Monday, February 19, 2007

What was the editor of Business Standard thinking?

Imagine a column that starts with noting that Harvard has just chosen its first woman president, and points to Indra Nooyi and Meg Whitman as examples of women achievers in business.

Could you imagine this column taking you -- inexorably! -- to the conclusion that with more women rising to the top, we can expect them to make "mistakes in more bizarrely entertaining fashion"? To top it, could you further imagine the column concluding with two such 'bizarrely entertaining' examples: a US Air Force sergeant getting sacked after posing for Playboy and a NASA astronaut being charged with kidnapping and attempted murder?

Unbelievable, no? Don't take my word for it. Read it all here. In Business Standard.

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1. Recent research by Jesse Shapiro of the University of Chicago on ideological leanings of American newspapers found that

... even the most ideological newspaper owners face market discipline. The political bias of a particular paper is much more likely to match the voting preferences of its local audience than the beliefs of its owner.

If this finding is generalizable to the Indian setting, and if the newspaper -- Business Standard -- has a sizable business audience, it is going to be one hell of a long struggle for women in Indian businesses.

2. As for the obstacles to women's progress in academia and business, the article does not have anything useful to say. Who needs such things when the article itself represents one of the obstacles -- a very shitty kind of male mindset that cannot help thinking about bras, panties, playboy bunnies, and murderous love-crazies even when the topic of discussion is women's progress in business?

* * *

Oh, the man behind that column is Devangshu Datta. And we know what he was thinking. But what was the editor -- T.N. Ninan -- thinking when he okayed this column?


  1. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    Given that his wife is the much better known journalist, I doubt he was trying to denigrate women... I think his main point was what others have made, that equality isn't achieved when there are as many brilliant women as men in top jobs -- it's when there are as many average schmuck women as men in top jobs.

    His conclusion was certainly gratuitous. Why is posing for Playboy or going unhinged over a romantic rival somehow more bizarre than, say, Dick Cheney shooting a man in the face, or the whole saga of Pramod Mahajan's family?

  2. Venkat said...

    Abi, I haven't read more stupid article than this in the recent past. What a jerk!

    I can imagine that he might have had great satisfaction when he read his first draft, having just created a masterpiece. His stupidity is flowing all over the article.

    Yes, the editor should apologize for having let this slip.


  3. Venkat said...


    I do not know if you are naive or sarcastic. Read the title and the language all over the article. He can't be interpreted otherwise.

  4. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    venkat - the title of a newspaper column is generally not chosen by the author. Up until the paragraphs abi quoted, I found nothing objectionable in the article. I guess the ending was his attempt at humour. As abi says, the editor should take some responsibility for it -- but for all one knows, it was some sub-editor who inserted it or else somehow mangled the original text.

  5. Anonymous said...

    Indeed he is a filthy minded fellow - did you notice the "crack" in the first sentence? This is a typical sex obsessed Indian male.

  6. Abi said...

    Rahul: It's not just the last couple of paragraphs; the entire column is peppered with sexualized references and imagery -- right from the first sentence mentioned by Uddalok, to "wearing bras under their power suits", to Pirelli calendars, to "standard-issue armoured chuddies" ...

    I agree with your point that some copy-editor was probably responsible for the column's title.

    Venkat, Uddalok: Thank you for your comments.

  7. bharath said...

    If women cannot take a blow that has been directed at men as well, then what would equality mean any way? Also it is very easy to find women columnists who find easy targets in man stereotypes of power.

    Though I disagree with the characterization. I also disagree when men are treated the same way. But this is a free society, and the editor must have sensed this to be a representative view of some section. Else, we wouldn't be having this conversation would we?

    just saying. nice blog.