When we talk about the forms of inequality that result from gender bias, we only consider the disadvantage faced by women, often completely ignoring what men face. While some of the concerns are legitimate, many, like #DontMancriminate do not make the cut.
#DontMancriminate is a campaign started by an Indian online lifestyle magazine called Maggcom, which aims to promote equality for men and women alike — with the emphasis on men.
One of the basic premises of #DontMancriminate is that men are part of a supposed “forgotten gender” and are always expected to behave like “gentlemen”. Feminists are being blamed for this lack of interest in the woes of men. Why? Because apparently they place so much emphasis on the liberation of women that they forget that men suffer too. While I would leave it to you to judge the merits of this often repeated argument, let’s dissect the term “forgotten gender” – what does that even mean?
Feminists have for long argued that language is often used as a tool of oppression, and patriarchal appropriation and manipulation of discourse on gender justice through the use of such terms is not new either. Even if we were to briefly entertain the absurd idea behind the #DontMancriminate campaign – that of men being part of a “forgotten gender“, we must examine what is being insidiously implied. Does it intend to serve as a justification of male oppression on women? Let’s get some things straight here then – Even being the “forgotten gender” doesn’t allow you to rape women or abuse women in domestic spaces, or in any way be violent towards women. It doesn’t allow you to give preferential treatment to some workers in an office space. Sure, the law in India is in a few cases biased against men, such as in the case of section 498A of the IPC. But really, if you do think, after knowing that a woman is raped every 30 minutes in this country, that you are the “forgotten gender”, it’s time for some honest introspection. Not being allowed free drinks and free entry into clubs cannot even be considered an issue when you think of the crimes committed against women every day in every sphere of their lives. It hardly calls for a campaign like #ManCrimination.
The campaign also talks about how men are expected to be chivalrous, and how there’s a moral pressure on men to vacate seats for women, or help them in physical tasks etc. In Medieval England, chivalry was associated with the code of conduct of Knighthood. What has chivalry turned into today? Is it about pleasing and respecting women or is it really about placating the male ego? Consider a man who gives you his seat on the metro when you didn’t need it at all. Why did he do it? Was it simply because you were a woman or was it because he was a man, and patriarchy demands that a man must display ‘masculine‘ behavior? It’s important to put these things in perspective and not fall prey to such flawed logic of women oppressing men by demanding chivalry.
What really is the goal of this idea of ‘mancrimination’? Possibly, raising empathy for men and trying to unite them for a cause. But why do they feel the need for this gender segregated unity? Does the male ego feel threatened by the fact that there is another voice out there – the voice of feminism – that can destabilize the male centric power structures, and change the patriarchal order? Feminism doesn’t ask for a superior position for women, it demands equality. And patriarchy definitely doesn’t want the current status quo to change. This campaign is just another attempt to do precisely that – maintain the patriarchal structures intact and try to rationalize it by trying to shame women for demanding equality.