Performing Toxic Masculinity

Decoding data arrogance, toxic masculinity and performance in the corporate sector

Performing Toxic Masculinity
Four Regents, Secretary and Father of the Lepers’ House, Amsterdam, 1773

performance (n.) /pəˈfɔːm(ə)ns/
{Did the monkeys sell all the bananas? Did they sell a few? Did they sell more bananas than we have?}

I have worked in meeting rooms where they talk about this thing called employee ‘performance’. Meeting rooms are rooms in offices where people wear formal clothes and have serious discussions on data, trends and numbers. People are not referred to as people in these rooms – they are resources – they are dehumanized numbers.

Graphs, pie charts, excel sheets, dashboards and other Microsoft tools are used to reduce a human’s (already dehumanized) existence, from a number to a mere statistic or ‘trend’. A two-dimensional presentation of ‘performance’. And this performance is judged based on something they call ‘variables,’ using more statistical tools like Microsoft’s Minitab and Regression analysis. Just enough numbers to choke one’s brains in grid lines.

One dare not step into these offices unless they are wearing what’s prescribed, irrespective of affordability. Toxic masculinity dominates these spaces. “Data arrogance is the elephant in the room in policy circles” said an acquaintance of mine. I couldn’t agree more. 

Men and women who don’t discuss numbers are not the ‘it’ crowd. The ‘it crowd’ knows all about VC funds and shark tanks. It can bully and play mind games, quote Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs. It can tell you how Malcolm Gladwell can change your life. This crowd brainstorms and thinks outside the box sitting in a glass cubicle at a pre-decided time in a predefined format. Recreating the old boys club, a colonial lifestyle where men crunch numbers over the weekend, and enjoy their drinks while backslapping each other.

Progressive women are edgy, and dynamic. Progressive women think in numbers, and are applauded for being ‘almost’ as good as the men when it comes to number crunching. They think fast, and are as brutally good as the men when it comes to dehumanizing others. Men who raise their voices have leadership qualities. Women who do so are aggressive and bitchy, unless of course they drink with the men over weekends, watch cricket or football matches, or play poker or some such traditionally masculine sport.

Yes, this is what ‘performance’ means in the corporate world.

“Who killed the chicken?” 
“Who barbecued it?” 
“Do you know that guy who lost his mind because of family problems, his performance dipped, and we had to let go of him?”
“That girl who stays quiet, isn’t it weird that she doesn’t speak much? Did you see how laid-back she is? No drive or creativity.”


Gauri Ravishankar

Gauri lives in Goa and is an amateur writer who strings words together to express herself. She loves bringing stories to life. Fantasy is her favourite genre, because what is life without a few dragons? She worked in the corporate sector for 15 years before choosing to pursue her personal goals and dreams. Living sustainably, and cruelty-free is her mantra.


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