By Kanika Katyal:
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” – Margaret Atwood.
Being a woman in Delhi is hard, danger is a part of our reality. We experience the commodification of our bodies under the male gaze. Every woman, irrespective of the economic class that she belongs to, is as much an object of male voyeurism.
I was explaining this position to a fellow classmate when I was faced with a counter argument : “But not all men are perpetrators. What are the ways through which we, men, can help women?”.
The question irked me, so I decided to put it down for him.
It is true that, all men are not perpetrators. But when you use the term “help”, you unconsciously imply that women are in a subordinate position and require aid.
I think that this ideology is the first, and really, all that we need to do away with. We live in a patriarchal society, true, but smashing patriarchy is not impossible.
So, here are some behavioural/attitude skills that men should practice as cohorts:
1. Understand that women as a gender do not require special assistance at all times.
We need to start looking at women as autonomous individuals who deserve befitting respect.Â So, when you say things like, “Ladki ko gaali di!”, Ladki ko thappad mara!”, it actually exposes your own limited perspective. One is not supposed to abuse or attack a fellow human being. Those are basic ethics. But when you associate a gender angle, it becomes problematic.
2. Be mindful of explicit and implicit gendered power differentials in your intimate relationships with women, whether as a partner, a family member, or a friend.
As a partner, do your share of housework.
Extend at least 50% of emotional support. It is not an only- female prerogative. Make sure that honesty and respect guide your relationship.
3. Befriend women. Become sensitive through acquaintance. The “mood swings” could be legitimate emotional reactions. They are not always PMSing.
4. Rid yourself of stereotypes.
Being called a “sissy”Â hurts as much as being called a “tomboy”. Shopping does not necessarily need to be reserved for a girls’ day out, and sports matches for a boys’ night, when we can enjoy both equally. Don’t dismiss based on prejudices, participate.
5. Do not be a bystander in the face of sexism.
When you see your friends ogling women, please do not charge at them sayingÂ “Would you do this to your sister or mother?”. There is no such thing as ourÂ women and theirÂ women.
6. Please do not shy away from behaving with sensitivity even when you are with your male friends.
You do not need to be a “bro” all the time. Realise that these stereotypes also bind you.
7. Be alert to the kind of expert opinions that you are presented with, by key figures in the media.
Recognise that men enjoy a privileged position in the society, so be aware that there could be a female perspective on the same issue and it may be different.
8. Be appreciative of the virtues and accomplishments of the women in your life and express it through words and gestures.
Being expressive, supportive and caring are not arenas of exclusive female jurisdiction. Inculcating traits such as these makes you a better person.
9. Do not refrain from calling yourself a feminist.
It does not emasculate you.
10. Realise that the opposite of “Macho” is not “The Ultimate Gentleman”.Â
Women do not need an alpha-male protector/saviour, nor are we looking for a fictitious man performing mock etiquettes in the name of politeness. Your actions should reflect conviction, your personality should not get altered by banalities. Ensure that you come across as considerate, not over-bearing.
11. Be perceptive individuals.
If you feel that a woman deserves a seat in a public transport, give it. If you feel the need to accompany a friend at night, do it. Do all of this without assuming the role of a caretaker.
12. Give women space, not only in terms of personal relations.
If your feel that your presence is making a woman feel uncomfortable, distance yourself from her.
So, once you gain an understanding of these things, your behaviour will naturally reflect all of this. All we need is a little sensitivity and motivation.
I do not believe that there is a ‘he higher than a she’, or a ‘he lower than a she’, or even ‘he for she’ or ‘against she’; it’s rather a ‘he with she’.