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The superwoman trope

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

By: Cm Manasvi

The topic of discussion for the first session of ‘The Pond’ was “The contributions of Indian women in science during the Covid19 pandemic, A thread curated by Life of Science”. It was a wonderful topic to kick off the initiative; there was a lot of chatter, exchange of ideas and bonding. There were seven participants in this session. 

This thread was curated by Nandita from Life of Science. The thread covers it all! From the underrepresented nurses that slog for our safety to female virologists designing testing kits to women health officials. Indian women are proudly leading the battle against Covid19! 

The story that struck a chord with most participants was that of Minal Dakhave Bhosale, a women scientist who designed the first Indian testing kit. Minal Dakhave Bhosale not only designed a test that cost less but also delivered a baby the very next day. This “Bollywood-esque” story was the main discussion topic.

A participant talked about how the story fascinated and yet instilled a sense of inadequacy in herself. She said, “The story glorifies women and in some ways expects all women to be like her”, which is an unrealistic expectation. The twitter thread articulated this well - 

“By disproportionately highlighting these aspects of a woman's success story, we often end up perpetuating the superwoman trope, by implying that all women can and should show this level of commitment even in such critical times. These are unreal expectations!” 

This led to a delightful exchange of experiences amongst the female participants. It was true, we all in some shape and form had witnessed or experienced the superwomen troupe. It is deeply ingrained in Indian culture, we witness our moms battle it everyday and in some ways embodied it ourselves. 

Another participant spoke about the flip side of the superwomen troupe. “One side there is this enormous expectation from women and on the flip side there is acceptance of minimal efforts from men”, she said. 

This led to a discussion about Minal's motive. What had pushed Minal to such extreme circumstances? Was it pure patriotism or the "publish or perish" science culture or was it job insecurity that all pregnant women face? 

Overall, It was an insightful discussion. A participant said, “I really liked the people and the perspectives they added. This is a great way to connect and listen to people going through similar challenges and should promote sisterhood and collaborations.” 

The Covid 19 Pandemic has brought to light many female science stories. Women are finally getting the recognition they deserve. We hope this is the beginning of a new era wherein more women are acknowledged for their work by the mainstream media.   


About the author

Manasvi is a science communicator who has blogged at various platforms such as Science GalleryLife of ScienceBack your science and Sciteum. She is the project lead on “The Pond”, a monthly science group that focuses on discussions on equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEMM fields. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s in biotechnology from Christ University, Bangalore. She is a lover of all things science such as Mobulid rays, Oliver Sacks and Shakuntala Devi.

Twitter: cm_manasvi


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