros and cons. In my experience, the higher you go, the worse the politics get. It gets bad enough that at an SVP level position, a large part of your day involves carefully manipulating and stepping around big egos, little personal empires and all manners of eccentric and rotten personalities. Of course, by that time, doing this little ‘corporate dance’ will be second nature to you, but you have to ask yourself – do you really want to learn that dance, and become quite a bit like the people you detest right now?

    It’s up to you to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons. The way I see it, this should be a pragmatic decision, guided by personal circumstance. Don’t see it as a war between you and them. They made their move. You can choose to wrestle in the mud (with the possibility of both consequent rewards and unpleasantness), or you can choose to step away. Neither option is ‘wrong’. You must see what works for you.

    In my view of things, if you cannot handle the toxicity, if it makes you miserable, if your work seems like a constant drag, and if you have the option of quitting, it’s not worth it to stay. I wouldn’t worry about whether it is feminist or not. The idea is to be happy, and even if this was an anti-feminist decision (which I don’t think it is), I’d say do it if it makes you happy. You don’t have to be a feminist to feel content in life. Do what you feel is the best path for YOU, not the best path for a hypothetical feminist.

    If I were you, I’d take the break, chill out with the spouse, and make the most of the time you have.

    Here’s to you. Whatever decision you decide to take, I hope it is rewarding and wonderful, and I hope it absolutely work out for you guys.


  26. I would call this a gender neutral issue. Our society may consider it more acceptable when women takes a break but who cares. Do what makes you happy.

    Well, I took a masters from my research program instead of a phd and no Indian I knew in my batch did that and they tried to make me feel I was making a mistake. But I did what made me feel good and was aligned with a life I wanted. This has nothing to do with gender, it has to do with going against the set norms in society.

    How many women in the west are comfortable with being housewives? Not many coz people will judge you. I know so many bloggers who quit their awesome corporate jobs to do something unusual. Many people were shocked and criticized them but they did what made them happy.

    You will always have many critics when you go against the grain but in the end, you are living your life and itch your decisions and since many people do not have the courage to do that, they will try to dissuade others too.

    Regarding your workplace turning into a sour experience , well we cannot control that. I started working even before I submitted my thesis and was writing my thesis as I was working. Things were not good between me and my supervisor. Had I wished that, I could finish my thesis, take a nice holiday for 2 months, and then join my job? Yes of course!

    But how did it work out? Issues with my supervisor, learning on my new job, writing my thesis, my supervisor not supporting me and not letting me submit my thesis, working, no weekends coz that was when I was writing my thesis, submitting my thesis, doing more corrections, running around to submit again.

    I have not gone on a holiday for about 1.6 years.

    At the end of the day, things have worked out for me, I did what I had to and wanted to. The journey was rocky, but things are better now. Life often can be full of surprises and we cannot control what is going to happen.

    So. I feel if you do not like corporate world and wanted a break, just take it because you cannot control your office.

    Why think if you win or lose to them as long as you are happy.


  27. You know a lot of women would love to be in your place. A family who understands, a husband who supports and a strong head over the shoulders which shouldn’t think “what people will think”!! Ok?

    Feminism for me is “being yourself”. If you will be happy to give a fight back and win it, so be it. If you are happy with just letting the dogs bark and have a peaceful break, so be it! Its about personal choice without thinking about perceptions of others!

    And know what? Resign with a smile, they’ll never know what made you so happy about taking a break! 😉


  28. Many of my female friends who are in high positions in MNCs in India have faced this and most of them are single .I am only female technical manager in my company . Initially I was amused when in a room full of old men i used to walk in my skirts and blazers . I get along with most of them and normally resort back to their sexiest jokes . Say no firmly and have defended my team from being bullied . I am getting up the ladder , and i know they don’t like it . Initially they ignored me as I was too young and inexperienced as compared to them , but now when i am making my presence felt ,they get uneasy .
    So what make me survive ?? simple principle , I love my job and i like the money and power it gets me and I will stay here till date I am happy . I am single and i have bills to pay but If at all any day I am Mind fucked with anything ( over work , politics , sexism ) i will tell HR clearly my reason of leaving and will quit. Even if that means i have to make some compromises on my life style for a while. Taking a break for professionals is never an easy decision . but sometimes its all you need to get your sanity back. Take a long holiday break on any pretext rt now If you don’t want to quit rt away. It also helps get things into perspective.

    Or join any other company immediately and take break as planned after a year .. thats your call .

    You know best thing about feminism is not confirming to a rule book everytime you have to take a decision .


  29. Hi all,

    Thanks all. Its exactly the kind of response I was looking forward to from this forum. Very helpful. Thanks IHM and all.

    My husband did take a break and I was the breadearner then- so yes- I agree with most of you that I should take actions that seem right and it is definitely not an anti-feminist decision. Its like I know it in my heart but doubt gnaws, you know.

    As some of you pointed out : that my break will be seen as chickning out and maybe as a woman’s decision. I just feel I dont want to give them this satisfaction. You know, sometimes you just want to prove a point and my favourite targets are always these “humph humph. .. Thou shall make money.. Thou shall uphold tradition… Thou shall buy latest Ipad.. Thou will marry fair slim Indian girl with sanskaar and thy kids will attend Dhirubhai Ambani school ” kind of corporate types: typically male.

    Just realized: if this is what I feel about them: why am I bothered about what they will think?? ( one tight slap to self)

    Alright. I will take a break without thinking about the silly perceptions of people who I dont care about. love this blog.


    @theconvinientrebel: the sexism is imperceptible. Virtually everyone agrees, but nobody can prove. Also the compa
    ny is in a phase where nobody is interested in old boys club.


  30. Being a feminist is not about making the best of a bad situation all the time and dealing with hardship. You may keep your feminist card! As a person, you should get out of any kind of nonsense your workplace creates for you.


  31. “humph humph. .. Thou shall make money.. Thou shall uphold tradition… Thou shall buy latest Ipad.. Thou will marry fair slim Indian girl with sanskaar and thy kids will attend Dhirubhai Ambani school.”

    Haha. Corporate India is teeming with men who match that description to a T. Men with IIT and IIM degrees who still turn around (furtively) when a woman in a skirt walks by. Men who congregate at the company’s smoking corner (invariably a male-only space) to gossip about their female coworkers.

    Perhaps our daughters will have to endure less of this nonsense than we do. I’m optimistic~


    • It’s an ecosystem issue.

      Large companies with toxic or overly chauvinistic work environments often have an entrenched upper crust of people who are completely out of touch with the average employee. I’ve seen this again and again from various vantage points in firms of all descriptions, and it is ubiquitous in Indian firms.

      Such a situation invariably results in a hostile office environment that fosters and encourages bullying, scapegoating and constant, highly political blame games that destroy morale and any semblance of loyalty to the firm. HR tends to be either incompetent, or powerless or both. Associates and junior employees feel overworked and unappreciated, and are constantly afraid of ‘standing out’, because it might mean becoming a target of the bullying (or getting fired). Mid-level managers find themselves confronted with the choice of either buying into bullying and scapegoating tactics, or being the victims of it. Senior managers who are not part of the ‘club’ are actively excluded and isolated, thereby reducing them to glorified paper pushers. Employees at all levels of the hierarchy spend their time ‘going with the flow’, covering their behinds, and looking for openings at a better workplace.

      I think a firm’s culture should be the most vital consideration for a prospective employee. Unless you’re absolutely desperate for the money/job, it’s a mistake to work for a firm whose culture is utterly hostile to your own values. Doing so will sap strength and motivation out of you at a shockingly high rate, and being exposed to such a situation for extended periods of time often results in a burnout severe enough to cause actual depression and mental health issues. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not pretty at all.


  32. To be a feminist is not to ape men. Being a feminist means we believe that both women AND men have the right to choice to lead their lives the way they would like to irrespective of what others think/ say. So, if men do not take a break because they fear what society would say, they have to learn to be feminists 🙂


    • I do agree that what the issue I wrote about might be a gender neutral one. But having said that, its strange that more and more one goes up on corporate ladder: you encounter sexism in a more subtle manner. Nothing is ever said as such. But judgements are made and socialization/ networking usually excludes women, especially, if they are independent and ” modern” types who disturb the conventional stereotypes of what is expected from women.


  33. Women’s lib is meant to empower women to take their own decisions.
    If you wanna leave, leave. If you wanna go back into the corporate world. go ahead and go that too and prove em wrong. Or completely change tactics and take up a different career path.
    Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Just do your own thing.


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