I am a guy who has always been interested in issues faced by women. This is probably have to do with the number of female friends I have had over the years and the number of successful female cousins in my family. Right from my graduation days, I have been outnumbered by females. In the course of my friendship, I had the opportunity to learn about them, their quirks and their problems. I make no claim that I understand the female gender or their issues completely. I also refuse to accept that I am completely ignorant about the “Venus gender”.
My curiosity towards female started in my childhood. Whenever, an aunt or a cousin used to be on “her cycles”, I was not allowed to touch them. The reason given to a 8 year old me ranged from “A dog has touched her” or “A crow flew over her head”. As an eight year old, I refused to understand this concept. Since I have touched a dog and nobody had any problems in me moving around the house freely. But why only were the females confined to a mat in the corner of the house? I wondered. Age-appropriate answers were not given instead ridiculous stories were peddled. In my tenth standard, I had the opportunity to learn about Menstrual cycle in my biology class. As expected the teacher (a female) rushed through the topic, leaving all the guys in the class confused and possibly ignorant. Since we were in a co-ed class the guys were hesitant to ask the teacher to explain clearly. They confided this to me and being the curious guy I was, I requested the teacher to kindly explain the process clearly. The teacher was visibly uncomfortable about a guy asking about menstruation (apparently a taboo subject) in front of a class of 60. The only reply I got was “I will teach you later” and that later never came. These incidents changed the way I looked at gender issues.
Luckily, during my under graduation I made some very honest friends. They were open to talk about anything under the sun. I met my best friend there. She helped me understand female issues better. Right from Menstrual Health to Misogyny to even female fashion. Hence I have a fair idea about the challenges faced by women, and by extension men, in India. There are challenges of speaking out about female issues. Some considered it as means to coax girls to like me, others considered it as a arrogance of “city education” to challenge traditional dialogue process (Leave the female issues to other females). Arguing with relatives to prioritize a cousin’s career rather than marriage is considered a “western cultural corruption”.
Because my female friends opened up to me, I was able to help others. I could help an intern ward off sexual advances of a married senior and I could also help a colleague who was being harassed through obscene texts at work place. I now have learnt the sensitivities of speaking to a girl. It doesn’t always have to be a major problem of theirs I want to listen to. I listen to their problems with their family, their back stabbing friends and their annoying neighbor. I hope they openly speak to me about their personal lives to me because they feel I can help. However, I still hate speaking about fashion and TV serials with them! I have no idea if I have been of any major help to them. But what I do know is I share the same camaraderie with them just as I do with my guy friends and family. My sensitivity towards them has a selfish motive to it. I get a good friend in them. I have greatly benefited from their advice through my rough patches. They bring a different level of sensitivity, compared to my guy friends, in addressing my problems. Hopefully, through me, they have begun to understand Men and their issues.
To all the guys and girls out there, engage each other in your issues. It helps us develop sensitivity towards each other. We make tall claims of respecting females. According to me, what women need now is not respect, but compassion. Compassion teaches you not only to respect but also gives a sense of attachment. In this comradeship, I hope we can move towards addressing and possibly finding solutions to some of the gender issues that plagues us.