Why I’m Talking About Men This Women’s Day

Posted by Prannay Pathak in Masculinity
March 7, 2017
Editor’s note: This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #WomensDay to start conversations on how we can achieve a gender equal society. If you have faced gender-based violence, sexism or misogyny, would like to propose policy reforms or write about what families, friends, workspaces and partners can do to ensure gender parity around them, write to us here.

The last few years have been a watershed for my understanding of the ‘human mating dance’. A year ago, a friend, rather voluntarily, offered to be ‘wingman’ for me. However, he demanded in uncertain terms, that I let go of my supposedly ‘unattractive’ traits to the opposite sex. I was to stop rambling about Donald Trump, feminism and issues of caste on the internet. I was to show specimens of the fairer sex their ‘right place,’ talk to them about frivolous things, and not act like an irritable, stuck-up, awkward person in his 20s. Long story short, I was to be confident about my place in the world and show the opposite sex that I could control them. I couldn’t be this unsure, unopinionated and lost guy who read books all the time.

We are no more friends, but he was no way at fault. He was only reiterating the sentiment of the age. He was merely abridging the ‘Mating Dance Manual for Males’ for me. The ‘Mating Dance Manual for Males’ is a hugely popular, highly functional and easily available rulebook for boys. Earlier, I used to assume this manual was only for confused people in their 20s like me. One day a blog post on interior design declared that clean lines and edges were masculine, while elaborate patterns and curves were feminine. Of late, I have realised that the teachings of the manual transcend age, place and era.

You could wonder how these complaints relate to a day (Women’s Day) reserved for much more serious issues like female foeticide, education for girls, domestic violence and rape, with the last of these afflicting our times and culture a little too much. My response would be that no word has an exclusive meaning. What is white, isn’t black. Understanding this in the context of the word ‘woman’ is even more important. What is ‘woman’, isn’t a ‘man’. So, blue not being pink, and edges not being curves, seems fair enough. Or does it?

What, if not difference, should exist between a pair of antonyms? Why should pink not mean blue? A difference of opinion, of appearance, of language, culture—is probably the healthiest thing in our midst today, and in fact, badly required. But the sense of aversion that exists in a male mind, for words like female, woman and feminine, is problematic. Years ago, a professor remarking that my newly-shaved face looked like a girl’s, left me fuming like anything. For the last few years, I had grown up believing that handsome, and not beautiful, dashing, not pretty, were supposed to be the words for a boy. For the last ten years, I had grown up with the belief that watches were not to be worn with the dials on the inside of the wrist. That boys were bros and girls were rivals. That they were to have their own subjects at school.

Then the internet started telling us a thousand different ways to be desirable to the opposite sex.

Smell well to get laid. Hold the door for the lady. Fold your sleeves of your shirt up to the elbows. Fold the sleeves up to reveal your veiny arms. Get chicks at the gym. Get chicks at the library. Always know how to cook three good things. Laugh this way, breathe that way. Don’t swear in front of a lady. Trim the beard from the neck. Do not shave your arms and legs. Never shave your butt or crotch. This is how you shave to look like a man tamed by nothing—a wholesome predator. This is how you don’t shave to look like a sapiosexual. This is how you shave for an interview. This is how you shave for a date. This is the joke for a pretty girl. This is the reference for that rare intelligent girl. This is the joke for a rarer, pretty and intelligent girl.

However, the internet is just one of the many mediums that the manual enjoys distribution in. The other mediums include social media trends asking you not to shave for a certain month, your mother, who expects you to grow into lady-charmers the day you are born, your father, who expects you to outdo him, but secretly relishes your failure to do so, male friends that offer to be ‘wingmen’ for you, female friends that constantly look out for signs that assure them of your heterosexuality and the career advice that stops you from being a schoolteacher, a language teacher, etc. Much like its female counterpart that advocates fair and lovely for its subjects, the ‘manual for males’ decides the ‘tall, dark, handsome’ trinity for you.

Yes, I am choosing to shout about these complaints in the middle of a chaos that is supposedly reserved for, and more importantly, isolated to a female experience. I cannot stress on how important it is to assert the fluidity of being male, if the right meaning of Women’s Day is to gain any greater currency. In an age where patriarchy and heteronormativity are ganging up to troll feminism on the internet, feminism must grow more inclusive and invite the male experience.

Cook because you must know cooking to save your life. Reject dowry not because you are charitable, but because you have self-respect. Hold the door, not just for a woman, but for any human. Talk about the body, know sex from gender, and do away with this aversion that keeps you from embracing elements from the other half of humanity. Seize this day and rip apart the ‘Mating Dance Manual’. Shatter the prescribed male mould that the deodorant manufacturer wants you to fit into. And finally, twirl your moustache, for it looks beautiful on your pretty face.

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Image source: Manira Chaudhary

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