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6

I wrote this post quite a few times, totally different each time, and finally decided to scrap it all to simply state my bottom line.

There is a lot of gender inequality in the world. Women are often victimized for being women. There is high and increasing incidence of violent crimes like rapes, murders, acid attacks, brutal beatings, forced marriages, dowry demands, dowry deaths, threats of harm, honor killings, molestations... the list goes on and on.

Every time I have written on the subject, I have had a few people pestering me insisting that I talk about harm done to men. Yet, every time I have asked them to bring up enough content to protest for men's rights, none have returned. Some examples provided by such activists for men's rights have ranged from "wife forcing me to watch stupid TV shows" to "economic terrorism", in the sense of asking to give money at home. None of these petty examples have included those with any physical harm or loss of life.

This is a tiring and petty attitude. It is immature and abusive to even compare loss of life with being forced to watch a TV show, yet I am flooded with these inane comments every time I speak up for a cause.

However, these comments serve an important purpose. They serve to demonstrate the massive sense of entitlement most men have, where it doesn't even seem irrational to present such examples as a part of a serious objection to raising awareness of women's rights. It is this utter disregard for what a woman goes through that has remained the hallmark of a culture that sanctions and turns a blind eye toward abuse. Where the male in his prime years is held in such high esteem that his inconvenience or irritation holds more weight than countless deaths scrolling through our newspapers on a daily basis.

Such men usually hate me, but prefer to call me a man hater instead. They do not like the attention not being on them. They do not like not being the ones receiving attention. They do not like to own any accountability for any harm from callous attitudes as they demonstrate. Their largest problem with me is that they are not able to prevent me from speaking up, they are not able to distract me from speaking up, they are not able to prove me wrong. I hold the attention firmly on the cause and do not allow it to be derailed. So, I am "insensitive to the rights of men".

It is ugly, but it is as innocent as a child's tantrum, for the simple reason that they have not reached a point in their learning where they are able to appreciate people. If I hated them, I would be doing an injustice, because ignorance may be irritating, but it is not a crime, and it is never deliberate. No one aspires to be insensitive.

Sadly, such men are also the vast majority. Which is also the problem with creating a safer society with women. Half the population sees no need for making any such effort. Crime statistics mean nothing to them, and pointing those statistics out irritates them, because they don't think it should take up too much attention.

Others claim to support women, but there is this patronizing cage. They support women "to a certain extent". They allow women some rights, as long as they don't do it "too much". So, these people look like support, but they are not, and that hurts more, because till that point, there is this illusion of that person actually caring.

And, in the midst of this mediocre, unenlightened sea of humanity, are some men who genuinely see women as people. They don't believe they have any rights to impose limits on another. They see injustices and raise their voice. They recognize that women often get suppressed and have no problem in accepting and supporting this as something that needs fixed on an urgent basis. These are men the world needs more of.

Not so surprisingly, these are also the men who are sensitive to the rights of men. Not the TV torture types, but real harm being done to men, that chauvinists don't notice just like they don't notice harm to women, because they are simply not tuned in to others. They grudge women more, because women suffer injustice more. It isn't like they are capable of understanding men either. A person sensitive to another has no insecurity with a cause taking up all the space it needs to.

It is the sign of a mature person. A confident person, who is not diminished by others being nurtured.

A friend had married last year. We hated the guy and had refused to attend the wedding. Her parents had reluctantly agreed. The man was a peacock. He was so full of his own importance that he simply didn't care about anyone else and as this led to irresponsibility and conflicts. A year after their marriage, she was back at her parents place with a black eye. Two days after she left, the boy came to her father's house to "convince her to not destroy her life and come home". Her father refused to let him in the house, told him to go away and conduct any further communications through a divorce lawyer and threatened to call the cops if he didn't leave at once.

This takes a man. A man who sees his daughter as a human being being wronged and doesn't consider idle chatter of a spiteful world enough reason to make her suffer more. Sure, she got a lecture about her irresponsible actions and refusal to listen to any of us, but that did not mean that she would have to pay for it by suffering.

There are men who think for themselves, and expect that a woman has as much right to live and be happy as a man. Men who do not force women to comply to imposed rules. They are also free in a sense most men are not able to understand. They are free from having to always be in the right and proving superior that victimizes many men.

A tantrum throwing man who has a problem with another person getting too much attention is juvenile. It is the opposite of sexy like a headache is the opposite of aroused. There is no sense of ease, of freedom, of enough relaxation for attraction to bloom. It is a jumpy game of power, where everything is seen through a rigid, defensive lens of approval and disapproval.

On the other hand, a man who enjoys seeing a woman being herself, who is able to see a difference as a healthy thing and doesn't make a monument out of winning every tiny issue is sexy because there is a sense of being real. A trust in being able to understand the relationship by things making sense, rather than comply out of some vague sense of hierarchy and how a relationship should be.

In my eyes, a man worthy of respect is one I can safely disagree with without suffering for it. I don't have to dumb myself down and pretend stupid or risk hurting their ego. These men are attractive, and I am not speaking of "sexual attraction" here. I am speaking of charismatic, magnetic personalities you can be yourself with. Men rooted firmly in their values rather than rules. Like being with a superstar as an equal. Very fun. No matter what the age.

These are also the men who happen to say NO to the rubbish hangovers of an oppressive past. These are the men who are truly free to evolve.

 

This Blog is part of the Men Say No Blogathon, encouraging men to take up action against the violence faced by women. 
More entries to the Blogathon can be read at www.mustbol.in/blogathon. Join further conversation on facebook.com/delhiyouth & twitter.com/mustbol

2

Some observations that I have seen with power and people in any group.

  1. Attention is power. If you forget this, you can't understand the rest of this page.
  2. Everybody wants power. Including those who say "I don't care". It is an instinct, not a multiple choice question. Without this, you wouldn't have a survival instinct, you wouldn't have any logic left to your actions. Whether you actually have power, or how you choose to get it, or how do you define having power to yourself may vary.
  3. There is a hierarchy of power in any group. No matter if it is leaderless. No matter if it is a country with a visible leader, or a couple who respects each other, or a group of friends of similar profile. There is no such thing as two people with equal power.
  4. Power is a fluid thing. It keeps shifting from person to person. In a hierarchy that is clearly defined, or institutionalized, it shifts less easily, less noticeably. In informal situations where there is no conscious understanding of  a leader, it shifts rapidly.
  5. Two kinds of power wars happen. The first is to gain power, by challenging someone more powerful, the other is to retain power, to suppress someone who might become more powerful. In essence they are the same, only depends on where you stand. They are happening all the time. You can't escape this, because the survival instinct demands that you do all you can to remain powerful or grow in power. Denying instinct is futile. It will still manifest unnoticed by the denier, but increasingly obvious to observers.
  6. Because a person in power gets challenged by those who want power, we all have an automatic hesitation to be noticed as powerful. We may not understand the reluctance, but we do voice it tentatively, when we make modesty a virtue, or refuse to lead for fear of attack.
  7. Resisting a bid for power itself transfers some power to the bid. Attention is power. Attention of one in power is more potent than attention of one who is not.
  8. There are several power hierarchies in operation simultaneously. They are contextual. You may have power over your boss in some aspect of work because of your expertise, but your boss has power over you as well when it comes to your job or authority over it.

Some ways in which existing hierarchies are supported

There are also several ways in which a hierarchy is supported by people because it works to their advantage. Seen in more permanent ways in an institutionalized situation, it also happens spontaneously. Some ways are:

  1. Accepting the power commanded in the moment by willingly being attentive. This happens as a natural part of communication. Most people do it. Those who resist this are generally avoided unless necessary.
  2. Allowing someone the leadership of the group based on expertise, trust or disinterest in subject.
  3. Rallying behind someone to add power to that person in order to achieve a larger goal of interest to you.

Some ways in which power is granted:

  1. Formally - by conferring authority
  2. Agreeing or accepting
  3. Recommending

Some ways in which power is challenged:

  1. Dissent
  2. Direct challenge
  3. Interruption and redirection of attention.

Some reasons why change in power is desired:

  1. Desire to influence happenings in a different or more advantageous way
  2. Loss of trust in one in power
  3. The one in power harming those with less power.

I don't think these have been listed out quite like that by anyone. There are endless ways and reasons. The examples are more to help you learn to recognize, so that you can spot it happening in the wild, so to say.

They are based on my observations of groups. They can be verified by observing groups, but not everyone has the skills to diagnose interactions, so for the purposes of this article, I ask you to trust these as valid till you can think these out or verify for yourself. Generally speaking, anyone capable of reading this does have enough life experience to analyze the statements for validity given some time to think, remember instances and deliberate.

This understanding of power will form the basis of a few articles on subjects ranging from abuse to child rights to politics. Will list them here as I write them. If the article was written as clearly as I see these flows, you'll probably write the articles in the comments on your own 😀