I was browsing through my Facebook feed, and I came across a bunch of feminism related posts shared by a few of my female friends. They were about how #notallmen is bullshit. One post said something on the lines of “When a girl tells you she is scared of dogs because she was bitten by one, you say aw okay. But when she tells you she is afraid of men because she has been abused/harassed by men, you tell her that she is paranoid and that she should get over it.”
While the last one totally compared men to dogs (as goes the fabled saying “All men are dogs”), I do to quite a large extent understand the point that this particular lady was trying to make, even though I might not agree with the way the point was made. I do understand why #notallmen is problematic, in the sense that it takes away the limelight from the feminism debate and makes it about men (as men have historically done to all women related issues). I do understand the outrage of women which has built up over the years of inequality and mistreatment they have been subjected to. I understand how I too am part of the problem and I do try to go out of my way to apologize to my female friends, when unknowingly I make a statement which is misogynistic/anti-feminist. I have been brought up in an environment where I used to think such statements were okay (because no one called me out on it) and it will be difficult to get out of the social conditioning but I believe I will get there.
While the debate and discourse about the male mistreatment of women is moving forward in the correct direction, what worries me a lot is the blatant manner in which women disregard the mistreatment/bias against women by women themselves. The problem is so systematic and so ‘meta’ that it completely passes under the radar in feminism related debates and is hardly ever discussed.
As a man I am left confused sometimes. For example, I try to understand feminism and finally come to the conclusion that it is about equal treatment of women and men. So logically that would mean I would treat my friend Ayush the same as my friend Ayushi without caring about what gender they identify themselves with. Which seems fair. Gender related physical inequality is a thing (physically men are bigger, stronger, etc.) but given the current societal scenario, it makes sense to not take that into account because we’re just not cave hunters anymore. We’re not foraging for food/collecting wood to build houses; tasks which require definite physical strength. We’re moving towards a society where given equal opportunities, women and men are on equal playing fields. Therefore, it makes sense for them to be treated equally in all aspects.
But then I have frank discussions which my female friends about what kind of a man would they like to be with. And the almost immediate answers are “someone who makes me feel safe” or “someone who is strong and supportive”. As a male, I am left confused. Just when I thought things like ‘physical strength’ or ‘the ability to make someone feel safe’ were things which were not relevant anymore, these things are thrown in my face.
There was a time when I’d been single for a long time, and I was beginning to wonder if I’m inherently unattractive or just not a nice person in general. Some of my best friends have always been women, and given I am interested in knowing why women aren’t interested in me, it’s only natural that I ask my female friends their honest opinion. I get tips on how I need to be ‘assertive’ and how women find ‘dominating’ qualities attractive in men. I’m told that I need to stop being too nice and too easy to be friends with. How I need to make myself seem somewhat exclusive to look attractive. Again, as a male who has newly understood what feminism means, I am confused. I thought being nice was a good thing. I thought being non-dominating and allowing everyone to voice their opinion was a good thing in general. I thought of equality of voices and opinions is a good thing. However, apparently I’d gotten feminism all wrong. Because while I’m expected to hold women to the same standard as men in professional/academic settings, I am expected to chuck feminism in romantic situations.
This is where the problem really begins. Also I’ve notices this to be very subliminal. Women don’t notice they’re doing this, but they are. If your answer to this is “So what? We’re women and we have the right to behave how we want to behave”, then the discourse ends here and I wish you luck. I hope you succeed in achieving an equal world where men and women are treated equally. I sincerely do, because I want it too. I’d like to have a world where my daughter is treated just how her male counterparts are treated.I’d like to have a world where my daughter doesn’t have to face all the problems that women today face and I hope she’ll have all the freedom she wants, to do the things she wants to do. But I’d also like to have a world where my son is not expected to hold himself to a weird standard in a romantic setting. Where to ask out a girl he likes, my son has to change himself and appear more dominating.
This discussion about feminism in a dating/relationship paradigm is important because things we do in domestic/romantic settings have a far larger bearing on our overall mind-set and perception. In a professional/academic environment, you can ‘pretend’ to hold women on equal grounds without a lot of effort. However, how you treat women at home/when you’re out in the club is what you actually think of them. And unless that is something that both women and men strive to change, this goal is impossible. Real equality can be achieved only when it comes naturally to us in all situations and not just in some specialized situations where it’s easy to fake it.
Another problem is that when I point things out to my friends, I am told,”Well, NOT ALL WOMEN are like that. Some women do like men who are emotional and are honest and caring and blah blah blah”.
I agree that all men are responsible for the collective male bias against women even if we are not actively involved in it. A collective male effort is needed to stop this, which includes calling out fellow males when they do something against the principles of feminism.
At the exact same time, I also expect women to stop bullshitting around the term ‘not all women’. Even if some women (and it is not ‘some’ women) subscribe to the convoluted feminist notions I have talked about, it is a problem for ‘all women’ to collectively come and solve. And don’t tell me, “Well, I’m not like that”. Yes you are. Somewhere deep inside, you are that little girl who has been told from her very childhood that she needs a ‘strong man’ to protect her and to make her feel safe. You are that little girl who has been told it is not okay for a woman to confess her feelings for a man. You are that little girl who has been told since forever that she can be lax with her education because she will have a man provide for her. You are that little girl who has been told that putting your foot down in front of your parents for something you want is something to be ashamed of. And even in the unlikely scenario where you absolutely do not fall within the above categories, you know or have chosen to ignore people who are like that.
Just like it’s time men own these problems as their collective own, it is also high time for women to own these problems as their collective own and very actively try to solve them. The only way forward is to agree that there are grave problems on both sides and solve them. This does not reduce the severity of the reparations owed by men to women. All it does is create an extra burden on women to weed out such sentiments within their own sorority.