On 15th August, my timeline was flooded with Rakshabandhan and messages celebrating Independence Day. I had no plans of writing or posting anything on social media. But I found a common thread running through all the messages, which compelled me to write this. Most of the Independence Day messages talked about how our ancestors fought for freedom from foreign rule and how our generation now needs to seek freedom from prejudices against women, that we need to raise our girls to be independent and strong. Society should not judge a woman on what she wears, the profession she chooses, the way she chooses to live, and whom she selects as her life partner. But what about HIM?
As a society, we are working hard towards eradicating all biases against women, but what about bias against men? Ever wondered what a man goes through when he plans to opt for higher education even after a masters degree? More often than not, he is denied, “Apne pair pe kab khada hoga? Zindagi bhar baap ke paise hi udayega kya?”(When will you stand on your own feet? Will you spend your father’s money all your life?) A woman is pressurized to settle down around the age of 25, but we tend to overlook the fact that a man, too, is asked the same question, perhaps at 30, “Shaadi kab karoge? Budhape mein?!” (When will you get married? In old age?!)
If a married man plans to pursue his passion, while his wife takes care of the finances, he is subjected to ridicule, “Ab biwi ki kamayi khayega?” (Will you be financially dependent on your wife?) A man wearing a crisp kurta-pyjama to work will undoubtedly be questioned, “Aaj Diwali hai kya?” (Is it Diwali today?) Heads will definitely turn if a well-chiselled man walks the streets in vests and shorts! Whether this attention is for good or bad, it’s for you to decide.
I am yet to come across a single male teacher in primary schools. Tech subjects are still reserved for boys and come as an obvious choice to them. Similarly, humanities is still dominated by girls. I am yet to come across parents who would willingly encourage their child to pursue arts as a career. A man who loves his mother unconditionally and listens to her advice is termed as “Mumma’s boy” (definitely in a negative light), and a man who hands over the reins of the house to his wife, thus empowering her, is termed as “Joru ka Gulam”. The colour blue still symbolises boys and pink symbolises girls. A man is expected to be strong, masculine, and the breadwinner of the house.
But times are changing. Many girls get lucky as their parents tell them, “Jaa Simran jaa, jeele apni zindagi“. I am waiting for the day people say, “Jaa Raj jaa… jeele apni zindagi… Khol le apna startup…“. Take a break from your stressful career. Pursue your passion. Kamane ko toh zindagi padi hai… It’s not important to own a 3BHK. A hefty bank balance is also not the be-all and end-all of life. It is happiness that is important.
PS: I do acknowledge the men who have taken up unconventional paths and their contributions towards society, but this post is for people in general. People like you and me, who come from middle-class families and whose ideologies are still driven by prejudices and biases. Today, it should not be just about empowering girls. It should be about raising our kids equally, without any preconceived notions or bias. Stop raising your daughters like your sons! Raise your kids like responsible citizens, as they ought to be raised in a gender-neutral society.