Liberty, Equality and Infinite Pounce

Quizzing is an activity, a mental sport, which people in India indulge in at school, while in college and in the open circuit – either representing their employers or without any such affiliations.

Here’s an article which speaks about how there is a systemic gender issue within quizzing, how quizzes hardly have any women participants, how quiz masters are predominantly male and how most teams, which qualify for the ‘finals’ of a quiz, are made up of men and only men.

An obvious inference is that there are a lot of women who are interested in participating and are enthusiastic about being Quiz Masters but are unable to do so because of a repressive and hostile Quizzing culture which persists at every level.


A Quiz session in progress at K-Circle, Hyderabad.


The analysis isn’t grounded in today’s quizzing world, lacks research and takes a narrow look at quizzing. Some of the solutions offered address non-issues, while others are rudimentary and insufficient. The issue, which I acknowledge to be that, is more complex and needs to be dealt with more nuance than by dismissing an imaginary homogenous construct called ‘Quizzing’ as patriarchal.

I don’t wish to get into an analysis of differences in interests, level of interests and in the parietal cortex and the frontal lobe between genders. I leave these topics to others who are more qualified in these alien territories.

There is nothing homogenous about quizzing cultures; it varies from one city to another and one age group to another. It makes sense to consider the various environments in which quizzing happens today to find problems, if any, and fix them.

I haven’t seen or heard anyone complain about lack of participation by girls in school quizzes. If there exist examples to the contrary, I consider them outliers caused a strange rule / skew in the populace explained by statistics than by reason.

When it comes to colleges, a number of women say that they have experienced varying levels of discomfort and condescension. Is it because of sorry ass teenagers who are anything but social and are uncomfortable in any context or is it because of a culture unique to quizzing? To put the responsibility of fixing this on a bunch of people who run quiz clubs is a stretch, considering how there are many women who haven’t experienced any such thing.

Another common reason cited is the lack of a network – of men teaming up only with men and avoiding women because of reasons other than competence. There are three things which a competitive quizzer looks for when teaming up – probability of winning, comfort factor in sitting together as a team and availability. Ruling availability out, maybe the first two were factors with comfort factor being a big question mark considering the reasons mentioned earlier. I know of women who teamed up and roped in a guy as their third and so do others who have quizzed with women.

The third reason typically cited is the late hours and unfriendly environs which form the setting of many quizzes. For every such quiz, there are countless others held at perfectly acceptable times.

As you see, we have been straying into anecdotal zones at this point. Whatever might the reason by, it’s true that not many women participate in college quizzes, and those who do, don’t sustain the interest and continue to participate in open quizzes, where, fortunately, most of the above cited reasons don’t exist.

The same three factors to do with team formation mentioned earlier exist in open quizzing too. Unless you are rabid, it’s quite easy to find team mates in an open quiz. All one needs to do is to ask – gender doesn’t matter. I’m yet to see an open quiz where someone doesn’t request the QM to put an announcement about wanting a team. It might be a novelty to mandate mixed teams for a quiz now and then but it’s unfair to make that as the norm for open quizzes – where a lot of people have set teams and others experiment hoping to become a regular bunch. Amidst all this brouhaha, that quizzing is also a competitive sport seems to be lost on people.

Forget the competitive angle. If someone thinks people, of all ages and genders don’t have fun in quizzes, I suggest that they attend the Landmark Quiz (especially in Madras). Again, this might be a problem prevalent in a quiz conducted in an Engineering college but not in a typical open quiz conducted by Quiz Clubs across the country.

Quiz Clubs across the country acknowledge the problem of alienation of newbies, especially women and they do try addressing this issue. It’s unfair to cry hoarse without knowing and acknowledging such efforts. The Bombay Quiz Club, SEQC Goa and QFI Chennai randomize teams at quiz meets to ensure that the landing is soft for those who come in new. KQA conducts quizzes in innovative formats such as ‘Ruckus Tangdi’ and ‘AJM’ where again teams get randomized. I think it was the Calcutta Quiz Club who did a pan India written quiz where all the questions were on women. Heck, even I did something similar 13-14 years back when I was in college – when we moved out of the cozy and dirty confines of the men’s hostel to hold quizzes and dumb charades in a location where women could participate.

It’s puerile to scream for mandatory mixed teams, gender quotas and affirmative action in a competitive quiz and compare it with the one that is absolutely needed to pummel the caste system down. It is a bit demeaning to the latter, I would say. These two situations are, in no way, comparable.

I am not for gender audits. Will women feel better about more questions getting asked about other women? Will the pesky teens understand women, their lives and accomplishments better? The only purpose gender audits serve is to help broaden the setter’s world view. As a quiz setter and a participant, I care more about interesting and workoutable questions which are not restricted to a random niche. It’s, in a way, demeaning to women if we are conscious about selecting topics to ensure participation of women.

The other reasons why women stop participating in open quizzes have either been ignored or have been dismissed without much thought. Maybe women have the tendency to be more responsible and probably think twice before abandoning the family on a balmy Sunday morning.

Do I acknowledge the problem? Yes, but the issue is complex and if prevalent, it is more so in the college circuit than in the open one. The issues with competitive open quizzes are different – they alienate everyone, especially the newbies, without gender or any other discrimination.

So, what do we, as active quizzers, quizmaster, members of Quizzing Societies, do then?


Be more inclusive

It’s not by design that quizzers exclude people. But, unfortunately, a lot of quizzes have become super obscure and a newbie feels totally out of place, overawed and left out. They hardly get a pat on the back and the necessary encouragement to keep attending quizzes. Before or after you ‘pounce’ and run to show the answer to the Quiz Master, discuss and share it with the person sitting next to you. In the heat of the moment, a lot of us don’t do this.

Avoid hurtful, demeaning content and comments

Stop craning your necks to look at women when, say, sexually explicit content comes up as a part of the question. Such an act embarrasses someone more than the content itself. This is subjective territory. You know it when you see it if someone is being an asshole about the content and his/her comments. Call them out right there, ask them to cut the crap out and advice / warn as needed.

Conduct quizzes in friendly and innovative formats

It can be a ruckus quiz, a family quiz, or anything that would quash the assumptions and fear that people have about quizzes and would serve as a conduit to encourage participation in the other regular quizzes. Some quiz clubs already do this. Before you get idealistic and ask as to why every quiz can’t be set this way, it’s bloody difficult. That’s why. Only a handful of QMs can set a quiz which appeals to the hardened regulars and the newbies.

Handhold QMs

Contrary to yet another sweeping statement about lack of women QMs, there are women who set and conduct quizzes regularly. There definitely are more men QMs but does it matter? I don’t think it’s comparable to say, directing a film, or writing a novel with a different point-of-view. It’s essential to encourage new Quiz Masters, women or otherwise – albeit in a non-patronizing way.

I’ve ignored the events on Television masquerading as quizzes. Most of them are soaps with a few questions thrown in. The last time there was a proper general quiz on National Television (BBC’s Mastermind India), three women reigned champions while men managed two titles.



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