Gender Dynamics & Bias — Fissures between the Microcosm and the Macrocosm

Gagandeep Singh
11 min readDec 25, 2023



I am not a very big fan of the macrocosm and microcosm analogy — a philosophical cum spiritual lens that posits a structural similarity and resonance between the microcosm, i.e., the small order or the small universe and the cosmos as a whole or the macrocosm, i.e., the great order or the great universe.

The proponents of the macrocosm-microcosm lens, while intensely disagreeing on where the lens came from — some say it came from Sufi philosophy, others claim it to be discovered by Plato and Aristotle, and lastly some state that this came from Indian thinkers preceding Plato and cite sutras such as the Tamil verse — “Andaththil Ullathu Pindathilum Ullathu” = What is found in the Universe is in your Body or the Sanskrit verse — “Yat Pinde Tad Brahmaande” as evidence of how Indians were wiser.

This blog, dedicated to gender dynamics and gender biases, explores a sharp contrast between a smaller sub-system of Indian society (the microcosm) and the larger polity and social narratives (the macrocosm) and offers provocative speculations that explain this contrast.

Much of the data quoted comes from press sources — the Hindu, The WiRE, and the Express — lest I be accused of manipulating data and stories. Lastly I have never voted for Congress (I) but my political leanings are not aligned to BJP either.

Part 1:

Working with Gender within the Microcosm of Corporate India

The modern company in India today — whether it be a multinational or a family owned Indian firm, is investing time and large sums of money into gender sensitivity training and gender bias for all its employees. It is not rare to see a modern corporate employee — man or woman, talk about patriarchy and its grip on man-woman relationships, or confront her or his colleague on how it manifests as act of insensitivity and violence in day to day affairs.

Consultants including yours truly have chosen to partner organizations on the fronts of diversity and inclusivity and hope to enable men and women to dialogue on many a legacy of our culture and heritage that is distinctly violative and insensitive to the rights of women and minority communities.

The Supreme court ruling on prevention of sexual harassment in 2013 and emerging with the PoSH act has ensured that employers and owners create policies and structural forums whereby sexual harassment is discerned and prevented for all its employees. Many senior managers prepare themselves to be a part of the PoSH committees within the firm, grappling with deliberate and unconscious acts of insensitivity and violence.

If one was to restrict one’s gaze to this ‘microcosm of the modern day corporation’ — it leaves one with hope and a certain sense of dynamism — maybe, the society is transforming to becoming a better world. Films and television serials that are dedicated to the consumption needs of the modern organizational employee by offering greater impetus to the erstwhile unarticulated expression of fears, anxieties, and aspirations of those that were traditionally excluded and violated.

Narratives are well designed for the discerning modern employee — be it the ‘Made in Heaven’ series where the protagonists expose traditional insensitivity and violence to women, and where the viewer(s) dialogues on new possibilities that emerge from a history of feudalism, patriarchy, and toxic masculinity.

Also, stories such as how the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) decision that women cricketers should be given equal match fees as that for men leave the urban man and woman sighing with relief and pride — “We are far ahead of other sporting bodies across the world, and a lot is attributed to the leadership within the institution.”

The microcosm shows sign of health, hope, and transformative potential!

Part 2

Gender within the Larger Macrocosm

My experience of the last few months is that the larger macrocosm of Indian society does not seem to resonate with this tiny microcosm of corporate India and that there are huge fissures within the analogy signalling a time to act and a time to express apart from exploring the dissonance within. While it is difficult to present a holistic picture — let’s look at some of the intriguing narratives in Indian society and polity that are met with apathy or mainstream indignation.

Silence & Apathy to Macro narrative 1

Sexual Harassment: Female Wrestlers versus Wrestling Federation of India

When Sakshi Malik won the bronze medal at Rio Olympics — I was jumping with joy — for it signalled a huge shift for women athletes albeit in a sport that has been owned by men. When Amir Khan dedicated a beautiful film titled ‘Dangal’ to Indian women wrestlers — I thought the day has come where a tradition of men’s only sport has been finally conquered. Teary-eyed — I wrote a blog on the film and the Phogat family, for I was very moved with this shift.

On January 18th 2023, thirty Indian wrestlers including Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya, and others staged a silent sit-in protest at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, alleging that he and several coaches had sexually harassed many girls. It was the same Phogat clan (the protagonists in the Dangal narrative) — when Vinesh Phogat (a champion wrestler who won gold medals for Asian and Commonwealth games) joined hands with Sakshi. Male wrestlers joined in the protest as well. Many of the Jat village communities joined hands with the wrestlers.

As time progressed, these women wrestlers, who had brought fame and medals to the nation, were reduced to protesting sexual harassment on damp / wet mattresses in a public space, when all other attempts to speak of it failed. They heroically went about their training in public apart from educating others on what they ate, their daily rituals etc.

The mainstream media helped BJP converted this protest into a political narrative that this protest was being energised by the Congress — stating that the party’s representatives were involved in the sport.

Both the media and the politicians remained steadfast in support of Brij Bushan and for many months — the ruling party that has abrogated article 370 and ‘integrated’ Kashmir into India, that has bombed terrorist camps in Pakistan, that has suspended 140 plus opposition MPs, and that speaks of Dharma and clean governance — failed to show any spine against Brij Bushan and his mafia.

Moreover, the local Aam Aadmi MLA trying to offer cots to the protesting athletes was violently overturned by Delhi Police (which is commanded by the Central government). The protest turned uglier each day — and finally on May 4th, one saw ugly vignettes of women and men wrestlers being manhandled and beaten up by the police. It left me as a citizen with shame.

When the International referee — Jagbir Singh claimed that he has been a witness to Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s inappropriate behaviour towards female grapplers on several occasions since 2013 — he was dismissed and the reports were pooh-poohed.

Finally, an FIR was accepted against Brij Bushan but nothing has emerged from the investigations. None of the recommendations of many committees to resolve the issue and that were headed by Mary Kom or PT Usha were made public. Nothing was gained.

The final blow was when the elections within WFI — set up his crony, Sanjay Singh, as the next leader as Brij Bhushan retired from the post that he had held for 10 plus years. The celebrations of the new WFI head were anchored at Brij Bushan’s estates. On hearing this, two days ago, three wrestlers chose to return their hard-earned medals and the national awards… As I write this blog, the newly elected WFI has been dissolved — not because of sexual harassment allegations but because it did not plan under 15 and under 19 tournaments well…

What stands out in this chain of events here is the sheer contrast between how gender and sexual harassment is managed within the modern organization and a traditional sport. But it is the apathy of the nation — its educated class, its evangelisers of inclusivity and diversity etc. which has chosen to remain silent is most disheartening.

Not many friends in my social networks wish to talk about this … Silence ensues all the time.

Silence & Apathy to Macro narrative 2

The Ouster of Mahua Mitra from the Lok Sabha

The narrative of Mahua Mitra has not been received with silence but more with loud applause and indignant moral righteousness of the urban man (and woman) around me.

One has heard the ‘sketchy’ details offered by neighbours and by mainstream media on how she was so corrupt and that she sought money for posing questions within the Parliament on behalf of small competitors to a large group (she had the gall to attack the Adanis! And yes it was her ex-partner — who she had described as a ‘jilted -ex’, and who demonstrated tremendous degree of national duty and piety by squealing about a conversation overheard by him to a BJP MP — all this while he is engaged in a legal dispute with her over a dog amongst other things), and then how she put the entire security of our nation as well as the parliament to immense risk by sharing her password. The media painted her out as our very own traitor, and assured us that this was not a witch hunt but a swift agile punitive action for a deserved act.

Even if I restrain myself from being branded as churlish if I were to ask questions about the veracity of this act of her — it is the sheer agility and swiftness of the ethics committee that wasted no time in ousting her out — which must be looked at. The nature of questions posed by the committee seemed to be in poor state — including where and which hotels did she stay in the middle-east and was Hiranandani’s wife aware of his many meetings with her. In a matter of minutes without offering her a space or forum to question her ‘jilted-ex’ and the BJP MPs, the committee ousted her.

Let’s look at Mahua Mitra as a symbol, and how the symbol has been attacked by those in power:

a) Well educated (if not comparatively better educated than the usual MP) — Check

b) Single and independent woman — Check

c) Not a traditional ‘bahu’ or ‘wife’ or ‘sister’ — Check

d) Impulsive, spontaneous, expressive and assertive woman — Check

e) Has challenged patriarchy and chauvinism within politics — Check

f) Is Wealthy and does not hide her money nor her corporate experience — Check

g) Has an acute sense of fashion including glasses and bags — Check

h) Outspoken and publicly speaks of her sexuality, sensuality, and love life — Check

i) She likes her drink and is seen publicly embracing ‘male’ friends — Check

j) Challenged the centre and politics — Check

k) Demolished commonly held norms and associations around feminine goddesses and allied symbols (static femininity) — Check

Well given the number of checks or red-flags, the quick ouster of Mahua Mitra has meant that ‘these type of women’ are not to be trusted nor to respected… the ouster was rapid and yet it has not been questioned by mainstream media.

More interestingly, very few of my fellow practitioners on gender processes, gender biases, and gender studies have demonstrated a loud voice…

Part 3

Exploring The FISSURE between the Microcosm and the Macrocosm

Given the divide between great work being done in organizations on one hand, and a reinforcement of chauvinism and toxic masculinity on the other side, the analogy of microcosm and macrocosm seems to be challenged.

Unless there are speculations and hypotheses that can holistically look at this picture. Some of these speculations and speculative hypotheses that I would like to offer are:

Speculation / Hypothesis 1

Women, who are integral to large wealth creation or knowledge creation, deserve better!

If you may have noticed or ‘followed the money’, a reality that interlinks the microcosm and macrocosm is the entry of women when it comes to wealth creation or knowledge creation, and that this type of woman deserves better.

Thus whether it is the woman scientist who is celebrated in ISRO, or the woman cricketer who beats other international teams at IPL for women, or the corporate denizen that is integral to the capitalist juggernaut … it is these women who may be given more access to equality and that men around them need to be made more sensitive.

In EUM terms, the analogy of microcosm and macrocosm works at the UPA level — where aspirations of the woman and how she contributes to the system becomes the common bridge. It would be cynical for me to state it — and I take the risk but where women end up enriching the lives of traditional men (investors, shareholders, politicians, and the jingoist) — well these women deserve better.

Naturally the women who are not displaying these behaviours of nation building or wealth creation need to be silenced and ousted.

Speculation / Hypothesis 2

Women, who challenge the picture of the Bhartiya Naari deserve less!

The Bhartiya Nari is an interesting symbol — she is nurturing, she is safe (for men), she is humble, she is conservative, she is dependent, she upholds tradition, she is religious, and she is ‘god-fearing’ — these are mere aspects of this symbol that get celebrated by the Indian society. Even if she were to build wealth and or knowledge in the systems she is a part of — these aspects of the symbol matter, with some allowances here and there.

Sakshi and other women wrestlers cannot get such compassion for they seem to be challenging the core of what a Bhartiya nari has to be in their aspirations of being an athlete — a warrior woman … Neither does Mahua deserve any compassion … for reasons stated in the earlier section.

Men who wish to challenge the symbol of the Bhartiya nari are also silenced … some I am sure are like me, who work with gender politics and dynamics only within corporate organizations, and feel vulnerable to challenge a larger macrocosmic trend.

But I think it is time that we raise our voice … If you have been triggered by reading this blog — please share it with others as well as bring in your take on what is happening around us.



Gagandeep Singh

I work in the realm of Organization Development and focus on transformation, alignment and culture. I am doing my doctoral research on hybrid social enterprises