The reason I haven’t written in a few weeks is because I have had visitors. Friends who are men. They have travelled to come to India and to spend time with me, despite my angry feminist inclinations and outrage at every single thing some bad men do to women. They like me, they really like me! (I am Sally Fields, btw.) And I really, really like them.
And here we come to the important point. Feminists DO NOT HATE MEN! In fact, despite old tropes that have been making the rounds since the bra-burning days and –later- the theory of the lesbian continuum (i.e.‘heterosexuality is a violent political institution making way for the “male right of physical, economical, and emotional access” to women’ Adrienne Rich), we are not all lesbians and even if we were, we do not dislike/not love our male friends and partners (in crime/social justice). In fact, I am sometimes overwhelmed (and, yes, ashamed to say, surprised) by the amount of passion and clear thought regarding gender equality and the analytical deconstruction of historical suppression of women that is displayed amongst my male friends (homo/heteros alike).
Point in fact is my East German (I like to make fun of it/but secretly love that he spent his first 10 years under the communist mini-satellite state of the GDR) friend, I shall call him Lenin. He is not impressed by state communism, don’t get me wrong, it just feels like early experiences with Marxist reality has shaped his absolute awesomeness regarding women’s rights. We talked about an article I read in a weekend supplement (called ‘Brunch’) of a paper whose leading article was all about how Indian women had ‘moved past’ the necessity to work outside the home. One part even referenced the term ‘post-feminsm’ (as if that was a thing).
There were so many things wrong with these stories. I will not judge a woman’s choice to concentrate on housework and raising children if she is really fulfilled by that. I will not go into the class-specific issues here (No economic necessity for gainful employment (in monetary sense); the description of their days as varied and fulfilling because of their exercise/dance/art classes etc) either. But what still sticks in my mind (I read it 2 weeks ago or so) was the discussion I had when I quoted (outraged of course, over breakfast) from one of the women’s stories: “best of all, I don’t have to feel guilty that my son and husband don’t get all the attention from me they need”. That got my back up! I mean, what? Every woman who works outside the house and can’t pamper their children (and husband!) with time and affection whenever they need it, must feel guilty?! Or is it that society/extended family makes us feel guilty for that and therefore this is just a sad commentary?
Lenin shook his head in disgust and said that it wasn’t even an issue when he was growing up. It was clear that his mother would go back to work 6 months after giving birth to his sister and then 6 months after giving birth to him. How has that made her a worse mother than those of the ‘corrupt imperialist West’? (OK, that last quote is a lie, he didn’t say that, but I think it would be funny if he did). For serious, I guess what I love too is how awesome he thinks his sister and his mom are and how he, as opposed to some other boys/men his age I have come across, doesn’t even focus on gender but the person in his work life. There are great/awful female bosses and male bosses. But it doesn’t figure. Perhaps my focus on female politicians, decision-makers, powerful economic players (Why not more? Why is she not feminist?) and female this and female that and woman-specific that has blinded me to the fact that there are plenty of men out there who do not need convincing that women are just as capable and awesome.
In fact, I remember living in the UK and talking to people who were concerned with boys in primary schools and kindergarten. Particularly amongst working class background families, the absence of good male role-models (high number of one-female-headed households, lack of male teachers) means that young boys struggle in school and have difficulties coping with ideals of masculinities they should/shouldn’t/want to/don’t want to aspire to. Sure, as a feminist, perhaps I see the idea of masculinity and femininity itself as a little bit dangerous, but we can’t erase gender identity completely! Masculinities are in flux (of course, due to changing gender dynamics down to increased women’s empowerment) and it’s hard to be a boy. Maybe ‘what it feels like for a boy’ should have been the Part II to Madonna’s song.
We mustn’t forget our fellow men and boys that are good to women, aren’t masogynists, do not practice violence against women, and clearly see the importance of gender equality! I know that although my individual male friends are always loved unconditionally by me as much as my female friends, I, perhaps, am guilty of not always remembering that there are such awesome men everywhere who are ‘on our side’, or even more so ‘on a gender just world’ side!
For that, I hereby publically apologise and want to give ‘much respect due. To the men who’ve made a difference to my world’ (Salt n Pepa-What-a-Man).
Check this amazing nugget a friend of mine in Delhi found
From their site: “The BN (Blank Noise Guy blog) is in its first phase, asking men/boys/mards and of course guys to respond to street sexual harassment. Send us your thoughts on ‘eve-teasing’. Write to us if you have witnessed it. If it makes you angry. If somewhere knowingly or unknowingly you could have even caused it. Or if you’ve gotten involved to help someone known or unknown who experienced it. Write in even if you have never thought about street sexual harassment…this just might be the place to start! ”)