Carnival Shoutout!

The 45th Carnival of Feminists is up at the Feminist Philosophers blog, and it is one huge effort. While most of the carnivals are interesting, this one really is an enormous one, full of interesting reads from around the globe. A lot of effort has also gone into organising the posts into neat categories.

If I were you, I’d just pop over and read all of them, but if you are short of time, let me point out two posts that I liked especially – the first is an Ukranian blogger who has this personal piece on her grandmother, which leads to all sorts of not-easily-answered questions about being feminine and being a feminist. The second is a great post on whether men can be feminists, and what it takes to be one.

Have fun reading.

Where the Victim is the Culprit, again

Television channels yesterday were awash with news of Delhi University (Indraprastha college) students protesting against harassment on their campus. None of the channels use the word harassment, they prefer to use ‘eve-teasing’, that peculiar downplaying word. Eve-teasing is ofcourse no harmless activity – remember the 1998 Sarika Shah case?

The college students were forcefully making the point that as students, surely they are entitled to feel safe on their own campus, and not be harassed by louts who presumably got in to write some exams but are really interested in, well, more loutish things to do. The students were also protesting against, and this in my opinion is as critical, the insensitivity of police to their complaints.

Not only did the police not register an FIR immediately, as required by Indian law. The girls mentioned that a senior official had also visited their campus and admonished them for their clothes, which he felt, encouraged such loutish behaviour. There we go again! Any time women complain of harassment, the tables are just turned on them. Why do you wear such clothes? Why do you go out late? Why do you have boyfriends? Why do you work? The implication ofcourse is that an Indian woman, clad in Indian clothes, staying at home, venturing out only accompanied by a male, is completely safe.

In reality, we know that a number of crimes happen within the confines of home, including marital rape, other physical abuse and mental harassment. And clothing is no protection either, as many of us know from personal experience. So why are these authorities, and society in general (of which the police is only a symptom), so insensitive to the issue? The Indraprashtha girls mentioned that even woman constables were treating them this way. So definitely, its not a men versus women issue here.

The answer lies in the deeply ingrained stereotypical views of male and female behaviour that many of us are fed, practically from childhood. In this view, women belong to others. (Belonging may sometimes be couched more palatably as ‘love’ or ‘a little possessiveness’). A woman is either a wife, a mother or a sister or a daughter, who must be protected by the men in her life. Conversely, if she chooses to eschew that protection, she has no longer any right to safety. Ergo, the questions, what were you doing alone at that time of the day, wearing these sort of clothes? Even the TV channels, reporting sympathetically, show vestiges of this view. The Headlines Today reporter kept mentioning that these girls were entitled to protection more so because many of them lived away from their families. Its not clear at all what living with your family, or away, has to do with it. Women should be safe on their own campus, irrespective of whether their families are around or not. Surely the reporter didn’t expect that families of Delhi-based girls would be hovering around all the time to protect them?

In this view, men are also defined as brutish creatures of the moment, who cannot think above their libido. Hence women wearing the ‘wrong’ sort of clothes will ‘incite’ a male to wrong doing. This view is ofcourse completely insulting to the many fine, capable, thinking men we all surely know.

Perhaps if both men and women thought about this and realised how much such a view actually denigrates men, while ostensibly giving them power, we would do a bit of a rethink.

In the meanwhile, we will only have such spectacles being played out again and again. I hope the IP girls get their due respect though.

Effective Presentation

I know I linked to Rowan Manahan’s Blog quite recently, but there is just so much good stuff out there! If you are in any line of work that requires you to use powerpoint, check out this most useful presentation he has, on how to, and how not to use powerpoint.

Today its not just us management types who make presentations. Students use powerpoint, so do academics, and people in all sorts of industries. With greater use comes more misuse. I certainly do my fair share of mistakes on presentations, not being a very visual person. Its fantastic to see the kind of genuine help of this sort that one can find online!

The presentation is 128 slides long, but no way does it feel like that. Well worth a thorough read…And now to see if I can apply some of those principles in my work.

Total Branding

In MBA school, one of the things you hear often about branding, is how it is not just restricted to any one aspect of a brand like advertising. Advertising could be the most obvious means of communication that a brand has with its consumers, but every other thing about a brand also tells consumers something. Like a pack which is poorly designed and difficult to use. Or availability in only certain stores. Or old, dusty packs lying in stores, nearing their expiry date. All these have a story to tell.

In reality ofcourse, it is difficult for a brand team to monitor every aspect. In many cases, brand and sales teams work parallely with little control or influence over each other, atleast in the short term. And in a large country like India, with individual states often needing their own campaigns and even localised promos for each town or city, branding rarely can be so cohesive.

One brand, however, which I’ve always appreciated for its inclusive approach is Marico’s Saffola. When they started out, they adopted a heart-disease-can-kill sort of stern positioning, which didn’t work. Gradually they moved on to a gentler approach focusing on how good health can improve your life tremendously, and Saffola as the custodian of health.

The good thing about Saffola is it doesn’t just stop with interesting ads or eye catching packaging. They have a fairly good website with some simple tools such as healthy recipes, BMI check, as well as a facility to call a dietician. And recently, I saw the latest ad which actually encourages people to go in for a medical check up to keep track of one’s heart condition and detect any irregularity at an early stage. I thought this was an excellent example of walking the talk, proving that the brand really cares, and doesn’t just say so.

Fantastic Women Bloggers

I don’t usually take up tags or memes that are running through the blog world – mostly because many of these are personal, and I don’t really see this space as a “personal” blog. And well, there are very few business or feminist memes, which are the themes I usually write about. But I thought I’d make an exception this one time for this awarding meme which is running all around, called the rocking girl bloggers. I did some digging around on the origins of this thing and looks like it started out at this blog on blogging.

The idea is to give out these cutesy badges to five women bloggers whom you really like. I came to know about it when (clap, clap!), I got two of these from Desigirl and Amrita.

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For a start, I detest the use of the word girl for women, in a logical manner, though I am guilty of using it myself sometimes. Ever wondered why it sounds so condescending to call a man a boy, but perfectly ok to call a grown-up woman a girl? Be that as it may, I do like the idea, and therefore, here is my list of women bloggers I like, and why I like them. (Don’t take this as a ranking please!)

There is Mridula, whose travel blog is really one of the first Indian travel blogs that I read, and which motivated me to start my own. Not only does she present superb photographs of the places that she visits, but her love of the environment and the outdoors sparkles through her words. Besides writing, she is generous with help and I’ve seen her offer suggestions to commentors on her site many a time.

The Evil HR Lady, who hosts a witty HR blog, I’d like to nominate for her insightful commentary on workplace issues. She is empathetic to readers, at the same time practical and doesn’t hesitate to speak out her mind. Plus, she possesses something I’d kill for – an amazing sense of humour.

How can I miss one of my favourite business bloggers, Pamela Slim, a fantastic writer on business and entrepreneurship. Not just content with giving relevant, practical suggestions for small businesses, Pam is also a great motivator and has wonderful suggestions for getting around the many troubles that plague small businesses and self employed people.

But its not all business. There is some good food too! And that brings us to Indira, the super-food-blogger, whose blog Mahanandi has come to my rescue so many times when I am on the lookout for something interesting to eat. Indira shares generously her knowledge of traditional Andhra cuisine, but also ventures into other foods from time to time. Her writing is supplemented by droolworthy photographs, always.

Now that I am coming to the end of my list, it is so, so, so difficult to choose just one person. I like reading Amrita’s eclectic blog, Indiequill, and the Desigirl’s personal one, Chez Moi. But since these ladies have already awarded me, I am not going to do a sort of quid pro quo.

Instead, I’d like to mention here, Baraka, whose Rickshaw Diaries used to be up here, but after a hiatus, have now moved here. I sometimes wonder what makes me feel so close to this blog. Baraka writes from her perspective as a Muslim, American-Pakistani woman. Much of this is alien to me, as a culture. Still, Baraka’s writing shines through with her kindness, generosity, tolerance and a wisdom that seems phenomenal for someone still young.

So I’ve finally done my first meme! If you don’t already read these blogs, I sure hope you will enjoy visiting them.

An Espouser of Traditional Values

I happened to be watching BBC today and came upon this news item about a popular German news and TV show anchor who was fired for talking about the positives in the Nazi regime – what she perceived as the respect for women and motherhood. Now, I believe that while her comments may have been offensive to many, talking about any positive aspect of the Nazi regime (even if it is wrongly perceived as positive) should not be banned.

But what’s interesting is that this lady, Eva Herman, has been crusading for a return to traditional values, by which ofcourse she means that women stay at home and forget about having a career. Does anyone see the irony of a popular TV host advocating this? I wonder what she has to say to President Angela Merkel. Its pathetic though, to see a successful woman deriding other women in this manner, suggesting that the only choice they can make is to limit themselves to marriage and motherhood.

Infact these two words, ‘traditional values’, usually raise my hackles immediately. Not because I think there is anything inherently wrong with all tradition or that it should be discarded. But usually, the demands made in the name of traditional values, are always made on women. Too much crime? Hey, those women should be at home, looking after their families. How about preserving some of our old ways? Why don’t these women wear saris? Never mind if the men can wear anything they like.

I wonder if I should be surprised or relieved that this sort of idiocy is not restricted to our society alone, but exists even in the richest societies of the world. And, finally, she was sacked for saying something irrelevant about Nazi society, but got away with her disrespectful attitude to women easily enough. That alone says volumes about the world we live in.

Corporate Blogging in India

I was interested in seeing whether companies in India have begun to use blogs as a means of communication with different audiences, and I did some digging around to see who is doing what. Surprise, surprise! I just can’t find too many corporate blogs in the first place. (Or my googling skills are poor!).

The usual culprits, which have been much talked about before, came to light again. First, the Infosys Blog, Think Flat. Now they have put together a star blogger team, with senior members from communication, marketing, sourcing, consulting etc besides Nandan Nilekani himself. But one odd thing about the blog is, that perhaps because of a number of contributers adding pieces whenever their schedule permits, the blog is very erratically updated. Sometimes articles follow each other after a day, and sometimes there are no posts for a week or ten days. I think regular updation is critical for a serious blog. Another surprising thing is that at the end of a page, there is no link pointing to ‘older posts’. One has to trudge through the archives. Perhaps they need someone who understands blogging and can help this senior team out by coordinating posts and having a more user friendly design. However, the content on the blog is quite good – while it touches briefly on Infy’s expertise, it doesn’t hardsell in any way, and in most cases, is quite interesting to read, though not phenomenally.

Then, there is Fritolay India’s blog, maintained by Madhu Rajesh and Abhijit Bhaduri from their HR function. This is really more of a fun, informal blog, and as such, the regular aims of ‘corporate blogging’ may not apply. However, I think they do a good job of presenting Fritolay as a young, vibrant place to work in. Definitely, if prospective employees came upon the blog, they would find it interesting and appealing. Again, the frequency of blogging is not consistent. I am not sure if they are thinking of this also as a means to keep current employees updated or whether they have a separate intranet/blog for that. But if they do want to keep current employees involved as well, then it may be a good idea to update more often.

I also came upon Tata Interactive’s blog, which is a mix of general interest article as well as those focused upon design and technology related issues. This one seems to be updated quite often, and also has a mix of regular writers plus guest writers. I suppose this helps them keep things in control, since the core blogging team must be monitoring content, ensuring updation and a good mix of subjects. Another notable thing about this blog is that many of the posts have atleast a few comments on them, something absent from the other two.

In the case of the Infosys blog especially, I got the feeling that they were operating in isolation. There was little dialogue with other technology blogs, few links to other bloggers – the posts aren’t really very different from what a website or maybe online journal might have. They don’t seem to be really blogging in that sense, since one of the most powerful things about blogging is the conversations and relationships it can build. So does it really help to maintain a blog if you can’t be active in the related blogging community?

Some of the lesser known ones – Giftex – a company that I’ve never heard about, but has a blog with quite good content on its area of operation, gifting. Score India, a sports development/promotion company that has a corporate blog that sort of goes all over the place and stopped running after October 2006. I am not sure what book launches are doing in there, except for the one on the Commonwealth games. And the formatting is terrible. Tekriti Software’s blog too has not been updated after November 2006, though the content was good, while it lasted!

Does your company have a blog? Let me know if you’ve come across any others that I may have missed out.