By Aakriti Agarwal:
“Ladkon ka rape!” he exclaimed whilst looking at me with wide eyes and a silly amused smile on his face.
“Wh-what’s there to laugh? Boys get raped too…,” I said, startled by his reaction. He covered his mouth, grinning underneath. I made a face.
I don’t think that boys in our society yet understand how they can be victims of sexual crimes. I mean if a heterosexual guy gets to know about a rape incident, most probably he would feel kind of immune to it. I doubt if it would strike him that it could happen to him too.
To be clear, I’m not going to talk about how boys can get raped too in this article.
I feel that we should start by looking at something basic, something that affects almost all cis males in their everyday lives. So, keeping rape culture aside for a while, let me welcome you to every feminist’s favourite pastime – critiquing patriarchy, but this time with a little twist!
Very clearly, patriarchy hits women harder. But, I’m going to explore ways how patriarchy and social norms can possibly beat men at their ‘own game’. Stuff like “It’s a man’s world” or “Boys will be boys” may seem advantageous for men on the face of it, but let’s not be too sure about that just yet.
Please be understanding. There’s a fair chance that I could be wrong when I’ll be making various assumptions in this article; I apologise in advance if it sounds like male-bashing. The thing is, this is the first time that I’m thinking not of myself, but of the opposite sex. This actually brings me to my first point.
Men constitute a large chunk of the population. They’re everywhere around me. But I can safely say that I haven’t had a fulfilling experience with any male in my entire life; not even a single one. Zero. And I believe I can’t be the only one who must be in a situation like this.
So, what am I trying to say?
The hostility that some women have a tendency to feel by being treated unfairly in the society could lead to a wider sense of resentment by many women toward men; ultimately leading to misandry (contempt for and fear of men). This can damage any kind of relationships that the two sexes can share.
Think about it. How many times, you as a guy have been viewed with suspicion by a girl whom you barely know? Has it ever been that a girl has not responded well to you, even when you were trying to help her? Has a girl ever crisscrossed her route when she saw you walking on the street at night? Has a girl ever preferred not to sit next to you in public transportation? Does it ever bother you how you are stereotypically viewed as sex-maniacs or perverts?
Unfortunately, almost all women have faced discrimination and sexual harassment in some form or the other, including the ones whom you see every day and also the ones whom you love. The trauma that is caused to all these women can negatively affect your relationships with them. Heck, you must’ve even lost out on many opportunities and chances of meeting and forming bonds with women, along with having to face discomfort in various situations.
The fact that patriarchy is so much about controlling women, even if it means using violence, ultimately harms everyone.
On the flip side, you might say that you have excellent ties with women. And most definitely so, I have seen many boys who are extremely close to their mothers and female friends, and how easily they can talk to them about their emotions. But why are many of us closer to our mothers than our fathers? Why don’t I see affection and non-sexual intimacy between men very often like I do in women? Is it the fear of being perceived as gay?
I think the societal ideal about appropriate male behaviour does cause some problems for men. This ideal includes the notion of ‘male emotionlessness’. I’ve noticed many boys not being able to cope well emotionally in situations such as the loss of a romantic relationship or job. While some of you would be lucky enough to have someone with whom you can share your woes, there are many others who bottle up all their emotions. A woman might be allowed to cry it out and get support and comfort. But a man might be told to deal with it and well, “be a man”. The expectation that men shouldn’t show emotions has an impact on their ability to deal with negative emotions and experiences. The majority of the guys I’ve seen are stone-faced and aren’t very animated.
This creates many other problems for men, whether they’re adhering to it (like in the paragraph above) or not adhering to it. Not all men fit in this ideal carved for them. This can lead to self-loathing, anxiety, insecurity or even a psychological problem. Many women, who might have internalised this image of manhood, might reject men who do not meet these standards of appropriate male behaviour and/or appearance.
Would you like receiving compliments and chocolates as much as girls generally do? And what about bouquets? Have you ever not pursued a hobby or an interest as it is perceived to be ‘unmasculine’? Does the idea of wearing jewellery or high fashion ever fascinate or interest you?
Seriously, consider how you would’ve turned out to be had you not been bound by your gender role?
Speaking of gifts, how many of you have thought about how you’re the one who has to pay for everything when it comes to girls? How many of you have felt that a girl is hanging out with you only because you pay for her food and mobile recharges? How many times have you accused girls of being ‘freeloaders’? Have you ever felt disgusted at how the financial situation of men is focused upon by the society, like in the marriage market?
But I would like to inform you that the situation might be a little more complex here. As you might have observed around you, women face various barriers when it comes to building a successful career for themselves, obstacles which aren’t that easy to break. Whether it’s conservative parents not allowing their daughters to travel far or at odd hours, or prejudices in the workplace (unequal pay or inferior treatment of their work), many women do not possess equal opportunities to earn and prove themselves. To take my example, I’ve studied hard and possess the skills and desire to work, but I haven’t been able to do much, despite getting internship offers from good companies. People often try to shift the blame on me instead of looking at the real problem, the problem at large.
Had women been given the freedom to work with dignity and earn sufficiently, you might not have any inhibitions of whether the woman in your life is with you solely for monetary reasons or whether she genuinely wants to be with you. And yes, before tagging a girl as a freeloader, try to know whether she really is like that or has she succumbed to patriarchy?
Here’s an extract from John Stuart Mill’s brilliant essay ‘The Subjection of Women’:
“On the other point which is involved in the just equality for women, their admissibility to all the functions and occupations hitherto retained as the monopoly of the stronger sex. … the injustice of excluding half the human race from the greater number of lucrative options, and from almost high social functions; ordaining from their birth either that they are not, and cannot by any possibility become, fit for employments which are legally open to the stupidest and basest of the other sex, or else that however fit they may be, those employments shall be interdicted to them, in order to be preserved for the exclusive benefit of males.”
This could mean everything from a poor experience at a restaurant due to male domination of restaurant kitchens to the reduced likelihood of a cure for cancer due to male domination of the sciences.
I want you yourself to think of other ways how patriarchy hurts you. I’m not going to spell it out entirely for you.
“Tum tab tak Delhiite nahi bante jab tak tum ladkiyon ko bewakoof na banao.” I turn back to see two of my college-mates snickering at the gyaan they just shared in class. My true-blue feminist friend and I looked at each other, agreeing sarcastically. I didn’t say anything that time as frankly I was a bit confused as to how I would I argue with someone so ignorant.
Education is the best solution they say. But what happens when people from ‘good’ families and getting the best of education say stuff like that, even if they argue that they were just joking? It is moments like these that make my heart sink and I seem to lose all the respect I have for them.
I’ve tried to write this article with candour because fooling the opposite sex would certainly be very immature of me.
One last question! Does feminism still sound like a terrible idea to you?