Issue #95: The many gender-based barriers in the world of quizzing
Thanks so very much for this, Mahima. As another commenter says, you did in fact bring out the detailed nuances of discrimination in quizzing.
You so rightly pointed out, the quizmasters were *always* men, and the pop culture references (as an example) were all about hard rock or metal music, which I had simply never been exposed to (I still don't know how they were even exposed to it since in the 90s we were all fairly equally gareeb with no internet access, and the only songs I could listen to were the ones on DD2's "top ten music countdown" and the Carnatic music cassettes my father loved to collect.). And not knowing that was somehow uncool or made me a bad quizzer or lacking in general knowledge.
As you also rightly pointed out, even just being at a quiz was so intensely uncomfortable, a handful of girls in a sea of boys. Our college (one of the NITs, a supposed source of national pride) had this street from the entrance where all the boys (seniors as well as the juniors they were grooming) sat and "hooted" at the girls passing by. SO INFURIATING. And the same kind of "hooting" happened at events where the gender ratio was abysmal (which means *every* event in our engineering college). Why would any of us even *want* to be there? But on the other hand, HOW DARE THESE GOONS stop us from attending an event which we could have otherwise enjoyed?
Besides quizzing, Mahima, in engineering colleges, we also often had "techfests" for which the lab where we could build our robots and whatnot were located outside the hostels and so, by design, were inaccessible to girls at night (due to the in-time), the only time we could reasonably work on that stuff, after classes and dinner. That's why none of us girls could even participate in these things, thus missing out on a ton of learning.
I also loved that you brought up the notion of brilliance: In our engineering college, we had girls ranking first in almost all the departments (I was one of them a couple of times too). Still, some of my good male friends would say something to the effect of "Verma isn't a topper because wo padhta nahin hai; but wo hai genius; you and those other girls come first only because tum log poora din padhte ho". It was SO INFURIATING. Nothing we did could be enough. I will be graduating with a fucking PhD in computer science from a top-5 institute in the US, and I will start my postdoctoral research at MIT in July. Still, I know that to these guys, it'll always be because "main poora din bas padhai karti hun". FWIW, this myth of the male genius is all-pervasive in US academia as well, so we must not be too proud to claim it as our desi culture.
I can never forgive the boys (and admins) of my college for making *our* college so unwelcome to us. I hope some day they truly learn the hard way how terrible they've been as persons. And no, being 19 does *not* mean it's ok to do that stuff; I was 19 too then, and I did *NOT* make *you* uncomfortable.
(Sorry, I got so intensely angry responding to this post; your post was PHENOMENAL, Mahima. Please keep writing!)
Really true. I used to hate that General quizzes would be so full of sports and video games questions. I'm glad this is being talked about. Thank you Mahima.
Thank you for highlighting an issue that we've tried to address in the Bay Area Quiz Club by ensuring that the toxic behavior didn't carry over across the seas to the US. In fact, women quizzers are quite active here and though they are not as many in numbers as we would like, they are still comfortable (and often are the QMs).
One observation though, some of the behaviors you have highlighted were uncomfortable for men as well. For example, the slangs, inside jokes, back slapping, specific genre' related questions (e.g. metal etc), smirking by teams and quizmasters alike ("this is a sitter" - on some obscure topic), the aggression by some team mates on answering quickly/or incorrectly, and so on. I've been to quizzes where I've felt that I was the dumbest person in the universe. There's an entire document comprising of KQA slangs called "Akkan just miss". If you have not seen it, ask Salil to share it with you some time - our secret group has the link to the google doc.
Amazing article, I didn't even realise that a simple affair such as a quiz holds so much barriers and hardships for women especially it being a purely mental sport with zero contact sad to see how even a thing considered normal to males can be something that takes so much thinking efforts and courage to do so for females, kudos to those who still quiz while going through all of these, we really need to think how in many other things we have been informally and unconsciously gatekeeping women from freely participating/doing something. Gender discrimination based even on topics answered is just bewildering, knowledge is knowledge and this is a so called "general quiz" which means everything is included so it's sad to see that even answering or not answering a specific question can in a way hurt them emotionally or brand/stereotype them. Truly an eye opener because I didn't learn anything new but infact the article was actually a realisation that most of us including me haven't considered so far it's been happening under our nose all this time but we just hadn't had a look at what's going on. Thanks for bringing this to light and letting us know how even small actions we take require some thinking so we can be inclusive and considerate to others. Hope all of these changes and women can have equal opportunity and chances and face no extra barriers that men don't have to.
Another spectacular article Mahima. Full support in your journey, because its mine too.
Loved this article.
Wow and a sigh. Mahima, you have brought out such nuances of discrimination even in the world of quizzing. It triggered a memory as well. I remember playing a quiz master in an inter college fest in DU. Many IITians (all male) came because they wanted to have 'fun' in a women's college - Gargi with a female quiz master. It was a fun session. Thankfully i felt no attitude of disrespect. But yes, i was told that as a 'girl' my curation had a new pattern they were not ready for. Few of them bugged me to share the source of the questions towards the end.
What a great post, Mahima. I was a huge sports fanatic in middle school and knew loads of trivia, particularly about cricket. Remember the ESPN star school cricket quiz anchored by Harsha bhogle? My school sent only the boys in the 8th and 9th grade as audience cus two 9th grade boys were participants. I remember being so enraged that I was simply not even sent as an audience member because I'm a girl. Worse, my school team lost and watching it on TV I knew all the answers.
Well worded post! It made me think back and realize how much I had accepted without question. How all these fests were indeed infested with male thoughts and ideas and how no matter how hard we tried, we could never be "smart" or "cool" enough. Interestingly, I had always thought it was only a caste thing. Now I wonder about the intersection of both.
This resonates with me so much! I was quite a good quizzer in school (reached the semi finals in a national level TV quiz), but it was so hard to continue in college for the same reasons you mentioned. After a couple of tries I gave up and stuck to some niche quizzes like technical quiz or Tamil literature quiz.
Another related problem I remember from college: the events conducted by most cultural clubs and fests in my college (an NIT) were so exclusionary. For example the topics they gave for JAM were filled with innuendos, the selection interviews for clubs and committees for the girls were just male seniors trying to flirt. Only girls who didn't mind that could ever get into those clubs.
This is such a brilliant piece, Mahima. LOVED that insight about hierarchies of questions, and how that makes Crypto>Kim.
Thanks so much for writing this. I was active in quiz circles (conducted a couple of college quizzes) at NITK (class of 2000) and never did we actively think about these issues. There were about 2-3 regulars from girls who would crack the elims and make it to the finals regularly, but I didn't realize how much of additional burden it was for them just to attend.
Kudos on choosing a different topic of bias towards women. Quizzing should be for fun and sharing knowledge rather than making it a competition between genders. Though i am a bit disappointed on the of Kim Kardashian? I mean honestly she is not a lawyer and more invested in being a reality star. So if people perceive her that way I don't think its wrong coz that is the narrative she herself has created over the years and reaped the benefits of it. I do understand the point you want to highlight but there are many other women in the world who are inspirational and have faced biases so a better reference could have been mentioned. Just saying