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How Certain “Feminist” Campaigns Re-Establish Male Dominance, With A Spin

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By Amrita Roy:

You can attribute it to patriarchy practiced by earlier generations but the truth is that gender inequality is prevalent all over the world. We have been brainwashed into believing that men are the supreme creatures created by God because they have qualities than women supposedly don’t have, namely: muscular strength, superior cognitive skills, or just the very quality of being a man. Women need to be “protected” as they are the weaker sex. They need to be protected from all the harm in the world and thus “need a man in their lives.” While with free media and relatively more open discussions with friends and family, we talk about rapes and domestic violence and the brutal domination some men shamefully display, we tend to forget the implicit side of the story.

real men don't buy girls

With more sensitization, male domination has taken a new spin. Male domination can take many forms — sexual assault, subordination of women and even chivalry. All of them are targeting women in the same manner. They all try to “show women their place.” Instead of attacking the institutions of patriarchy and masculinity, campaigns have begun to glorify these institutions in order to eliminate violence against women. Take the recent horrific abduction of Nigerian school girls. As the news spread worldwide, posters sprung up with the slogan “Real men don’t buy girls.” Through the skillful manipulation of language, this changes the place of the man from the assaulter to the protector while keeping male dominance over the female intact. While the language itself is not the criminal, it is definitely a tool that has been skilfully employed to help maintain and justify status quo.

The posters have gone viral (also thanks to the endorsement from celebrities). I agree that this has brought up the issues of women’s rights out in the open and in this case created more concern for the school girls in Nigeria, but these posters and messages are not progressive enough to reach out or truly bring about change in the lives of women. In these campaigns, the man is kinder and gentler and has feelings. But he also has the muscular strength that women (supposedly) do not. What they do is they tell men to not use the strength to abuse but instead protect. This still keeps the man in the driver’s seat in the gender status quo and the woman is in the back seat. What these messages say is that men can rape, they can hurt women, they can buy women, but they shouldn’t. They shouldn’t do any of this not because women also have rights, but because this may happen to their women. The man is still a free individual while the woman is a man’s mother/wife/sister/daughter/girlfriend. So, the superiority of the man is re-defined from the strong reckless individual who is the owner of his will, to someone who is still all of that with the added quality of benevolence, leaving masculinity unchallenged.

What these campaigns do is that they give masculinity a privileged place in feminist movements where men are praised for not being terrible. The bar set for males is tremendously low when compared to the protests, sacrifices and daily fights women and the LGBTQI community put up in order to achieve equality. All men have to do is not buy people, abuse them or rape them. If this is the progress these campaigns, then I am afraid there is a very long road ahead of us, longer than what most of us would imagine, before we reach justice and equality in our society. We need to take out the “real man” from these campaigns and become more vocal about being good humans.

The author tweets at @amritaroy95

You must be to comment.
    1. Prashant Kaushik

      Stop being so skeptical. Atleast something positive is being done. Appreciate it. If it is not tailor-made as per your suggested measures, then create something new by yourself. We have a long way to go before achieving gender equality and uptill then don’t criticize and create infighting unless absolutely necessary.

    2. Nasrul

      Respected sir,
      we don’t have a long way to go before achieving gender equality. It is very simple to achieve gender equality. It starts with truly believing that the women are equal to us. Once you believe it whole heartedly, you can see the change all around you.

    3. Kelly

      Yes. And comments like yours just show how far we have to go.

    4. Rambo

      absolutely correct brother!!!!

  1. gaurav

    in this article one can see that the writer has managed to scratch the surface. the writer finally asks the question, why are men still in the drivers seat? but the writer fails to answer that question. indian women really need to think hard and quick if they want to find the answer this question

  2. Praveer Peter

    When I saw this slogan 3 days back, I thought it was about buying sex, and wanted to counter.. but then I saw it in reference to Nigeria case and did not. But with write up.. wanted to respond.
    The slogan / phase has been taken from a similar phrase in feminist movement ‘Real men are not afraid of gender equality’. So it is this focus on the re-building men by invoking their own personality / behavioural traits so that they become better men. It is in no way taking the focus of feminist movement away from women’s empowerment/ rights.. the effort to recognise / establish women’s identity as a human being.
    Recognisng the difference that men can bring in fighting patriarchy (in which men themselves are a big problem maker) .. helps in a way to wipe out root problems.. who/ which brings violence against women.
    The patriarchal set up cannot be overturned in just one blow. It has to done through small ways like these .. of working with these power structures of men, sensitising them to women’s human rights and dignity. Of course, women have to come forward to grab these spaces of power, and feminise them.

  3. Nsreen Hanem

    well to early to comments let c in future how things will work at ur end.

  4. blah_18

    It is definitely a thought worth considering, but in a country like our’s, where women live in fear of being raped if they go out in the open (or even within the four walls of their homes), don’t you suppose that men are the ones whom we actually look at as the ‘enemies’? And wouldn’t it be ideal in these circumstances to address our messages regarding women’s rights to men ALSO, and not just stating a million rhetorics about ‘women’s empowerment’?

    1. Ashima

      Of course the message needs to be addressed to men also but not by making the man the better/ more worthy gender, but by rather telling them to care to become good human beings first and then worry about the gender they belong too

  5. Monistaf

    There is absolutely nothing wrong if a woman, out of her own free will, wants to exchange sexual favors for money. Just because it does not conform to your sense of morality, does not make it wrong and even if you believe it is wrong, no one has a right to enforce their moral ethics, beliefs and standards on someone else. In a civilized society, what ever happens between two consenting adults must be acceptable as long as it does not hurt anyone else. In fact, in most of Western Europe, prostitution is legal, regulated and taxed and guess what, they have the lowest percentage of crimes against women anywhere in the world. So, this story of “Real men don’t buy women” is a complete wash. All men, pay for sex, one way or the other. What makes one acceptable vs the other from a social perspective is a piece of paper that says you are married. I understand that that a lot of women these days are independent and can fend for themselves which is wonderful, but very few women out there are going to sleep with a guy, expecting nothing in return. It is part of our evolutionary instincts. When human beings started walking on two legs, it became impossible for the human female to carry her offspring and fend for herself at the same time (Hunting and gathering). She started exchanging exclusive mating privileges for food, shelter and protection. That, is the origin of pair bonding between humans. Today, she is independent, she can take care of herself and does not need a man, so strong instinct to pair bond also disappears. Welcome, to the real world.

    1. Kelly

      Women CHOOSE prostitution of their own FREE WILL? That’s not the real world, that’s an alternate universe you’re living in.

    2. jeeka krishna

      hahaha… are u blind ? some of girls are pushed into this trade and some enter this trade by their own free will ..shocker . can u guess why ?

    3. Monistaf

      Kelly – you must be completely out of touch with reality if you don’t think that there are a lot of women who choose to be escorts / prostitutes. It is easy money, especially, when you are protected by law, it is recognized as a legitimate service and you and the service you provide are accepted / tolerated. What about porn stars? Do you think all of them are forced into doing it? Or do they choose to do it for the money? Like I said, it is not for everyone, but then, not everyone thinks the same way or lives by the same moral code.

  6. Varun

    Men are generally speaking physically stronger than women. This is a fact. How does stating this fact put men in driver’s seat ? The slogan “Real men dont buy girls” in no way suggests the assertion you make. Nowhere does it suggest that you should not do it because this may happen to your women.

  7. Deepti

    Mostly women and girls are FORCED to choose prostitution

    1. Daniel

      what is your back up for that? …

  8. Trishla

    I don’t see real men don’t buy girls as an appropriate poster for this article, some others would have done more justice to what is being posited here. I am only going to talk about real men don’t buy girls poster used by this article. For me, it is a personal interpretation, the words real men don’t buy girls is not enforcing an idea of chivalry,itis rather redefining masculinity. It is redefining masculinity as a category that no longer thinks it is okay to buy women for sex, in doing this it takes away the idea of callous men who are not emotional and cannot see women beyond their boobs and remoulds it into men who have more feminine qualities like connecting with people, emotional connection ….etc.. This as I see it is not positioning men in the drivers seat rather it brings masculine closer to the feminine Nd does away with the idea of perpetuating the masculine only as a function…

  9. Daniel

    If you see a “group” that no matter what, can blame another …. you know they are not worth spit.

    look at this, oppose them, you are a sexist, support them and you don’t escape flogging. Feminism is about blame, not progress. Feminism is Miss Havisham …. but on a world wide scale. Just like the delusional conspiracy against women it says we live under.

  10. Daniel

    isn’t this about human trafficking, not prostitution? … some of the men in this campaign have extolled the joys of a professional.

  11. Dude

    Feminists keep talking about ‘real men,’ when they actually hate all men…. For them a real man is a non existent man. The only thing more shameless and hypocritical than feminists here are the douche bags like justin timberlake who actually take part in feminist campaigns thinking that they are ‘real men.’

  12. rohan gupta

    I think the analysis of the campaigns is not thorough enough. A lot of what you say is perhaps true but I can say that given my prior knowledge not after reading the article. As a result the article seems a bit unreliable.

    “What these messages say is that men can rape, they can hurt women, they can buy women, but they shouldn’t.”
    This statement, however, is absolute gold! Very simply captures the essence of and the problem with such campaigns. It would be nice to see the writer or YKA suggest in some detail possible alternate ways of talking about these issues — such that women aren’t painted as the eternal victims and their agency can be properly acknowledged.

  13. Max Payne

    There’s no actual,universal definition of a ‘real man’. That’s just a myth. A real man is,in my opinion,one who knows how to treat his mother,sister(s),daughter(s),girlfriend(s) and/or female acquaintances with respect. After all,one must not forget that the person who gave birth to us is also a woman. If we don’t treat her with respect,how can we think of respecting other women?

    1. Monistaf

      You left out “respect for other men”. Why only mother, sister, daughter, girlfriends and females? Why not dad’s, brothers, sons, friends and other men in this world? Are they not deserving of any respect?

  14. Babar

    59 Nigerian boys were shot, slaughtered and burnt alive by the same psychopath who has kidnapped these girls, just three months ago – very little in the media.

  15. Gaurav

    the writer in the last para says — All men have to do is not buy people, abuse them or rape them. If this is the progress these campaigns, then I am afraid there is a very long road ahead of us — I sense some expectations that the writer has. however I would like to point out that you should not worry about what other people do, rather indian woman should simply throw indian men out of the equation and out of their lives and they should be least bothered about what men think or do. real power is to be had if you stop thinking of men and simply exclude them from your life.

  16. Kirti Sahai

    I am confused, really. I want to know your definations of a real man. I am not critical. Just want to know your views.

    1. Amrita

      Hi Kirti! Honestly speaking I don’t even identify with the phrase “real man.” In our society, we have added a variety of connotations of what is desirable into the simple English adjective ‘real.’ And what are those connotations? A “real man” is a man who is strong, brave, fearless etc etc. And a “real woman” is a woman who is caring, sensitive, compassionate etc etc. Because of these underlying connotations in this phrase, I find it to be extremely regressive. Why do we groom our boys into becoming “real men”? Why can’t we groom both men and women into becoming good human beings? My problem lies here. We focus more on creating gender stereotypes and roles, maybe even unknowingly and unwittingly. And the best way to erase these, I think, is to groom boys and girls the same way and educate them that firstly they are good human beings, and then secondly that they belong to a certain gender. I am a firm believer that males and females have equivalent cognitive capacities and that if brought up this way, they would know what is right and what is wrong over what a man/woman should or shouldn’t do. While the results at the end of the day may be the same but the process and intent of getting to that result would be vastly different. And I see a huge difference in that. I would prefer good humans over real men anyday.
      Let me know if this answers your question! 🙂

    2. Kirti Sahai

      Yeah! indeed, It does. Beautiful explanation and thank u for this.
      I also once belonged to this school of thought and thanks to this explanation I reaffirm this faith.

  17. Scherry Siganporia

    Dear Amritha : I admire the spirit and the intent of your comments. Really great. With you all the way. However, let us be open to the process of change…. This to me is a process… one where celebrity males voice a strong thought ‘do not buy women’. This is a campaign that is trying to address trafficking, sex slavery, young girls being bought, young children being kidnapped, tortured, gang raped etc. I appreciate the effort, the campaign. This also speaks of something else, it means different things to different people of course, but you could also look at it from a ‘Dowry’ point of view. Yes Real Men / Real people should not trade, barter and buy/sell women. Having said that, does this mean we are dehumanizing prostitution? I think there are other campaigns and advertisements that belittle women, belittle human beings and we need to target our strengths at criticizing that. This campaign to me is a process…. that process will lead to more and more people stepping up to voice a concern, an issue. Lets not demean voices. The intent is super. The men are trying to bring in reality check on what ‘real’ men ought to be …. because masculinity as we know it is definitely something we need to re-invent. Having said that, your note is generating discussions. That is brilliant! Keep it up! Keep rising! Lots of good wishes, scherry

  18. Kento

    Watch this…. And tell me if It tells how the society sees who is a real men. A feminists friend of mine said, this is essentially a product of patriarchal mindset. i disagree, Violence is violence, if it is so inflicted upon a man or a woman. To me our society today is more kind towards woman than a man. ”Equality is such that we are blind to Violence that a Man face everyday” This video tells it all…, a lesson to learn for us and for the Feminists in particular.

  19. Anonymous

    i admire your effort to address the common cliches and misunderstandings in our society . But the issue here is that in a vague manner you are questioning some very fundamentals of nature. Equal and same are not necessarily similar, a woman has to be equal to a man, not same as a man. If nature has created men to be physically stronger due to genetic content accelerating muscles and women more sensitive what is wrong with that ? we have to move out of that phase of thought. Are you trying to say that physical strength is more valuable than compassion and it is not fair that men are attributed to physical strength and not women ? This world needs more compassion, it needs the attributes which women have. i do agree that sometimes women are stronger physically and men are sometimes more compassionate. its a two way street. But if a man uses his naturally given attributes to make this world a better place then i don’t see the crime in it.

  20. Anonymous

    And another factor to consider here is that the aim of the campaign was to attack at the ego of men. To instigate men by making them believe that those who dont use their attributes for good purposes arent real men . If this notion becomes a belief it could improve situations in society.

  21. Sanmeet G

    I do agree to the fact that it’s a long way to go from here. What I would like to add is that, this is all new and we don’t have a lot of experience bringing this change. But as you said, its a start to a very long road.
    Could you suggest a good way to get that change?
    I would like to try. I believe everything starts with one and then spread around.

    1. Amrita

      Hi Sanmeet! I am elated that you are inspired to bring about change in your surroundings! While I am no expert myself, I try to do things that may reinstate equality in all human beings. I have a brother who is five years old. One day I heard him say “boys wear blue and girls wear pink.” I asked him who told him that, and he just replied that “only girls wear pink and boys wear blue and that he KNOWS that.” He must have heard something like this in his school, amongst his friends or in some cartoon show…Ever since that day, I have routinely reminded him a couple of times every day that blue and pink are only colors and anyone can wear them. Boys can also wear pink and girls can wear blue too. Its been about 4 months now and at least he doesn’t object to wearing a pink shirt anymore. I don’t know if this means I have succeeded in sending the message across so I will keep doing similar stuff so that my brother grows up to be a good human being over a real man. Maybe you can do similar things…like if a boy child around you cries when he bruises his knee, don’t tell him to shut up because ‘boys don’t cry.’ He can cry if he is hurt just like a girl child can cry if she is hurt. I remember an ad on tv in India. It was a home loans ad in which they were selling a “perfect home” for a “perfect family.” In their depiction of the “perfect family,” they showed the father and the son playing in the swimming pool and the girl and the mother decorating a barbie house. While there is nothing wrong in just that, we need to make sure that the girl child also has equal opportunities and choice to play in the swimming pool or play cricket if she wishes and the boy child can also play with a barbie house or help his mom in the kitchen if he wishes. We need to move from a pro gender role society to a pro choice society where everyone must respect the choices of other people. And this can happen if we instill such values in the younger generation.
      I hope many more people are inspired to bring about change in our world!

  22. Peter

    Of course not. Girls are a bad long term investment. REAL men rent them instead.

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