From the Viewsroom

From the Viewsroom: Coping strategy

Sandhya Rao | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 08, 2016

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Maybe this explains Jayalalithaa’s attitude

At her final public appearance, former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa was thronged by thousands as they came to say goodbye. The irony of the image was unmistakable. A woman who had consciously kept men at arm’s length was now almost exclusively surrounded by them as they paid respect and gave it. Perhaps this could be counted as her lasting triumph.

Throughout her film and political career, Jayalalithaa had had to repel the unwelcome attentions of men. But she learned her lessons, discouraging and dispiriting though they were, in the male-dominated milieu of films and politics. While it cannot be claimed that she set out or even had a feminist agenda, she certainly took the fight to the other side. And once she got power, she showed who was boss by drawing a distance around herself and letting the world see processions of men fall at her feet. It appears she didn’t allow too many to be seated before her, and when they left her presence, they could not show their backs to her.

There are many names or labels for such behaviour: one of them could be ‘coping strategy’. She inhabited a man’s world and in that world she could be only so much a man. For the rest, it was up to herself to protect the woman she was, particularly the woman alone. So, at every opportunity, she showed she was boss. Every time women, particularly in Tamil Nadu, saw this, they felt vindicated, empowered. Even if they were themselves not emboldened enough to develop their strategies or didn’t have the bandwidth to imitate, watching her they felt they had won, and they felt safe.

And there, at the other end, is Hillary Clinton, who lost her one chance to become president of the US chiefly because she’s a woman in a man’s world not ready for women who can lead and without a personal coping strategy. Says something.

Sandhya Rao Editorial Consultant

Published on December 08, 2016
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