Looking through the prism of Tamil cinema, a female scientist distorts the simplistic, straightforward portrayal of women that most movies adopt. Her knowledge and authority on a subject enable her to challenge the hero (gasp!) in areas that he may not know about. Often, she flaunts her sexuality; it’s brash, open and departs from norms.
While an increasing number of women are opting to enter the field of science, very few end up securing top positions in research or administration. For instance, in premier research institutes such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Indian Institute of Technology, and Indian Institute of Science, women constitute a meagre 10-12% of the faculty. The report attributes this ‘glass ceiling’ that women encounter within the workplace to the social pressures of having a family and the burden of child care.
The women taught me how to navigate the city, as I learnt about the different ways the body is marked in public (and in private too). I often tried to discern when ‘bold’ became ‘reckless’, and what the underlying politics of this rhetoric shift might be. How arguments were stacked up pre-emptively determining who was deserving of protection and whose transgressions left them out in the cold.