An insightful conversation led by GEM N.Shekar, the group traveled from women in mythology to women in workplaces to discuss gender stereotypes and the cultural norms that influence attitudes and behaviour.
Before the community cafe began, an enthusiastic discussion about Kamba Ramayanam revolved around Kaikeyi and the good woman - evil woman dichotomy. Her love for Rama was juxtaposed with her need to secure Bharatha's claim over the throne. Alternative interpretations were discussed and the need to go beyond black and white representations was recognized.
Moving on to modern workplaces, the new Workplace Harassment Law and the increasing awareness in recognizing violence in the workplace and building systems that can effectively intervene was noted. The importance of understanding that each of us have personal boundaries that differ and what is okay and normal for us might not be for another was also raised. Where systems do exist, the difficulty of navigating rules that are not clearly defined and are based on personal perceptions of safety and appropriateness was debated vociferously.
That systems are not perfect and are populated by individuals from diverse backgrounds and therefore challenges in both implementation and interpretation will still persist is a given, but having them initiates a culture of openness and zero tolerance towards violence. It also helps challenge prevalent notions about our expectations of how women and men "should" be.
Thank you N.Shekar, for being such a wonderful host!