Why are women with am­bi­tion vil­i­fied?

Daily Messenger - - National - Am­bica Sachin

Un­easy lies the head that wears a crown, goes the Shake­spearean line on lead­er­ship. And if the afore­men­tioned crown hap­pens to be atop a woman's crown­ing glory, then un­easy are the peo­ple around her.

Am­bi­tion is a dou­ble-edged sword as far as women are con­cerned. When Suits ac­tressturne­d-Bri­tish roy­alty Meghan Markle traded in her reel fame for some old-fash­ioned aris­to­cratic sheen post her mar­riage to Prince Harry, it set many tongues wag­ging. There were hushed whis­pers about her over­ar­ch­ing am­bi­tion and her dom­i­neer­ing na­ture.

When the cou­ple re­cently signed a hun­dred mil­lion dol­lar deal with Net­flix to pro­duce doc­u­men­taries, movies and chil­dren's shows for the OTT plat­form, it only re­in­forced the be­lief among de­trac­tors that she was the one push­ing the agenda with her Hol­ly­wood con­nec­tions. She's grace­ful, ar­tic­u­late, ac­com­plished and tal­ented, but the over­rid­ing trait she's vil­i­fied for is her am­bi­tion.

A global sur­vey of 3,000 women com­mis­sioned by Amer­i­can Ex­press and The New York Women's Foun­da­tion, a non-profit that pro­motes gen­der equal­ity and fair treat­ment of women, quoted by Busi­ness In­sider, found that while a ma­jor­ity as­serted that am­bi­tion was nec­es­sary to suc­ceed, many in fact felt un­com­fort­able be­ing la­belled as such and in­stead pre­ferred to be re­ferred to as 'mo­ti­vated'.

Among the many at­tributes US Se­na­tor Ka­mala Har­ris has been in the spotlight for ever since Joe Bi­den picked her to be his run­ning mate in the 2020 US Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions, her as­sertive­ness and 'am­bi­tion' have taken as much col­umn space as her cre­den­tials to take on the role as the 'first woman of colour' to run for vi­cepres­i­dent.

Dur­ing a live streamed con­ver­sa­tion for the Black Girls Lead 2020 con­fer­ence, she is quoted as say­ing: "There will be a re­sis­tance to your am­bi­tion, there will be peo­ple who say to you, 'you are out of your lane.' They are bur­dened by only hav­ing the ca­pac­ity to see what has al­ways been in­stead of what can be. But don't you let that bur­den you." If the cur­rent pan­demic has taught us any­thing it is that when the go­ing gets tough, it is of­ten the women in lead­er­ship roles, be it in coun­tries or house­holds, who have got go­ing, whether it be by lead­ing their na­tion through one of the worst med­i­cal emer­gen­cies our gen­er­a­tion has ever seen or jug­gling a de­mand­ing pro­fes­sional life along­side es­sen­tial house­hold chores.

Not to men­tion the coura­geous front­line work­ers who have bravely fought the virus leav­ing their fam­i­lies and friends be­hind in a bub­ble. It's an un­for­tu­nate truth that while men are lauded for be­ing am­bi­tious, women of­ten are viewed as ag­gres­sive (read un­wom­anly) for ex­hibit­ing sim­i­lar traits.

One just needs to look at the so­cial me­dia trac­tion gained by Bol­ly­wood diva Kan­gana Ra­naut in re­cent times to un­der­line this. She has been vil­i­fied for the man­ner in which she has ruth­lessly ripped apart the united front the Hindi film in­dus­try has so far por­trayed to the public.

Her vit­ri­olic di­a­tribe against the rul­ing po­lit­i­cal party in Ma­ha­rash­tra has set her apart as a fear­less one-woman army who will not hes­i­tate to cut her de­trac­tors to size, how­ever big or pow­er­ful they may be. Whether it is all part of a big­ger agenda to en­ter the po­lit­i­cal arena re­mains to be seen.

The big­ger ques­tion here is if a man had made these same state­ments and gone on a Twit­ter rant, would we have looked upon it all more favourably?

Kan­gana's po­lit­i­cal avatar in many ways is rem­i­nis­cent of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Min­is­ter Jay­alalithaa, the young cines­tar who swapped her on-screen pop­u­lar­ity for a more po­tent role as a po­lit­i­cal leader. In­ter­est­ingly Kan­gana plays the young leader in the mul­ti­lin­gual biopic Tha­laivi that's set to re­lease soon.

The way we re­act to these women is telling of us as a so­ci­ety, of our un­will­ing­ness to em­brace a nar­ra­tive that's so dif­fer­ent from what we have been tra­di­tion­ally fed, and our own two-faced ap­proach to gen­der pol­i­tics.

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