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Of hair, shampoo and not understanding the opposite sex


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 16 May 2012 00:03


A couple of weeks ago I was at a supermarket and was accosted by a particularly aggressive marketing person (one uses the word person when one refers to a woman just to be politically correct) who wanted to sell me shampoo.

Well, at first as I was walking along the aisle I did not make any eye contact with this person as I did not think she would want to speak to me – I was certain of not being her target market. But this young lady, for reasons only known to her, thought she needed to sell me shampoo.

After trying to sidestep and dodge, I finally surrendered when I realised she was coming in for the kill. There was no way to avoid her sales pitch; therefore I resigned to my fate of being submitted to a lecture on the brand of shampoo she was toting.

After a painful five minutes I managed to get a word in and gently told her that as she could see, I did not need to use shampoo since I was bald (not due to hair loss but due to shaving my head). Not to be outdone, pat came her answer: “Take this for your wife, sir.”

I then realised that this poor girl had no knowledge of the duties of a married man. She did not know that no husband had ever been bestowed the responsibility of selecting a brand of shampoo for his wife. For the dog, yes… but not for the women!

I then had the painful task of explaining this to the young person – that buying shampoo for my wife did not fall within my job description. Another thought that struck me at the time was that I did not even know what brand of shampoo my wife used. Yes, I have seen an array of bottles in the shower area, but I haven’t bothered to look at them.

Which brings me to another strange subject. I was watching an NDTV interview last week where US Secretary of State was being questioned before a large audience of Indian women (and men).

While some serious issues were being discussed, on governance, entrepreneurship and how to communicate with the bottom of the pyramid, out popped a question from the NDTV interviewer about Clinton’s hair: “And isn’t it true, as you said, that there’s an entirely different kind of scrutiny on women in public life? And I remember once, you joked, but it wasn’t really a joke, that the fastest way for you to get a story on the front page was to change your hairstyle?”

The Secretary of State answered in the affirmative. In fact she went on to tell a story of a State visit to Finland, (a country which she says has taken gender equality to an incredibly sophisticated level), where she was meeting with several high-powered heads of government who were all women.

She had asked them if they felt that a lot of the comments about their hair and clothes were behind them since they had now reached critical mass. And the Finish lady Defence Minister had looked her in the eye and answered: “No, because still I will go to a Defence Ministers meeting and coverage in the media will read my name, comma, wearing a spring suit of pastel hues, comma, spoke about the need for --”

Hillary Clinton told Barkha Dutt Group Editor of NDTV that the long and the short of it was that women will just have to keep persevering and not be deterred from supporting women who have the gumption to get out into the political arena.

At first I thought it strange that women can just stop in the middle of a serious interview and take time to talk about their hair and personal appearance, when it suddenly hit me that this story was not about hair or what they wore at all. It was all about men not getting it! A question of the other side not understanding…

Clinton in reply to a statement by Barkha Dutt on women haters said that violence against women was a global fact and not limited to any one country. She said that it was unfortunate that women and children were the primary victims of conflicts in places where there is active violence going on.

“We see efforts by religious and other extremists to turn the clock back on women’s education and healthcare opportunities. We’re still fighting against child marriage. We’re fighting against the devaluation of girl children. We do have a big agenda ahead of us, and it’s very important that both men and women be invested in changing the underlying attitudes that lead to these discriminatory practices.”

Clinton is probably right; men and women may not have thought this through! As much as we men may not care what shampoo a woman may use to cleanse her hair, there might be many things we as men may be indifferent to, like violence against women.

But Clinton also says: “Both men and women should be invested in changing the underlying attitudes that lead to these discriminatory practices...” Another factor to consider – that there are many things women have not stopped to explain to their men folk; and they could start with something as simple as how to buy them a bottle of shampoo!



(The writer, a PR consultant and head of Media360, was previously a mainstream journalist in print and electronic media. He also edits a new media website.)


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