To all my male friends

I use the term friends relatively loosely, to include friends, brothers, cousins, uncles, nephews etc etc. Of course I write within an Indian context, but what I say may have a larger relevance too…..

First of all, congratulations, you must be among the earliest generations of men who are living in a society where there is some attempt at woman’s empowerment (and I mean generations in a truly historic, generation sense, viz a viz the origin of man and woman).

Oh, did I say congratulations!!! Sorry, I should have said commiserations. For of course, most of you view power as a zero sum game. Therefore empowerment of women must of course mean dis-empowerment of you guys. This is a threat to masculine identity, to masculine authority, to man’s god given right to lord it over women. Of course, there are no possibilities of mutual respect. If you seek to empower women, it means you are snatching away our power and therefore you are enemy number 1.

Agreed, you have a difficult role to fulfill. You are perhaps not genetically programmed to accept women as equals. You have no role models. All through history, men have easily lorded it over women and no questions asked, and then suddenly to ask you guys to make the adjustment is ridiculous. Why shouldn’t you have your share of fun.

Some of the most shocking stuff you guys have to put up with (I am making a generalized list, I am sure with some variations, most of you have faced similar stuff)

1. Your lady classmate got better marks than you. Of course girls are muggers plus they suck up to teachers, what else do you expect?

2. Your lady classmate got a job offer before you. Of course girls always get placed first. The male recruiters are hoping to lay them.

3. Your lady colleague got a promotion. Of course, the slut is sleeping with the boss.

4. Your marriage proposals are rejected by women and their parents who demand that you have super duper education and earn a six figure salary. Damnit, instead of me asking for a dowry commensurate with my qualifications, how dare my qualification become a criteria on which my suitability as a groom is evaluated.

5. Wife expects you to help out at home. What the hell does she think? Lazy bum. My grandmother was not like that.

6. Laws like Dowry Prohibition and against Domestic Violence are all ok, but do you know how much they can be misused ????? Of course the lives of the women who succumbed to dowry harassment or live in daily hell of domestic violence need not be considered. Of course the fact that for every 99 percent of its correct use, there is one percent of misuse need not matter. Of course the fact that despite these laws, women face systems which are still shaped by patriarchal norms where it is not any easier for her to seek justice for domestic violence than it is for rape does not matter.

But you know guys, things are not so bad for you. Let me give you a small list of things to be thankful for.

Most of you are probably born in relatively affluent families at a time when your parents could afford to support even daughters. They were able to ensure adequate nutrition and care for both sons and daughters. They even ensured appropriate education for both. But in slightly different family circumstances…..

Your sisters may not have been born.

Even if they were born, they may not have survived beyond childhood.

That had they survived childhood, they may not have got an education.

Ok, so you think these are not reflective of your families. So here is a list of stuff from your own circumstances which must make you feel happy…….

1. Your wife is still far more likely to give up her job, or adjust her job based on marriage requirements than you are.

2. Wives who stay with the husband’s family are praised. Husbands, forget about staying, even if they are too friendly to the wives family are laughed at.

3. A daughters marriage still has the capacity to drive the parents to indebtedness. Parents of girls still need to save up for her marriage almost from birth. And the popular curse may you have a hundred daughters and may they all marry well, has not yet been changed to may you have a hundred sons. Having sons of course is the supreme blessing.

4. During the wedding you and your family still have the authority to demand things as ladke wale. You can criticize the venue, the food, the orchestra.

I could go on and on, but I think you will agree that your blessings are still considerable. Enjoy them, boys!!

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5 thoughts on “To all my male friends

  1. Ranjitha says:

    Good one Divya

  2. satish joshi says:

    Deep rooted patriarchy norms Divya, A change here and there may not even get noticed. Many incidences where men have fought for women, Sanjay leela bansali has his mother’s name next his name, schools have started taking mother’s name for school admission, though Bachchan is added after marriage, Aishwarya rai is still Aishwarya rai, to list, there are so many changes, but, none of these became a norm, people appreciated, people laughed, forgot, and life of that change is finished, AND THE SOCIETY LIVED AS IT IS EVER AFTER!!!!!!!

    • divyasarma says:

      Thats true Satish, and I think for the really young adult generation of today, they havent witnessed too many of the startling oppression like foeticide or even overt dowry harassment. As a woman, I have to agree that I have led a privileged existence. So I guess they are beginning to feel that women are no longer marginalized, without having any idea of how pervasive marginalization is. So they absolutely lack any sensitivity. Thats why I am beginning to feel we need to do something to help them start thinking about this in a more critical way.

  3. nitya kamat (from tiss :)) says:

    hey divs….i agree, society at large is horribly structured against women, its deep rooted in the culture of the land as well…but your note seems quite one-sided and in that sense unfair…

    i think in the name of empowerment, women who are genuinely respected and loved also get into a victim mentality and become quite ungrateful, not counting their blessings so to speak. having been one myself, i speak from experience of having been a feminist while in college, who is now still against injustice, but also grateful for the privileges and love and respect i have.

    as for the woman adjusting her career life for the home, i think is more of a convenient role division – i believe women are created more adept at home management, naturally so, (definitely its not rocket science so men can and should learn it to an extent too). at the same time, i do know of a family where the father stays at home and cares for the kids and the wife is out and earning (because the husband s not getting a job)….so its a question of what works for the family.

    at the same time, men who go to work and dont help as much at home – those men are not partying at office you know. they are earning for the family. they slog at work, meet deadlines, face put downs, lay offs, peer pressures, temptations, wrong blames, i mean its endless and we know that if we are willing to give them a chance….

    i know of husbands who are in jobs they hate and are hated, but still slog on and the wife is relatively comfortable at home, taking care of smallies for sure, but not going through as much stress (she says so and i ve seen it too).

    coming back to my main point, as much as im against structural inequality, i think theres a space for acknowledging and appreciating the responsible men who are rising up to the reality that women are also wonderfully made and worthy of equal love and respect…

    what say?

    • divyasarma says:

      Nitya, I agree that there are lots of very sensitive men who help out women at home. I am lucky enough to be married to someone like that. But my point was never about division of work at home or office or anything like that. At the end of the day, having to manage work and home is a small part of the multiple things which affect women and most of the women I have seen are managing that beautifully. Even though I myself moved from my Bangalore based job because of my husbands shift, I would be the last person to complain about it or condemn the move as patriarchal. It was a question largely of what worked for our family.

      What really set me thinking on this was the resentment I see in many men, just because women are asserting choices which they never did before. Take the case of an arranged marriage. While I don’t really buy into the whole idea of using criteria like educational qualification or salary to decide on life partners, unfortunately that is how the arranged marriage market seems to work. You would be surprised at the bile which I have seen thrown at women and their parents just because they have rejected men, who they feel are not qualified enough. The same men have no qualms about rejecting women for equally weird reasons like not beautiful, too tall, too fat etc.etc. Similarly, if women are close to the maternal family or want their husbands to talk to their parents, its a problem. The same men have no problem in asking their wives to live with their parents in a joint family and make all the adjustments. And I still get to listen to stupid comments like if women want equality, why do they want a separate seat in buses.

      I know the blog is not balanced, it was not intended to be. It was more of an angry outburst against such instances.

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