By Adya Vac:
Its been coming for a while, and its only right that issues of men with reference to gender equality are taken to the fore. Personally, for me, feminism is equivalent to gender equality, but not many people (mostly men) would agree. So, its time to discuss how feminism in fact, helps men.
The core of the feminist movement lies in the struggle for equal rights for women. These rights traverse areas like social life, culture, sexual rights, employment rights, marital rights, educational rights. . . you get the idea.Â Now, of course we see feminists going up in arms against men and their thought process in reference to women, but that does not mean a battle of the sexes. It means opening your eyes, neutrally.
The Macho Image: Every man is expected to be mentally and physically imperceptible to pain. Even a young boy aged 4 years would be scolded if he were crying, and the words would be “don’t cry like a girl”. But then, when you’re hurt, crying is an absolutely natural phenomenon. Just the way it is normal to smile and laugh when you’re happy. And as much as people don’t like to accept this, men cry over heartbreaks too. And it’s natural. It only makes them human. Do we expect men to not have hearts? Because this exact kind of behavior towards them conditions them into thinking of emotions as wrong and restricted to the weak only. Does that mean that a man would be less sad when his parents or spouse died than a woman would be? Or that men are born with less nerve endings?
The Earning Person: Under ideal circumstances, it is expected of a man to be able to earn for at least four people, not including his parents. Much in the same way that a woman is expected to take care of at least 4 people. And none of this is fair. If the same work is shared, the burden becomes much easier. And why not a role reversal? If a woman has the capability to work and earn for the entire family, then the man can take care of the family (unless of course you think he can’t do that). Jokes apart, both men and women should have the choice to do what they like, unhindered by the biases of society.
Funeral Rights: In many cultures and religions, it is only men who are allowed to attend the funeral rites. I wonder, wouldn’t a child/man be soothed by the presence of his mother, child (which could be a daughter), sister, or spouse, when he says a final goodbye to his parents or a loved one? Are men okay with the fact that half of the people of their society (women) are not even allowed to bid adieu to people whom they loved just as much?
The argument against this is that this practice has evolved to protect women, because they can’t and wouldn’t be able to see their loved ones being taken away like that. But why do we assume that a woman can’t light the funeral pyre of her loved ones, or see them being buried, just like men?
The Protector: A man has always been expected to protect his family under all circumstances, since ancient times. It made sense then, and its not a debatable fact that an average man is stronger than an average woman. But imagine, if women were taught to fight as well, they could have protected themselves and their families alongside the husbands and had a much better chance at survival. Women would not have had to commit jauhar out of desperation and neither would countless of them have been raped and enslaved during and post war. A man would not be constantly plagued by thoughts of atrocities that could be committed against his daughters, sisters, mothers, or wives. Women could have protected each other as well. Women could have even joined the army and added to the nations’s strength, as is the case in some countries today.
A Man Does Not Cook: At a time when young boys and men have to live away from their parents and family for extended periods, cooking is a survival skill necessary for them. There’s no point in being ashamed here; after all, men when out for days on end to hunt, would kill, cook and eat the hunt without any female help. Today, its not always feasible to hire a help to cook, and neither is that hygienic or healthy, or even safe in times like these.
a) Why is it that even today, most women of the groom’s family, mother included, aren’t allowed to sit during the wedding ceremonies? In a society like ours where marriage is considered such an important milestone in one’s life, shouldn’t the moment of happiness be available to all equally?
b) How does the system of giving away the bride work? A father walks his daughter down the aisle to give her hand to another man; a father performs ‘kanyadan’, meaning literally gifting of the ‘maiden’ or the ‘virgin’. Is that all that daughters are? And is that all that fathers or parents are? Guardians of products kept untouched, to be given away to another man for use when the time comes?
c) The sindoor ceremony, in the Indian wedding rituals is generally a very essential one. It then becomes the mark of a married woman. The practice refers symbolically to the ‘maiden’s virginity’ which has been claimed by the husband in the same way that the breakage of the hymen and the ensuing blood is considered important. Am I the only one who finds this humiliating?
d) ‘And the groom may now kiss the bride’. Serious question here, do they ever say, ‘the husband and wife may kiss each other’ ?
Changing names: How would men feel if they were forced to change their identities after marriage? A woman when married, not only has to change her lifestyle, but also has to change her name. Is the position of a woman in a marriage, regardless of the fact whether she has a job or not, not equal to that of a man? It is equal. Then why is it the woman who has to change her name? Haven’t men gone on beyond the animal instinct of marking their territory and considering women and children as property?
Also, why do the children always have their father’s name? Do the children feel so detached from their mothers that they never wonder why they only have their father’s name? Do they never want their mother’s name too?
The Bed Is A Man’s Forte: ‘Generally’, its a man’s work you’d say, considering a woman can just lie/sit back and enjoy while the man does all the work. I’d say it would be nice if the woman shared the work, wouldn’t it? And why should a woman not have the same rights as a man?
Men Are Animals: Whenever victim blaming happens, it’s taken for granted that just a woman’s clothes or her looks were enough for a man to be ‘lured’ into doing bestial things to her. I’d blame the ancient Indian literature as well for this, when I read about orthodox sages losing their “vital fluid” within an instant of seeing a beautiful woman. But here, I want to throw an open question to all men. We like to be called civilized beings. Then do you feel okay when you are called a beast with animal instincts that has no control over its penis and no regard for a woman’s consent? Are men so strongly effected by women so as to rape them and then blame them?
Dowry: I won’t say much here. But really, are you selling yourself while demanding dowry? What is it that matters, the woman or money?
Education: Men have it easy when it comes to education. Girls are forced to drop out at alarming rates even today. Wouldn’t a man’s life be easier if his wife were educated and could handle a good number of affairs by herself rather than haranguing the man all the time because of lack of choice? I’m assuming you love your wife and daughter. In the perfect world, you are the provider. But its not a perfect world, is it? What if circumstances take a turn for the worse, wouldn’t you want your daughter and wife to be independent financially rather than being dependent on someone, the way your sons and fathers are independent? Would you want your loved ones to be helpless just because they belong to the female sex? To live at the mercy of relatives who don’t care, the world which shuns them?
Safety Of Girls/Women: The whole notion of your own daughter or wife not being safe is based on the fact that men believe other men to be inhumane creatures prowling the city in many forms. And thus, the manifold restrictions on the female sex. But if men, as a whole, stopped looking at women as objects or possessions, wouldn’t it change things significantly?
Indifferent To Children: It is always assumed that no one knows a child better than it’s mother. A mother’s lap is the epitome of love, shelter and safety for any child. If a child is troubled, at any point in his/her life, they go to the mother; fathers don’t understand. Basically, children go to their fathers when they need money. Moreover, they are so scared of their fathers that they expect the mother to be a buffer and a mediator between themselves and the father. (This is the general scenario. Of course, we have exceptions) Do boys who grow up to be fathers, forget how it was? Don’t they want to change things and be more involved in their children’s lives? To not be an ATM and a dictator, but a confidante as well, the way mothers are?
Patriarchy hasn’t just enslaved women, but men as well. And to quote form an anonymous source, “The thing is, it’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable. It’s patriarchy that says men have barbarous animal instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It’s patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain qualities, can only have particular kinds of responses, can only experience the world in narrow ways. Feminism holds that men are capable of more — are more than that.”
Alas! So few understand!