Friday, April 07, 2017

Main 'Feminist' toh nahi, magar ae haseen...

I have always found it difficult to get myself accepted in any alpha-male group. I am not a sports addict; I don’t get excited by the prospect of guzzling down beer the whole night; and I don’t enjoy talking about women as sex-objects. The last bit puts me in the most awkward of situations because I can rarely wriggle out of such conversations without other men (and some women) looking at me as if I were an alien. It is easy to decline commenting on cricket, or not jump in to a conversation on soccer trivia. It is also easy to excuse yourself from a nightlong drinking session (yes, easy to ignore the snide smirks that follow too). But I get very uncomfortable when men start talking about women. And, no, not harmless chatter about women or plain bitching that you’d also do about other men. These conversations have to do with women’s bodies, about their clothes, everything that would make a woman squirm if she overhears us talk. It shows on my face. I don’t enjoy being part of that conversation. There have been times when I have ended up saying silly things myself (maybe just to not look very awkward, I don’t know!), but I have felt ashamed of myself the very next second. I always end up wondering if other men would talk similarly about the women in my life, or the ones I know personally, and it would make my blood boil. It’s just how I am.
 
Image result for feminism
 
I think there are decent ways to praise or compliment someone’s beauty, even when they are not part of the group. I also think that, as a society, it will be ages before we start respecting other women the same way as we respect our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives at home (well, most of us do respect the women at home, I would like to believe). I am ok with small, gradual steps taken to bridge the inequality gap, any social reform takes time. I am also ok if some of us want the gap to bridge quickly, and if they run aggressive campaigns around it. I am usually ok with most things in life.
 
I also do not think that women are any less capable than men. I am all for equal opportunities for everyone. There may be some things where one gender is inherently better at than the other (e.g. I always find that women are born dancers; even something very specific like having softer touch that help in picking tea-leaves.. etc.) But that shouldn’t be a barrier to equality of opportunity for everyone. Never. It may or may not be happening everywhere right now. We will get there definitely though.
 
But I am not feminist. Because if I were to be a feminist, I would have to identify myself with the proud feminists that we see all around us every day. Not just feminists who want to run aggressive campaigns to carry out a social reform – for I am ok with that. But feminists who are disguised misandrists, who misuse 'laws against sexual harassment' to their undue advantage, who want to forever wear the crown of victimhood, who stereotype men to fight against stereotyping of women. Yes, I know some of you would say #NotAllFeminists, and I would leave you there with your thoughts and the screaming irony of the hashtag.
 
However, I shouldn’t be bothered by what people who don’t matter to me think or do, right?. What should, however, bother me is if my views get me into regular tiffs with people who matter to me, or who I like in general. In fact, a blog post by one such person who I have always held very dear to me is the catalyst behind why I am writing this blog in the first place. After a long, emotional message (most of which I agree to, in principle), she concludes thus:
 
"
For instance, I know a number of men - good at heart, well educated, striving for equality between the genders though not always achieving it - who vociferously proclaim that they hate feminists. "Don't talk in this feminist type language. Let's have a normal conversation," is something I have heard for many years now. Actually, not just men, many women also hold this view, some even going as far as to brand this clan "Feminazi". I have an infinite capacity to absorb shit, but this is shit I refuse to accept any longer. So, yeah, before we proceed, I am making it crystal clear - I am a feminist. If you hate feminists, you hate me. And the hatred is mutual, this is the last of conversations I will be having with you.
(full post at http://blyton.blogspot.in/)  
 "
 
I was tempted to post a comment there, but held back. I don’t want to get into another ‘fight’ when the post itself warns me against it. But, then, why should my discussion degenerate into a fight each time? Let me try and analyze the last few occasions on which I have gotten into such a ‘fight’ with my feminist friends:
 
 
1. I shared an article from this highly pretentious news-site called Huffington Post on Facebook that sought to establish mainstream acceptance for Hijab. Yes, you read that right. I lamented on how Huffington Post was doing irreparable damage to whatever little has been achieved in letting women have the freedom to dress how they want. Feminists should, ideally, have agreed with me. At least, I thought so. I was wrong. I was told that Hijab is a choice, and women should have freedom to choose what they want to wear. That my stance was anti-women. All this coming from women on my friends’ list.
 
I would have agreed with that article, had it said that any change takes time. If only the article had pondered on how we shouldn’t be judgmental against women who wear hijab out of own volition due to generations of mental conditioning, and how it was wrong in principle, but we should give such women some space, I would have agreed with it. But, no, the article wanted to establish that hijab is ok. Women are ok with it. No change is needed.
 
I come from a family where my mother entered our dahleez in a two-feet long ghoonghat when she got married. This was 35 years back. Since then, I have seen beliefs, sanskaar, customs, getting churned over time. It has been a constant tussle of ideas, old and new. A lot has been achieved. No one has to be in a ghoonghat in our house anymore, there is general acceptance of the concept of women working full-time, or wearing what they want to wear. Their views are heard, respected. We are not a fully liberal family, yet. But I am happy at the small steps we have taken. Imagine, now, if someone like me, comes and tells the women at home, ‘ghoonghat is beautiful’. I can imagine a wide-eyed acceptance from the earlier generation, and three decades of progress would be lost.
 
You may not see what I see. You have not lived my life. I am willing to see your perspective too. But, I want you to see that you are harming your own cause, the cause that you are so emotional about.
 
2. Someone posted a series of tweets on Twitter about how divorce rates in India are low only because women silently tolerate domestic abuse. Emphasis added on ‘only because’. Women all over Facebook felt that their suppressed emotions have finally been expressed, and they had a collective orgasm over the tweets. It was not a post on the very pertinent issue of domestic abuse that women face. It was a post on low divorce rates in India. And, I can easily count a lot of other reasons on why marriages work better in India (or at least they did). I was a misogynist the moment I pointed that out.
 
No one is denying that domestic abuse against women is a serious issue, and needs a lot more attention, awareness, and efforts. But when the topic is about marriage – a union of ‘two’ human beings – you cannot ignore the emotions, efforts, sacrifices of one of them totally, only because it doesn’t suit your narrative. Why just marriage, no relationship will ever work without both individuals doing their bit to strike harmony, something which our current generation is struggling with.
 
Yes, there are many cases of women trapped in abusive relationships, who choose not to call it off because of children or other reasons. But can the opposite never happen? I was told that domestic abuse against men, if at all it’s an issue, would be statistically insignificant. Really? Also, I was told not to raise it when matter of women’s emancipation was being discussed. But, hey, we are anyway discussing marriages working better, and not domestic abuse against women. The two are not synonymous, not to a man who doesn’t want to perpetually self-flagellate.  
 
And one only needs to google to find how serious the issue of domestic abuse against men is. Even if many of these reports are exaggerated (a likely counter), what would definitely come out that it is not an issue that can be written off as ‘statistically insignificant’. Abuse is not just physical, it is also emotional. Have there ever been studies on why middle-aged men get into depression? Have there ever been studies on causes of suicides in married men? By declining that this issue is even relevant, one can only highlight the hypocrisy of the argument ‘feminism is about equality of both genders’.
 
3. A feminist friend celebrated the feminism of the movie ‘Badrinath ki Dulhania’ by writing a detailed review on what was right and what was wrong in the movie. A few other feminist friends discussed threadbare each and every socially relevant issue that the movie portrayed. I pointed out that their feminist super-hero in the movie made fun of a male victim of sexual assault. I was quickly labeled as one who brings up male sexual assault every time female sexual assault is discussed, and how the feminists can't help but get abusive when such degenerate men express their views.
 
Hello, you are celebrating feminism of the movie and its protagonist, and feminism in your own words is about equality of both genders. It’s not a post on women’s issues. It’s a post on a movie, and all the good and bad things it represents. How can you ignore something so insensitive as a sexual assault, and how can I be a villain for pointing that out. You wouldn’t get it because you were not the only one squirming in your seat when the entire theatre was guffawing at the actor getting assaulted during that scene. You wouldn’t get it because for you a rape joke against women is offensive and akin to a real assault, but male sexual abuse is statistically insignificant, and hence, irrelevant. 
 
4. I found feminists rejoicing over an article on 'woke' men (whatever that term means). If I were to present a gist, it essentially invoked men to speak up for women’s rights instead of just personally practicing them. Even if I were to ignore how the article completely misses the point that such men would already be doing it, I couldn’t take my mind away from the stereotyping, offensive language, and the slander. Some of the gems from the article, all directed towards men:
 
Every aspect of your upbringing was stacked to make you an asshole.
Literally every possible formative influence placed you at the centre of a universe that exists for your dicksuckery.
I mean this sincerely: you, the woke desi boy, are a wonder of the world. I don’t know how you came to be this way. Liberal parents? A progressive education? A feminist girlfriend or boyfriend? A love for reading? Or just serendipitous stumbling upon the many inclusive corners of the internet?
 
Somewhere during their journey, feminists decided that the best way to fight stereotyping of women, was to stereotype men. Since men like the macho rough-talk, let’s abuse them, right?. That should get their goat. Quite unsurprisingly, the article suffers from the widely-prevalent syndrome where the author refuses to step-down from the imaginary pedestal of her vanity. She begins the article by first claiming a higher intellectual ground than her opponents (men, in this case), uses prejudiced and condescending rhetoric to make her point, and once you are squirming from the insult, she would give you the solace of her ‘belief’ in you. Quite a novel way to get someone on your side I must say. All this while completely ignoring the basic fact that the person was already on your side.
 
It’s very easy to claim victimhood. And no one knows that art better than feminists who have never had to suffer male privilege.
 
There have been many other incidents definitely, but I must have forgotten about them, given my age. In each of these cases, however, what stands out in my eyes, is the perpetual victimhood, and emotional hijacking of virtually every issue to show men in a negative light. And, no, it’s not ok. If you have the right to take comments on ill-executed feminism personally, men like me have every right to take your diatribe against men personally. You must raise a voice against injustices meted out to women, please do so, and I will join you in any capacity that I can. It is a movement that needs more people, more awareness, more push, yes. But spinning out-of-context sob-stories, I am sorry, I don’t have patience for that. But, yes, I am not as bigoted with my views, not yet anyway. Perhaps, feminism for many is an emotional concept, and not a logical one.
 
A long time ago, while riding a metro, I stood a mute spectator to a feminist bringing her worst wrath down upon a male co-passenger because, in her mind, the latter had molested her. It was my misfortune that I stood at the vantage point where I could see that it wasn’t the guy’s fault at all. But I stood quiet. We were standing next to the women’s seats. A lot of young girls, and other ladies looked on, as many men and other women started abusing the guy. I didn’t want to shame the girl. Probably, if I spoke in favour of the guy, many of these other girls and women would be scared into silence forever. Maybe, they would never again raise their voice against any man touching them inappropriately in a crowded metro. So, I killed my conscience and stood quiet, because I thought of those other women. Today, I am not so sure if I did the right thing. Because I have come to believe that feminism doesn’t help those who need it the most.
 
So, my ladies, I am not a feminist, not the feminist that you are, nor the one you are slowly becoming. And, no, I don't hate you for what you are.
 

2 comments:

Kavity said...

You are a feminist, by your own admission of how you react when a group of men objectify women. And, I am glad I pick my friends wisely. As to each point in the post, there are some I agree to and some I don't, but many of us have had these debates for long on FB posts, so I am not going to get into that. It is ok to disagree on individual points if, overall, we are all striving for gender equality in our own way. Heart is in the right place then.
Now, I am glad that my post made you post in response. However, it is unfortunate that you have quoted the only emotional paragraph in my post while terming my entire post "emotional". Though the topic is extremely close to my heart, I have tried to be as objective as possible with the help of facts and data points where available. Holding back emotions has been difficult, and holding back individual instances of how lack of equality has played out in my own life even more difficult. Because, I find it unfair to talk about myself when there are so many women who are not even in the privileged position I am in, as far as equality is concerned.
I am not a misandrist who misuses laws against sexual harassment unlawfully. It would have been nice if the quote on me didn't appear so uncomfortably close after that statement of yours about misandrists.

Yogesh said...

Kavitha - my finding your post emotional doesn't take away anything from it. I have said that I agreed in principle with most of what you wrote.
I quoted only the part that bothered me, and this blog is only a reaction to that, and to many other such discussions I have had over time.
I checked again. I have nowhere insinuated that you are a misandrist. I do not believe that. My post may be in reaction to your blog, but the post is not addressed to you in particular.

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