CULTURAL GENDER ISSUES

Or let's put it this way... if you are not born a man, men might actually never take you seriously here. Okay, I realize that this single sentence carries a lot of feminist luggage but don't hang up on me yet! Let me just tell you about the "gender issues" I've been experiencing in Mumbai...

Over the last few weeks things have really started to take form but for this to happen a lot of negotiating preceded. Now I remember following a course that should have perfectly prepared me for this but I couldn't have been more wrong. Here negotiation is not something where you simply spell out what you want, it's this fatiguing process of going back and forth, of giving compliments to one another, calling the other person your brother or uncle and most of all it's supposed to be a friendly process (where I always seem to loose my nerve)... But let's stick to the subject, apart from the negotiations taking a lot of time there is one main problem; men simply don't listen to what I have to say. (And yes I can see the irony in this but it's really annoying when you are trying to build a business!)

For example, I have all my jackets made with one particular tailor. We have been working together over the past couple of months, working out the fit of the jackets, the patterns and the detailing. He is a busy men so lately we (read me and my awe-some boyfriend) met him at his workshop around 9 in the evening. Although me and Masterji (a respectable name to call your tailor in Hindi) met each other so many times before, everything changed the moment I took along my partner (I will call him Nick from now on because well, that is his real name). See Nick is a MAN, born with a penis and thus he is the one that wears the pants. All of a sudden everything that I had to say was of no importance anymore, I could say whatever I wanted and I would get some nodding in response but whenever Nick would open his mouth the entire workshop responded with "Yes, Sir", "Ha, Tike", "Off course!".

Don't shoot the flower guy, the image just adds some "depth" to the post ;).

Don't shoot the flower guy, the image just adds some "depth" to the post ;).

I only noticed this after a few meetings and I just couldn't believe it because apart from him accompanying me (and supporting me <3), he doesn't have anything to do with Unknown Curiosity. The moment arrived when we had to discuss the final prices and this time I hadn't taken Nick along because I wanted to do this by myself and was simply to proud to give up that easily. Needless to say that this was a lost battle, they refused to negotiate the prices with me, practically sent me home and the first thing they asked me when I came in was where my husband was. (We've been playing house ever since we got here, being husband and wife. Because whenever I would call him my boyfriend they would ask me how my friend was doing...) I went home with a raging anger knowing that I was simply going to have to pass this on to Nick. He easily took care of this a few days later, which made me happy and very upset at the same time...

I still can't grasp that I can't handle some of the most important negotiations of my own business simply because I am a woman and some days it really gets under my skin. Friends have suggested to turn up the complementing so I figure I'll have to give it a try. I'll have to tone down my "straightforwardness" (just a little something which Belgians seem to be very good at!) and show some more interest in small talk. I simply hope that after some time I will be able to do all of these things myself!


x HN.