Hey Men, I’m Not Your ‘Dear’ Just Because I’m A Woman. As Faye D’Souza Said, Be Professional
Our letters, and now emails, often begin with the word ‘Dear’, because it’s this standard, impersonal, and acceptable greeting. But I’ve always preferred a “Hello <insert name>” instead. Why would someone I have never met be ‘dear’ to me, is where I get stuck at. Imagine writing an email to your CEO for the first time, and addressing him as ‘Dear’. But theek hai, if that’s the acceptable norm toh we can go with it. But the one instance where I absolutely cannot be this cavalier is when men, while talking to women in a professional capacity, refer to them as ‘dear’. Exhibit A: This video of Faye D’Souza, in which she gracefully reminds the Goa State Minister of Environment and Power to be professional and address her by her name and not that patronising term of endearment.
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If you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh look, this is another trivial thing for these feminists to get offended over,” then that right there is the patronising that pisses us off in the first place. The word ‘dear’ is, first and foremost, rather informal. It should ideally be used to address people that you have a certain comfort level with, or who you know will not see it as being an overture or creepy. If you go by the dictionary meaning, ‘dear’ is used to refer to someone who you love or who is important to you. So if you’re talking to me on national television, meeting me for the first time at a corporate event, or connecting with me on LinkedIn, you shouldn’t be using that word at all.
And yet… yet, men tend to throw around the word ‘dear’, in some way of saying, “Oh, you’re a woman, this delicate, precious little thing. You’re in my world now, so you let me protect your sensibilities. ” It’s basically the same as the word ‘baby’ or ‘love’. Imagine if women started calling every man they addressed in a professional environment as ‘bhaiyya’, ‘beta’ or ‘uncle’ or ‘my child’. Or have pet names like ‘Chunnu’ and ‘Babblu’ for our juniors? How would that feel? Would men enjoy us patronising then?Image: The Devil Wears Prada
This ‘dear’ occurrence happens more often than you might think. Exhibit B: In March this year, for my birthday, I got a really nice makeover at the mall. Obviously took a lot of pictures. One of them felt perfect enough for me to post as my LinkedIn profile picture, replacing one that had me wearing no makeup at all. Suddenly, there was an outpour of connection requests from men who had absolutely nothing to do with the professional field I am in. Most of the times, that whole woman’s intuition comes in handy, and you’re able to weed out the creeps from the genuine connections. But once in a while, this happens….
Watch how, despite my repeated insistence, this man continues to use the word ‘dear’ to address me. Because,
There have been several instance were men have tried to call me ‘dear’, and I have respectfully told them to that I do not find it appropriate. Most of them have respected my wishes. One or two even went so far as asking me to explain my reason for discomfort. When I told them that it reeked of subconscious condescension toward women, and belittled our sex, they genuinely thanked me for enlightening them. Even assured me that they’d be careful henceforth when addressing other women.
And yet, look at this specimen. He constantly chooses to ignore my wishes. It pretty much looks like he’s having fun watching me squirm with discomfort, like he’s lording some power over me by doing the very thing that I told him not to do. Disrespecting of consent often starts out small like this.
Like me, I’ve known several women who have been thus patronised in the professional sphere, and have had to block the person or bluntly shut them down. What irks us though is how pathetic it is that even now, we need to explain something as basic as this to men. Weren’t you guys working way before women came into the picture? Aren’t y’all always trying to ‘show us the ropes’ and ‘teach us how to be professional’? And you still don’t know how to address women professionally?
Besides, can we all just agree that ‘dear’ is plain creepy? Even on WhatsApp texts, when people use the word ‘dear’ all the time like, “Arre np dear,” or “tc dear” or “thnx dear,” it gives me that icky feeling at the back of my neck. Can we leave this word in the last century, please?
Anyhoo, if you’ve ever encountered such patronising men, drop me a word on how you dealt with them. Because we’ve let it go for too long, and it’s high time we speak up. Share this with men to educate them. And if you are a man reading this, thank you for coming to my TED Talk.