Flip It to Test It! Of Passports and Chauvinism.

I decided to get the address on my passport changed and that took me on a wild goose chase for acceptable address proof documents… well if you are thinking that must be a simple one, so did I! 🙂 Until Aadhaar kissed my hopes goodbye…the only non-US platform “to have broken the one-billion user threshold” has comfortably alienated NRIs from many core systems that we’ve happily been part of. More on Aadhaar pains later! Long story short for now… I do not hold an Aadhaar card and hence updating any document in India is plain impossible…leave alone updating the passport through a foreign office.

The Fineprint…

…for a spouse other spouse’s passport copy (spouse name endorsed in each other’s passport) will suffice to change address.

This fineprint on the BLS website gave hope, as my wife’s passport has the updated address and the website said that would suffice as a proof. Having taught by the system to validate when(ever) possible…we decided to get this confirmed with the office before preparing the documents for submission. My wife got on a call with the enquiry desk and the person at the other end heard her out and said they would not accept the wife’s passport as proof for updating the husband’s passport (!!!)…and that the other way around is doable! We had rehearsed this response prior to the call and she explained the neutrality of the fineprint… he put her on hold and went to check with his boss. Returned a few moments later and reconfirmed what he said earlier.  Call ended. We had not rehearsed what to do if the escalation to a higher-up also failed.

When in doubt…Restart!

The system that taught us to doubt it…also has taught us to double-check! So I called up the same number and the executive heard me out and asked 3 crisp questions…

  • Does your wife’s passport have the new address?Yes.
  • Does your wife’s passport have your name endorsed?Yes.
  • Does your passport have your wife’s name endorsed?Yes.

That would be enough sir. You can just submit her passport copy and it will be done.

I thanked her for the confirmation and hung up with a not-so-rehearsed sense of wonder and a confused smile.

Benefit of Doubt?

While one side of the mind was attempting to rationalize by giving a benefit of doubt about the first agent probably not being familiar with the processes… the other side was giving closures by classifying the whole exchange as an exhibit of gender stereotyping with a tinge of chauvinism. The fact that the first agent was a male and the second was a female executive only added more reason. Not sure how the mind would have processed if the sequence of the agents was swapped.

Flip It to Test It!

Kristen Pressner,  in her TED Talk, suggests a Flip It to Test It exercise to self-check the gender bias we hold. Just flip the gender of who or what you are talking or thinking about and see if it feels weird in your head.

I was talking to a friend, who is a Director in a Fortune500 Company, about a meeting I had with a CEO of another company and her response got both of us thinking… she asked… “How long has he been the CEO?”

I pointed to her that I haven’t mentioned the gender of the CEO in our conversation till then and what made her assume it was a ‘he’? Though we went on do a cognitive slice and dice about how absorbed we are in a paternal system, we could not deny the ugly face of gender stereotyping that was staring down at us.

Need a fix? Start early…

Research shows, gender stereotypes are developed at a very young age… between age 5 and 7 to be precise. The stereotypes established as a child only get deeper or fade out through age and life experiences. Its hence important to start early if we need a fix for the stereotyping and chauvinism. Initiatives like #RedrawTheBalance by Inspiring the Future are attempting the same by breaking the gender stereotypes among kids in school. Do not miss the video, if you haven’t seen it already.

Would be submitting my passport for reissue this week… fingers crossed on what new surprises and insights the system would throw this time!! 🙂

A Classic gender stereotyping in the Love Essex Anti-littering Campaign

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