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3

Rape apologist is a term I have become very familiar with it. Every time there is an outrage on social media with accusations of rape or harassment made against a man, my refusal to join in or my questioning of the e-lynchings is interpreted as supporting crimes against women. Thankfully, I'm not particularly dependent on public approval for my well being, so no harm done. Yet. But this bothers me on another level. There seems something fundamentally wrong in how we see gender conflicts.

What is more important? A gender functional society or proving men wrong?

This is important to identify because the goal will determine the means we use. To prove men wrong (which appears to be the popular preference), not much is needed. You simply condemn them. Over and over. Attack them if they defend themselves, attack anyone who interferes in the process. Rinse, repeat. We have been doing this for a while. So where is the change? Where is the progress toward the goal? It is already established that men are the greater perpetrators of crimes against women than vice versa. What new thing do we prove?

My preference is a gender functional society. I am content to leave the process of fixing blame on the courts and focus my attention on how the problems can be prevented. I see no reason to judge an accused with the information available to me unless there is evidence that the legal process is being subverted. Then social effort is the inferior fallback. That too should eventually lead to the courts. I prefer to see women as individuals of varying capacity - as the feminists insist we should - see them as people. So I have no idea why we infantalize them and lower the bar of their autonomy so low that they basically trip into justice?

Not all women are powerless, truthful or fair

This particularly goes for upper middle class women in situations that are short of physical violence. Women of this class are increasingly actualized and assertive. They are most certainly capable of being the powerful person in the relationship (and thus having the power to abuse). They are certainly capable of lying, just as men are. They are capable of emotional manipulation (actually women who do this tend to be better than men at it, because men have considerably less emotional maturity and thus the skills to manipulate successfully). They can gaslight a partner just as surely as a partner can gaslight them. They are people. In all the dimensions that involves. It is very patronizing to consider them capable of being nothing more than victims, always (though the smarter the woman is, the more she will use this to her advantage).

No, I am not saying women are evil, or inherently manipulative and men are innocent. I am simply pointing out that BOTH are people. With all their flaws and vulnerabilities. If you want one of them to win and you take sides, fair enough, but let us not pretend it is a process of justice then, it is a gangwar between two sides. My preference is to hear both of them and ensure both of them are allowed to speak. To support the woman in following processes to get justice as well as support the man if he is being denied a voice in the name of protecting the woman. Hopefully at some point it resolves or goes to court where better people than me will judge.

Not all abusive men are malicious

Society raises men with some godawful defaults. Men, being on top of this foodchain have little reason to evaluate their privilege unless there is a compelling reason. This is not right. It is not wrong. It is what it is till something changes it. If we mean to change it, how are we planning to? By discarding the inferior specimen or upgrading them? Are they totally useless or do they have insights for us? What happens when a specimen did all the right things and then fucked up? Have you never fucked up witht he opposite gender? I have. I have completely missed all signs of reluctance in an inexperienced man when I was horny. He didn't refuse. I assumed consent. He didn't initiate, I assumed playing safe with a woman. He seemed horny. In reality he was attracted, but not expecting sex at all and he was not even close to feeling ready for it, let alone being ambushed by a much more experienced woman. He'd never had sex. When I realized, I felt like a lecherous pot-bellied uncle pawing at a kid. Thankfully I'm a woman. Also thankfully, I realized it before it went too far and before he was forced to speak up. I apologized. I hear it is a proof of guilt these days. It was still wrong. I did it. I learned what not to do from it. I didn't do it again. But it was completely unintended and I apologized and stopped when I learned. That is the magic word.

If we are to prevent gender violence, we need to engage with men. That needs to be a higher priority than cornering them for a lynching. Does this mean you become a "rape apologist"? No. Does it mean I forgive men if they say sorry? No. It means being aware that while you may enjoy being Jhansi ki Raani, the forgivenesss is neither mine nor yours to give. We are not the people wronged (except when we are, then of course it is our call). We best serve by keeping a dialogue open instead of shutting people up by speaking for them or not letting them speak. By supporting both, but also recognizing that women can be disproportionately more vulnerable to intimidation or violence and being protective observers. In other words, offering the conflict a safe space to play out. This can be as simple as calling an action unacceptable, but not taking sides and imposing our own preferred judgments.

But I don't believe that mass condemnations fulfill any useful purpose. An actual creep just adds to his bogus victim narrative and a genuinely regretful person cannot afford to hold the right stand because it will make him a target. At the same time, if the victim needs assistance and asks for it, we must extend it. If we believe she needs assistance and she hasn't asked for it, we may offer it. Beyond that, this business of targeting people is little more than a Khap Panchayat conducted on social media. Where random tinpot dictators carry out punishments on whim.

Not all wrongs are crimes

Divorce rates are rising rapidly. Relationships are breaking all the time. Almost each one of them will come to a bitter end before splitting. That is a lot of bitterness. And each one will have their own version of the story. People lie to their partners, they cheat on them, they say ugly, hurtful things, they fight, they are unfair to each other, they rewrite memories of time together through various interpretations in hindsight.... it is all human behavior. Men make passes at women, women can be so paranoid of misbehavior that they may see it in an ignorant action.

To me, a big part of what is right and wrong is intent. Whether the person intends hate or harm or whether it is an entitled idiot. Idiots can be educated. Malice is deliberate. It is in the interest of both men and women that there be education for the idiots and the punishments be reserved for malice. And I am saying this as a person who has been on the receiving end of serious wrongs at the hands of men. Some I will never forgive, others hurt more, but I knew it was an idiot, not a villain.

There is a legitimate space for counselling, for social dialogue, mediation, that is rapidly being lost in the lust to come down hard on "what we cannot accept" - it has become an exhibition of our own ethics more than a quest for functional solutions. When you see an idiot, there is no point saying his mother should have raised him better, it is better if you engage with him and help him evolve his thinking. I do that. Which is how I know a lot of people learn.

A lot of men learn the opposite too from the lynch mob culture

In recent years, I have seen men who would normally identify as "feminists" and lecture me about my sneering at feminists come to very very serious trouble over their actions with intimate partners. Actions they most certainly regret and don't defend at all. Actions they did not realize till too late were wrong. They have lost jobs, they have lost friends, they have been completely uprooted from life as they knew it. All three have sworn off intimate relationships for life. They are decent people. I have also heard a real creep say that if he's been branded as a rapist, he might as well rape. In none of the cases was the impact what one would hope for, for a functional society.

One could argue that the world is better off with them being single. Forever. It is a matter of perspective. I think people who tend to do wrong need intimacy even more than most, and they would be better off learning how to be functional with it. Who is to decide what is better? My view is that it should be the person wronged. But a truly authentic judgment by them too cannot be possible if we have a mob baying for blood and making any forgiveness look like a crime against women immemorial. Letting the side down and all, letting a man walk free, etc.

There is absolutely nothing preventing legal justice for the woman and indeed our presence should ensure that. But is it our place to push her toward one or the other? I believe not. I don't see a "virtue" in punishing men. I see a virtue in adequate amends being made, to the satisfaction of the injured party (no, I'm not talking about negotiating marriages by bullying her).

When confronted, it is invariably the decent ones who would admit and apologize if they even believe they were in the least at fault, because their ethics don't stand for harming women - and they do not like that they did it. But if any admission or apology is proof of guilt, then it is very fast education for men that even if you fuck up, don't admit. It is what the powerful do and get away with. This is counterproductive to gender relations.

Patronizing women does not empower them

Women are assumed to be the weaker gender for historical and actual reasons. Men, traditionally being the custodians of power, are assumed to be deliberately malicious in their actions against the woman. If they apologize, it is proof, if they deny, they are victim blaming. There is no right answer once the accusation is public. But there is no option that says they did not realize the gravity of their actions till too late. This would not bother me in the least if the guilt of the man were indisputable - for example crowds thrashing molesters brings me unholy glee. I definitely believe that social rejection of crimes against women is a superior answer to solving them than judicial punishments that happen out of sight. Because social rejection is deterrence as well. Gang rapes happen because some find it entertaining and others mind their business. Growing gang rapes is the opposite of this social rejection/

Even better if the man publicly admits his mistake. Still better if the woman forces him to do it and wins and gets him acknowledged publicly as the one in the wrong with his actions. Unless there is injury or other complications in the case, I actually believe this to be the superior solution to cases dragging on for years punishing the victim further - best case, years of inconvenience, worse case, reliving trauma over and over, lack of closure. At the end of it, the perpetrator gets punished - maybe. I definitely think an immediate and public demand for accountability, getting it and punishment or apology as the case may be is better.

But this too must be a woman led process. You cannot simply corner a man and bombard him with condemnation. There is a need for victims too to learn to find their voice and us LISTENING to them, instead of barging in with our recommendations is a good start. What does she want? Does she simply want to shame him? Does she WANT him to be cornered and forced to flee or apologize? Does she want to confront him and demand answers? Does she want a public acknowledgment of the harm he did to her? You will never know, if you already know what must be done with "men like him". Nor is the woman empowered in being thought of as too stupid to lie or too dumb to strategize how to confront someone who wronged her.

The more robustly and fairly you can hold the space for the process to play out, the more dignity you afford her. Or... if she was trying to frame someone, that comes out too. Help enough women - actually help through a situation, not just comment and forget and you'll run into it. And you don't get used and end up having to bear guilt. Have you ever thought what happened in the conscience of those "well meaning" souls who went on national TV condemning Khurshid Anwar for his rape that he was denying shortly before he committed suicide? I have thought of it often. He may well have been guilty or innocent. But what happened still wasn't justice. I don't believe having an ideological obligation to support women quite covers my willingness to risk irreparable harm to men for my conscience. I don't have a side in this war. I want evolution to coexistence. There is much to learn. For men, for (gasp) women, and for us, in relatively better off situations, trying to help others.

Nor does it do women any respect to blindly go with everything they say as though it is too much to expect a woman to have her words scrutinized like an actual person. Protect them from harm, definitely. Act on everything they say? Let's skip the Pavlov for a bit. Try this. Your mom is a woman too. It is very unlikely you wish her ill. Would you believe everything she said and act on her behalf immediately if she accused someonein your family or your father ? But then you know her. You see her as a real person. Worthy of you applying your mind to her situation and offering her your highest analysis instead of blind nods. You know what she can be counted on to narrate factually and where she is likely to be overwhelmed by her perspective. Unlike your trophies of messiah showcasing. You'd give her the respect of not being blind and responding on autopilot but being the eyes examining her blind spots. You would question, ask for details, want a fuller picture before jumping in with a high stakes decision. And you would back her interest all the way, and would be her fiercest champion if she were wronged but not necessarily based on the first emotional, incoherent and one sided narration! This isn't shaming her. It is support. It is support that cares to invest deeper thinking and want genuinely beneficial solutions. Women and men on the internet are real people too. Not just props for your exhibition of rapid ethics.

Unlike the people who call me names for raining on their exhibition, I actually make an effort to engage with the victim, offer support beyond social media and even my home in cases that need an exit. I have got in the face of raging men and stood in their way with flat out refusals for access to women. I don't need to talk pretty, because I solidly act in their interest and have done it enough to know that the tongue waggers are irrelevant to what needs to be done and short of physical violence, it almost never is immediate action. Takes longer than the life cycle of a trend.

Anyway, this is another partial ramble on the subject of gender relations (I'm planning to write a book, because too many things and nuances to consider).

Moral of the story is, you believe women are historically wronged and therefore every single man to harm a woman must pay for the sins of his fathers, so to say instead of having the luxury of being someone who didn't know better in the here and now. And this is assuming the accusation is truthful, I believe that if a man or woman can be educated to be more effective with the opposite gender, it is a value addition to a society. If they cannot, there still is a need for a space for calm dialogue, developing a larger picture and a person led process toward resolving - whether with understanding or legal process. Therefore, your responses and mine, to cases brought into social media courts differ because we differ in what role we believe society should play. It is ok. You have your view, I have mine. I have no idea which is better. I am choosing based on what I know at the moment. But I have the right to hold my view, as you do yours. Disagreement with you does not amount to malintent.

Some days I fear I'm going to end up as an ideological sanctuary for dysfunctional men in transit into gender sensitivity. Not because I won't put them six feet under and dance on their metaphorical graves (I have one hell of a ruthless streak) if called for. I totally would and I don't think anyone has any illusions about that. I think it will be because I won't, till called for, no matter what a mob thinks.

Because I'd rather society works, than finding someone to blame for it not working and having zero tolerance for any learning curve. I would rather have a presence that brings awareness and insist that the right thing be done, than simply discard people one after the other as they are found imperfect. Will be a pretty empty world then.

5

The Aam Aadmi Party made a huge deal out of women's safety. Women were among those campaigning for AAP on the streets. Taking out rallys. Yet the 46% of women voters are represented by less than 10% of MLAs and NO ONE in the cabinet - where most of the power of the government resides.

This is not an accident. It is impossible that Arvind Kejriwal did not realize that there was no woman on his cabinet. It was also brought to his attention. This is deliberate.

I have been bringing this up on social media over the last two days and here are some reasons/responses/excuses I got defending this all male cabinet and why I don't think they wash.

No one should be chosen for gender

Well, there is a Muslim and Dalit on the cabinet. And that is a good thing. But I doubt that they were chosen by accident. So the larger question is why AAP sees a need to show some vote banks a visible represenation but not women who comprise almost half of all voters and voted overwhelmingly for AAP? Their votes got taken for granted and no power needs to be given to their representatives? If no one can be chosen for gender, no one can be excluded for gender either. When there is not a single woman on board, the question is less about choosing for gender and time to ask if the exclusion was for gender.

Even having Muslim and dalit is wrong only capability should be seen not tokenism

If you assume that the natural owners of power are Hindu upper caste men, then them including others is "tokenism" and a handout. If you are choosing to form a team to govern a diverse city, minorities of religion, caste and gender bring with them practical experiences of realities and problems faced by various identities that are not as obvious to the "majority". This is good team formation, not favors done to anyone. If you are ruling a diverse city, perspectives on its diversity are COMPETENCE - not handouts and tokenism and symbolism. To call them thus basically implies that they have no right to power and the default inheritors of power are upper caste Hindu men and anyone else getting it must have to earn it.

Men handling women and children ministry is refreshing

Sure it is. I never said you need a woman cabinet minister to serve as some custodian of the harem. Even if there are women on the cabinet, a man can handle the Women and Children portfolio, though it may take some juggling to manage when dealing with sensitive situations. The presence of a woman brings a perspective on realities of women that is an extremely relevant competence when you made a big fuss of your "womanifesto".

An all male cabinet tasked with delivering women's safety is like a bachelor advising women on how many children they should have. Or an all women's team designing the city's toilets including urinals for men. The logic and intent may be there, but what do they even know about the realities? How many of the cabinet ministers get stalked or groped or catcalled just because they happen to be men?

This is something every woman faces - not just specially designated victims. It is relevant to women's safety. Women are the most affected by issues of water shortage - another huge point on AAP's manifesto. Women form the majority of people ferrying water to households, the majority of people using water for household work. Women are the people most involved with caring for children and the sick. They are the ones who birth babies. They form a huge chunk of those interacting with the healthcare system. Women are disproportionately higher among those taking charge of their children's education. They are those who juggle household budgets and most impacted by prices of food or fuel on the aam aadmi level.

They thus have significantly different challenges from men and thus priorities and a completely different way of looking at problems and solutions because of that. They will have a different approach and perspective on policies . To not have a single woman among the core decision makers of the government is like saying the womanifesto was a JUMLA and 46% women should be happy with what we men decide to give you.

Can't men deliver what women need?

Of course they can. They've been doing it for thousands of years. They can. The Khap Panchayat can too, if it wants, and so can this cabinet if it thinks making a big show of giving stuff to women will get it glory as a good government that delivers. It is called patriarchy. Where women's needs are articulated by men, they aren't capable enough to be among men as equals in important positions of authority and they can have their needs met as men deem appropriate and they aren't capable enough to have a say on their own realities. It essentially says women are too stupid to fix their own problems. I don't respect this rubbish. Particularly given that I find most men incapable of understanding women or respecting their needs.

The points are endless. When there is abject inequality, you cannot approach it from any side without glaring wrongs being visible.

If anyone makes further arguments worth mentioning, I will add them here.

 

Men on the whole seem to be more physical than women, and today is a good time to realize it, looking at wiry, sweaty bodies coming together into highly skilled pyramids in a timeless enactment of a mythological trait. Yet this is a day well condemned for a variety of reasons, most of them a reflection of how our middle classes are rapidly losing respect for our traditions. The other part relates with women's safety. There is a perception of a lot of physically fit men, high on adrenaline engaging in inappropriate behavior with women. I see this as a good day to look at how we see men and the things they do.

Increasingly, the physicality of men is seen as a bad thing. Loud behavior, aggression, ogling women or even simply sweating for the wrong reason seems to be seen as threatening. This morning I was witness to an ugly rant about how rowdy drunk men go around in trucks molesting women and taking risks with lives in the name of culture, creating road blocks and generally being a nuisance.

And yet I wonder where these perceptions come from. The team on the truck usually belongs to a gymnasium, which is run like a school, with very respected teachers. They practice for months for the entire team to be able to create those pyramids flawlessly in order to reach a pot that can be hung as high as four stories high. They cannot afford to be drunk and they are risking their very lives for the thrill of challenge and the reward money. They go from one location to another, traveling all over the city, breaking as many pots as they can.

Am I saying there are no people drunk? Of course not. It would be stupid to make guarantees of this sort. However, I can guarantee there are far fewer drunks than you can find at your average disco any night. So what is it that makes these people seem so threatening to women? I think a lot of this is class snobbery. Most people learning sport in akhadas come from poor to lower middle class families. Almost all of them are tanned and wiry in stature. The definition of "handsome" in a man is rapidly becoming about bulky bodies, dry skin and wealth. We see these men as alien, and thus a greater threat than your average groper in a disco, who may be obnoxious and swaying as he stands, but speaks English, uses deo and allows us the illusion of "civility" or being in control. It is an illusion. There is a reason discos are seen as trouble spots by cops. It is a place where a lot of people are drunk and loaded with adrenaline from dancing. But they are air conditioned. And we have these strange beliefs that air conditioning makes a civilized space. Think about it.

This fits in also with a larger cultural snobbery of thin, wiry men being often from lower castes and menial professions. All this is unconscious. Calculated in the blink of an eye, before we know anything about a person.

And then of course, is the de-sexing of genders that seems to be a prevalent "hep" way of thinking. What makes a man a man or a woman a woman? Our minds are so resistant to the idea of acknowledging differences other than those that can be proved biologically (and thus we don't have to be responsible for thinking them). We are so resigned to not controlling men that we see reject masculine traits. Of course that doesn't prevent us from being attracted to them or repelled by them. That doesn't prevent us from juxtaposing our identity against them.

Outrage about men ogling women is common. But we take little time to understand why we feel outraged. Would women really like it if no heads turned at their entry? Is this really the vision women have for themselves? That they wander the world unnoticed? If a woman is magnetic enough to turn heads entering a boardroom, wouldn't she do the same on a street? Why is it that instead of making women feel more confident about their right to attention because they matter, we perpetuate paranoia about attention being a threat?

Increasingly, it is seen that men who look working class are seen as "wrong" by default. As if a white collar look automatically also bestows character. Worse, women are actually conditioned to seek approval of such men. To cater to their attention, which compounds the good man, bad man prejudice. The fact remains that a dark skinned, wiry man dressed in a sweaty nylon T-shirt is not necessarily a greater or lesser threat to a woman than one who wears "casuals" and speaks English. This "herding" of women's preferences leads to great injustice to men who do not fit the "good guy" stereotype as well as women, who are taught to hesitate in a world full of non-ideal men.

If women have been exploited over the ages, men are being demonized for not fitting stereotypes. For making public displays of appreciation, for scratching their crotch or looking low class or farting or whatever. This is not about protecting women, it is empowerment coming at the cost of gender relations. But then it isn't even empowerment to declare the world at large unsafe for women (while recommending that they still navigate it).

In the process, what is lost is the actual feat characteristic of this day. Let us not look at all those dangerous men. Here is a dahi handi pyramid by girls.

Worth a thought. Does it seem that someone with the discipline to do this is more indisciplined and greater threat than normal society?

1

A few years ago, I had attended a Group Relations Conference, which basically is a learning environment for learning to sense the unconscious dynamics of a group. Over the five day duration of the programme, we learned to recognize common stereotypes, assumptions and tendencies in the group with regard to leadership. We were about 18 or so participants. All of us modern, sensitive people with greater or lesser interest in human behavior. As such, at the onset of the programme, I was fairly certain that I was not a prejudiced person. I was also fairly certain that most of us viewed genders with equal repsect, if not all.

The faculty were headed by a male and a female chairpersons who formally began the programme in the first session. Imagine my shock when within a few minutes into the programme, the male chairperson declared that the fact that we asked the woman chairperson questions about the programme but not him meant that we were prejudiced against her and wished to silence her. Frankly, I thought the man was a few paise less to the rupee. Wouldn’t the fact that we engaged more with her than him mean just the opposite? But it was the beginning of the programme.

A few minutes later another woman from the faculty observed that we were treating one of the male participants as some kind of alpha leader and another participant was competing with him in authority. The group lit up like there was a bomb under our seats. Furious questioning ensued. Accusations flew that the faculty was trying to create discord in the group, and more. A male member of the faculty intervened to explain that this was a hypothesis based on the actions of the group and things calmed enough to proceed. At that point, I was wondering if I should have attended at all. The faculty was obviously some kind of gender fanatics – I remember thinking this. What a waste of good money and five days…

It only struck me over lunch that we had so far had two women and two men speaking. Both women got questioned, the statements or explanations of both men had been accepted without question. Immediately my mind jumped to the explanation that it was a coincidence that both women spoke insanely, but that was not true. The first was simply introducing the faculty and asked us if we had questions, while the other made an observation, but didn’t force us to agree with it. Both the men had agreed with the women in the sense of upholding whatever they said, or questioning them being questioned, but we didn’t have a problem with them.

It was like being run over by a truck to realize that far from wasting my time and money, I had started learning from the word go. There were no guarantees that what I learned would only be pleasing. By the end of the first day, it was clear that this programme was like nothing we had ever experienced. The observations of the faculty were usually so shocking that we didn’t want to believe them, but the evidence was mounting that they were strictly based on observations of actual behavior in the group. We had already started seeing the first layer of our stereotypes that determined how seriously we took someone or if we allowed their authority to stand, or undermined it. All this without intending. We were shocked everytime to realize what we had done automatically as a group.

Sex, age, power – powerful programming around these determining our responses to people. On a very easy to understand level, would you trust a police man or police woman with your safety? Or, if you saw a stranger on the street, would you be as likely to be attracted or repulsed by a virile looking man/woman (opposite gender) in his prime or a potbellied, graying woman/man (same gender as yours) – both being utter strangers? We have these tapes playing in our head creating inexplicable biases we don’t even realize exist. We act on those biases. As a society, we have many common biases that get acted on, which can be a very powerful thing to overcome when they are harmful.

One of the many interesting observations around gender and leadership was that a situation with threat or potential for bad performance had a higher rate of women representatives. This was very clearly observed as men leading group decisions till such a time as a representative leader had to step up for something unknown (and the programme was VERY intimidating psychologically). In almost every instance, it was a woman who either volunteered (me included), or got nominated. However, the leader to take over from her was male in EVERY instance the group successfully passed the phase. It was unanimously agreed based on our individual observations that the perception of challenge was followed a woman becoming a leader in every instance that a woman led the group. Men leaders led both in times of challenge or otherwise. There was no instance of women leaders when the group was enjoying fruits of success, but one that could have become (but didn’t). That was the factual data from within the group. There also were a few hypotheses raised as to why this might be so. The top three that caught the interest of the group were:

  1. As a group, we were trying to “preserve” our males by treating women as cannon fodder in situations of threat, bringing men to the fore again once the threat had passed.
  2. The vulnerability of the group in facing an unknown challenge was expressed in the form of a woman being its face.
  3. There was an unconscious attempt to manipulate a potentially unfavorable authority by charming/seducing them by means of a woman into being more favorable.

The programme concluded before the group reached any kind of consensus, and we mostly found further data that could mean any or all of the three. Inconclusive, but incredibly insightful on gender and leadership. However, there were some inescapable observations:

  1. Gender skews our thinking so profoundly that is is impossible to even understand the full extent of it. There is an overwhelming bias to the advantage of men and both men and women [often unconsciously] conspire to maintain it.
  2. This bias is not necessarily functional to the objectives or well being of anyone, though it does serve to make the immediate experience of men easier and women more difficult than it would be under strictly equal conditions.
  3. “Logic” is usually not logical. An overwhelming observation repeated hundreds of times was that behavior was largely determined by stereotypes and once a choice was made, logic was selected that would justify it. Sometimes it failed to stand up to scrutiny without an admission of intent to handicap women and give men an advantage. While reviewing our own behavior, the group was easily able to come up with logical explanations for alternative choices, though they had been inexplicably rejected in making the original choice.
  4. Men dominate women, women are conditioned to accept the dominance of men, “society” or the group is conditioned to seeing this as normal and equality, in fact, jars.
  5. Unless there is a threat or any other hindrance, the tendency is for men to have an absolute say over happenings in the group, including happenings relevant to women.

I was reminded of this today, when a lot of articles are happening considering that it is International Women’s Day. Some that stayed in mind and triggered recall of this pattern are:

In Subject for debate: Are women people? Jessica Winters describes the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 16, 2012 consisted of Catholic Bishop William Lori, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, Dr. Ben Mitchell, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and Craig Mitchell – all men – with the stated purpose of determining the Obama administration’s policy on contraception.

India has an increasing number of women leaders as our economy is in increasing crisis. From 9% last year to 14% this year in senior management positions. HR, a department under increasing stress of inadequate performance due to job hopping, difficulty in finding excellent professionals, and managing employee satisfaction in the face of depressing economic scenarios has the most women at 24%. Last year, 1% of CEOs were female, this year it is 10%. Financial officers have also gone up to 10%.

On the contrary, China, doing well so far is reporting a low number of women in executive positions as compared with last year. A sentence that particularly jumped off the page for me is:

Anthea Wang, vice-president of public relations and media communications at DaimlerNortheast Asia Ltd and Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd, said women enjoy certain advantagesthat, during negotiations, can help parties that are at odds on some issue reach commonground.

There are other examples, but they are not the point. It isn’t as though observations from a small group of people will apply exactly to a world with multiple ethnicities and many possibly related variables. But I think it underscores something I have been saying for a long time.

The inequalities that give birth to human rights problems are not necessarily deliberate and thus cannot be fixed with our current approach of relying on laws alone. They are very subtle ways in which we, as a group change our choices to address biases and priorities that we are not consciously aware of even having and would likely outright reject if we were making conscious choices. We need to address human minds in a well researched, knowledge oriented and systematic manner and develop within society the skills to recognize their actions and their impact on the well being of everyone. In other words, the government needs to urgently start making serious investments in social analysis to see desperately needed changes on the human rights front.

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