India sees a lot of rape cases and cases of sexual violence. Studies show how women fear public spaces scared of physical assault or intimidation by men. Surveys say how a considerable number of women carry pepper spray when going out, do not over drink in public places, make sure they meet men in public spaces on their first date, travels with bags tied in front, never gets on a lift with a single man or group of men in it.
Home is not safe either. The rate of domestic violence is alarming in our society. Men are the ones mostly renting sexuality degrading pornography, writing and singing sexist music or basically making any kind of content that is misogynistic.
Yet violence against women is a women’s issue. Each time you speak about this to a man, he will instantly to his defence let you know, “But I’ve never done it.” There is a general disinterest or lack of self interest for a man to join in any conversation that concerns women. Hence, the general lack of participation and sometimes their deep apathy in the topic of feminism.
Popular culture teaches men to be scared of feminism. Feminism is portrayed as something that takes away men’s rights.
The concept of patriarchy is not of much botheration for men as it doesn’t seem to affect them negatively nor do they seem to have any role to play there. But this is where we as a society have failed, to call these women’s issue as if it’s a topic of personal hygiene that men have nothing to do with and allowing them to dissociate from the conversation.
It is completely a men’s issue and they have to concern themselves with it to reach a place of gender justice. We need to include men in discussions of patriarchy equally. It is high time they questioned the system for what it leads them to be.
The ideal man is the one who is always in control. He is strong and stoic with no space to express his emotions or a sense of vulnerability. He is supposed to win at any cost- a perpetual strong sense of conquest. And most certainly be someone who’s violent and aggressive.
Compassion is considered a trait of femininity, another word for weakness. There is little acceptability of a man who is any different. He is mocked by his male peers, brings shame to his family and even not respected by his girlfriend or wife.
Calling him ‘gay’ or ‘girly’ and instantly putting a homosexual and a woman deep down in the social hierarchy is common and so telling. We often forget how patriarchy doesn’t spare men along with women even though the former are the ones mostly gaining through this system. An unbelievable pressure on men to live up to the myth of toxic masculinity leads to unthinkable mental health and physical health issues in them.
I personally know men who believe inflicting violence is a showcase of masculinity.
On the other hand, through my profession as a lawyer, I’ve also met men who do feel highly uncomfortable at misogynistic jokes but still participate compulsively with the fear of exclusion.
One of them had once told me how I’d be shocked to see his difference in behaviour between when he’s with his male friends and when with his girlfriend. I felt the turmoil in his heart. I have been in a personal relationship with a certain man where I noticed how he’d struggle hard to put up a ‘macho’ image where he cannot be vulnerable, honest, compassionate and accept defeat no matter how trivial it is.
But when with me or even his mother, he’d share his deepest insecurities and weaknesses and cry his heart out. But not always do these men, bearing this immense pressure of being accepted, have people in life to share their real selves with. Studies conducted over the world say how men are 3 times more likely to die by suicide.
A UK study says how most men do not have a male friend to share things with, hence live with loneliness. Depression and anxiety are extremely common consequences of having to bottle up emotions. Becoming violent is also a result of this.
Coming back to violence on women, the very perpetuation of these toxic traits in the name of ideal manhood puts men under this immense pressure, knowingly or unknowingly, of living up to them, hence systematically justifying their deeds. Yet mostly there is no in-depth discussion behind this culture that defines manhood and how it is linked to gender violence on women.
It is time we spoke about the male causes of this violence, sexism and discrimination rather than lingering on the consequences on the lives of the woman. To bring down the rates of gender violence on women, there has to be a cultural revolution that challenges the sexist social norms in the male culture. And men, the ones responsible for this, need to participate. It cannot be called a woman’s issue anymore because men get affected by living in this unhealthy system too.
Feminism opens up the question of hierarchy that exists in the world.
Not just men’s dominance over women but any form of hierarchy (White Supremacy, the dominance of First World countries, etc).
It teaches you to analyse your behaviour and act. Feminism challenges most of how a man is socialized. Feminism is the way out from the toxic stereotype of a man. There are men who feel a lack of belongingness in their male community, who do not fit into the notions of manhood and are hence excluded, who are ridiculed as ‘effeminate’ by peers for being gentle and sweet and in turn rejected from female attention too, who face violence from their male counterparts for being weak and also for the apparently strong and upright man who wants to be able to cry and be normal. And so, so, so much more.
A lot of times men live their whole lives, in darkness, with no explanation and understanding of why they feel and act how they do. The study of feminism and having more and more feminist men is so important because it answers these questions for them.
Feminism is not at the cost of men’s rights but a blessing instead. It desires humanity, compassion and inclusiveness. It is for men’s self-interest that the study of feminism is so important. It would take men on the path of mindful masculinity leading to a richer, deeper, more meaningful way to live with themselves.