Season 2 of Never Have I Ever released recently, and it was once again, an easy binge-watch, even if it did not break new grounds when it came to teenage romances. (Honestly, can we retire the tropes of teenage jealousy and love triangles).
However, amidst Devi's drama and Nalini's desi mom speeches, the character whose struggles stood out and spoke to me, was Devi's cousin Kamala.
In Season 1, Kamala embraces her newfound independence, while battling her family's expectation of 'settling down' in an arranged marriage. And every single woman in her late 30s could feel their life play out on-screen.
But it was in Season 2 that Kamala represented the struggles of every woman who has not received the respect and recognition she deserves, just because of her gender.
At her internship, Kamala's team lead never gives her due importance, makes her work long hours for no reason, and asks her to rework on projects, even as he continues to spend evenings partying..
On her fiance's advice, she feigns interest in her boss' hobbies, simply to become a part of the team. But at the end of it, her name is still not included as a co-author on the paper the team submits. This, despite the fact, that her discovery was crucial to the paper being submitted.
When she tries to raise this to both, her boss and her fiance, they ask her to not 'create an issue'.
Or as Kamala sums it up, she is expected "to keep my head down but my chin up" i.e. to not respond to an unfair situation but continue working hard, even without results.
And that's the point that every woman who has demanded recognition at the workplace but been branded 'difficult', related to.
Workplace sexism is not a mythological construct. It exists across industries, and women at all levels have been subjected to it. It's not just a lack of equal pay or equal opportunity, but rather incidents where women are constantly being dismissed, or are, underrepresented and undervalued, simply because they are women.
Asking for what you are owed is not complaining or being difficult and it's high time people. And you should not have to alter your entire personality or pander to a person's ego, simply to fit in at a workplace. The only thing you need to do in a workplace is to do your job and do it well.
In fact, when Kamala finally steps up, takes charge, and ensures that she gets the recognition she is owed, it was a moment that we could truly get behind.
Because at the end of the day, people need to be appreciated for their work, and not for their gender.
All images from Netflix, unless specified otherwise.