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Twisting Gender Norms: Why Should ‘Protection’ Be A Man’s Burden?

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By Prerna Gupta

Hey, is it an off on Rakhi?” asked my friend, questioning about whether or not the college would remain closed for Raksha Bandhan.

No, I don’t think so. Besides, we are better off without a sexist holiday,” I replied, the feminist in me, quietly shaking her head at the casual everyday sexism we have come to live with.

What? It’s not sexist. Anyway, I tie rakhis only for gifts,” said my friend, laughing the matter away.

raksha bandhan
For those who don’t know, Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters, wherein a sister ties an ornate string (rakhi) on the wrist of her brother, who in turn vows to protect her, the sister then feeds the brother something sweet and receives a gift as a token of love.

I had been dreading the arrival of Raksha Bandhan this year, because growing up in a middle class Hindu family, I knew I would have to tie rakhis to my brothers. I had done so for years, but had somehow failed to realise the sexist implications of the festival. This time, however, realising the consequence of my actions, I wasn’t going to just give in.

I came up with an idea: I told my mother that if she wanted me to continue the tradition and complete the rakhi-tying, all my brothers would have to do the same. They would have to tie me rakhis too. What took me by immense surprise was my mother’s reaction to my demand. She not only helped me pick out the rakhis for myself, she told all my brothers about my wish, and everybody happily resolved to oblige.

No, my brothers did not say no or nudge the idea. No, my brothers did not see this as a threat to their ‘masculinity’. When my aunt implied that it was a given that I was going to be there to offer unconditional support to my relatives, my elder brother said, “It is also obvious that we are going to be there for her, whenever she needs us, yet she has tied rachis for the last 19 years; it’s time we made sure that she is going to be there for us.

It left me feeling a little proud.

I think a large majority of youngsters realise that one particular gender, today, doesn’t need to be protected by the other, which is also, not coincidentally, the more privileged one.

On the day of Rakhi, all my brothers, conforming to my request, tied me rakhis, making me one happy sister. My 9-year old cousin, on whom all the truths of the world were yet to dawn upon, naively asked me, “Aap boy kyun banna chahte ho? (Why do you want to be a boy?)” I couldn’t say anything. What could I have said that would have permeated the brain of a 9-year-old boy who has been brought up in a heteronormative fashion? I am, however, positive that he will come around as he grows up.

I felt like I had made a point, one that needed to be made. Raksha Bandhan is about celebrating the bond between brothers and sisters, isn’t it? I did just that.

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  1. The Game

    Pathetic attempt to emasculate men – the heinous agenda of feminists.

    1. JJ

      Funny how you feel ’emasculated’ by an article that talks of equality. Goes to show that ignorant trolls will readily rear their ugly heads anywhere.

    2. The Game

      Where is equality when men have to spend a lifetime earning for women, seats on buses are reserved for women, men are thrown in jail over dubious claims of rape and dowry, when men are ridiculed for complaining about domestic violence from wives, when the law does not recognize female on male rape, when there are special quotas for women in universities and colleges, when lifeboats are reserved for women, when seats are reserved for women in metros, when men are the ones who have to propose, when family courts are biased against men, when women receive lighter sentences for the same crimes committed by men – want to talk about your double standards?

    3. JJ

      Personally , I find it disappointing that we even need these special treatments to be meted out to women in the first place. But try examining the reason behind it. You seriously cannot possibly ignore the systematic oppression of a gender that had been going on for hundreds of years (and still is). Besides, feminism strives for equality. No feminist would want to have doors held open for her, neither would she want to be treated specially simply on account of her gender (which is what this article talks about! Seriously, give it another read.) So many detractors of the feminist movement oppose it because they make it out to be a war between the two sexes, when that is everything that this movement does NOT represent. However, denying the fact that the problem of gender specifically targets women would not only be utterly dishonest, but also plain stupid.

      However, coming back to this article. You feel emasculated when a woman wants to take away the burden of protection from a guy but, at the same time, you don’t wish to sacrifice your seat in the metro for her. Seriously, make up your mind.

      P.S. I have begun to think that an increasing number of Indian men today oppose feminism simply because they don’t get to sit in the metro. Sigh. But then discussing this subject will open a whole new can of worms – like how numerous women are groped in public in this country everyday.

    4. Pankaj

      The Game has given you specific examples of double standards practiced by feminists and you have tried to laugh off his comments without bothering to address any of them. Your claims about feminism being about equality ring hollow. If it were the case you would have felt strongly addressing these issues and wouldnt have dismissed them simply because these are examples that favour women at the expense of men.

      Some of the issues he has raised are quite important, like the misuse of anti dowry laws. Feminists have not only opposed addressing these concerns, they have even lobbied for stronger maintenance laws thereby forcing men into the role of a provider. I havnt heard feminists condemn Jasleen Kaur for shaming Sarvajeet Singh on social media. So it does not matter what the ‘dictionary meaning’ of feminism may be but inn actual practice it reeks of double standards and that is the reason why many men who may support equality of the sexes oppose feminism

    5. Aura

      Except that most feminists these days( I'm using that word according to dictionary meaning. If you don't agree, replace it with supporters of equality for
      women). want women to be educated, work and be financially independent, and this would mean less burden for men as well. Its mostly other men who ridicule male victims of rape and domestic violence, saying that they're not manly, etc. I am a girl and I personally don't want any reservations. I have seen plenty of women criticize Jasleen Kaur on social media. Please stop seeing every move for women's rights as an attack on men. Its high time we work for the equality of the sexes without considering it as a dumb puerile guys vs girls war. You would have probably supported this article if it was a man asking why protection should be only a man's responsibility.

    6. natasha chandra

      Enlightening to know the masculinity of men is hung on a thread. Genius!

    7. natasha chandra

      Amazing initiative.

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