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Men Should Play An Active Role In Breaking Traditional Notions Of Masculinity

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I was at Connaught Place, New Delhi, a few days ago and something very interesting happened. My friends and I were conducting a survey on gender inequality. We approached a mixed group of college students chatting outside a cafe and asked them if they would be willing to answer a few questions. As soon as we said the questions concerned ‘gender inequality’, the men simply walked away sniggering, leaving the women to answer our questions. Their reaction by itself showed why the feminist movement is still struggling to gain momentum. It is because most men think that gender equality is none of their business!

I asked the women left behind, what they thought of this. “It’s because they are not facing these issues”, one of them observed. While that is true, is it a justifiable excuse? Will we participate in a movement only if it directly concerns us? Are we not capable of empathy? Can’t we, as Harper Lee famously put it, “Climb into someone else’s skin and walk around in it?” Besides, the reason women face these issues is because of historical discrimination and apathy by men. Therefore, it becomes men’s responsibility to participate in this movement.

I strongly feel that it is crucial for men to be active participants within the movement. In the long-term, we need to instill these values in our children. “Children need to be aware of how much women have been historically discriminated against and how feminism is required to equalize [this]”, wrote a respondent in one of the online surveys I had conducted. Our education system tends to put the burden of change on girls alone. Girls are told to work hard, pursue their dreams and be successful if they have a problem with traditional patriarchy. But, are boys ever told what their role in all of this could be? 

We need to teach our boys, brothers, husbands, and fathers to know that they should be a part of this movement. They need to know that they should pitch in to do household chores and that being a ‘home-maker’ is nothing to be ashamed of. They need to know that sharing financial control with their partner is not a ‘sign of weakness’. Men need to know that it is okay to show emotions and not let traditional ideas of masculinity pressure them to conform to a certain idea of what a ‘man’ should be.

Above all, men should have the courage to stand up to incidents of blatant inequality. For instance, I was having lunch with my friend at a restaurant last month and when we finished eating, she asked the waiter for the bill. He came back with it and gave it to me. While he was standing there, I handed the bill to my friend because she was going to pay with her card. She asked the waiter for the card machine. He came back and gave the machine to me. Again, I handed over the machine to her, saying, “She will pay”. When my friend returned the machine, the waiter turned to me and said, “Thank you, Sir”. That’s when I lost my cool and I told him what he did was stereotypical and unfair. My friend was the one who was paying, so why was he addressing me all this while? I realised that he is also a part of the society we live in and is only responding to the expectations that society has from men. 

I feel that when men become active participants in bringing about this change, it will boost the movement. We can overcome these stereotypes only when we are all collectively involved in the process. So, to all those who still believe that gender inequality is only what a woman should care about- no, it is not. It is our collective responsibility! 

About the author:
Aggam Walia is a student of the High School Achievers Program conducted by Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC). The High School Achievers Program identifies promising high schoolers and builds their capacity to lead change. This post was published as a part of the 2019 Delhi edition of the program.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are solely those of the author’s and do not represent the views of YLAC as an organisation.

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  1. Regula Ram

    Thank you for sharing the restaurant episode. I guess, as your assumption is true, (many men think gender equality is none of their business), only few men will have read this article.

    Let’s highlight the positive examples. My “mama” showed me the diaries of nana and of nana’s father recently. Obviously, the diaries are very interesting and bring back the old times, along with various aspects of life as people lived life at the time. I don’t know whether my mami kept telling her husband that women can do anything that men can. I don’t know whether the fact that my mami has a profession made things clear for my mama. What I can say for sure: My mama said: “It’s sad that in the old days nobody thought women could write their own diary. Now the stories of their lives are missing, which is really sad.”

  2. Vaibhav Gaikwad

    Half of the so called feminist don’t know what feminist is ment for.
    The thing is feminism is about gender equality but is it possible on biologically men are different women are different so there always going to be some things that are going to be different with genders the only thing every person is entitled to do that understand each other choices and support them, not every thing men and women are entitled to do we should accept that and help each other to achieve equality to that certain extent and help each other’s where only they can fo the job

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