Not a day passes without the crusade for the up-liftment of women being fought for across the world, and with both men and women lending their voices to this cause of necessity. I was very happy to see the cover of the Femina issue for International Women's Day sporting Aamir Khan as the spokesperson for gender rights and equality. We however need many more men to stand up and speak out against violence towards women and register their outrage at the skewered bias towards male progenies that lead to tragic terminations of female fetuses. In the same issue of Femina (March 16th 2013), I have contributed an article for their guest section looking back, in which amongst other pointers of gender relevance, I high-light the need for men to stand up and be counted on issues of gender equality. Their views on this subject must now be audible if we are to collectively address a nation to find their conscience and acknowledge that violence against women must be dealt with zero tolerance.
For International Women's Day I share this recently published article with you......
Manifesto for Indian Men.*
Crimes against women are the front-page news each day; the staple diet we feed to the adolescent boys of our country. In this unhealthy climate of violence against women, why don’t Indian men who are different from the stereo-typical desi lafangey begin to stand-up to be counted! With the mood of zero tolerance for sexual harassment and oppressive behavior towards women resounding through the protests that flooded the streets of India recently, I thought it appropriate on the occasion of International Women’s Day to examine some basic norms that define respectful co-existence of the sexes. I would also urge and encourage men to set the record straight by declaring through communication and action that there are indeed many men in India with a gender-sensitive conscience; who are equally appalled to find themselves pigeon holed and portrayed as thugs and brutes, within this growing scenario of male-hooliganism that makes national headlines that are both gruesome and tragic.
The loin-in-your-face and the hand-up-your-skirt attitude of the caveman variety, with the myth of chest-thumping he-man aggression as the calling card of male virility is totally off-putting for women today. The crude innuendos of popular Indian films, which characterize stalking and harassment as the modules of courtship, obviously have inept research teams with no clue on what women really find appealing. So if sex-in-your-face macho-ism isn’t the trump card to play, then what is it that does impress women genuinely?
The funny thing is that the answer is very simple. There are no tricks involved to determine dignity and honesty within relationships between the two sexes; and men only have to reflect upon one of the age old precincts of common sense wisdom, which is to respect another as you would yourself. It is in the small gestures of consideration that we humanize our engagement with people, and determine the value of intentions by our corresponding actions. We need to make this the credo for all human behavior if we are to evidence significant change in society.
Authoritative despotic men who revel in power tactics that intimidate are intolerable caricatures of playground bullies. Women despise the display of strong-arm posturing, preferring instead men who can negotiate co-existence through insightful compassion. Life is not black and white but holds nuanced spaces that require collective endeavors to be deciphered. Honesty and vulnerability are valued instead of action-man bravado and mob mentality.
The division of the sexes is a conservative mindset that needs to be abandoned in 21st century India. Men who parade sexist attitudes need to sit in the dunce’s corner. The new school of thought insists on demolishing gender hierarchies. Women seek equal status as the logical platform in male-female associations, and cringe at the notion of adopting the bhai prefix to male friendships as a means of “inviting” protection. This Indian tendency of attributing purity to women via concocted sibling status, as a method of desexualizing and attributing “virginal” respectability, is demeaning to the ideals of empowerment and independence of women.
Perhaps Indian men need to become more comfortable with their sexuality so that it does not burst in our faces like a flooded dam that finally becomes potentially dangerous. The lead up to intimacy must hold finesse and be absent of violence. Subtlety is undoubtedly the most alluring magic within the arena of sexuality and it has to hold consensual desire for it to manifest its beauty. So get it right guys because the rules of the game are finally changing. Rev down your engines and change your gear because the map of co-existence no longer reads the same today. Amen to that!
* published in Femina march 16, 2013