We need to motivate men to participate more in the dialogue on Women’s Issues like gender equality and gender-based pay gap. In our country, men have entitlement and superiority handed down to them on a silver platter, one generation after another. They get better pay for the same work, they are pampered by parents, and they grow up with a sense of entitlement because of the Y-chromosome. And yet, by ignoring women-centric issues, men are doing more harm to themselves and the society around them, than good. We have to make men realise that how the current structure of the society is harming them as well.
Men need to be sensitized
The awareness regarding women's issues, that we seek in men, will not just come overnight. It will come gradually to them. Parents should stop reprimanding their little boy if he cries, or choose to play with dolls instead of trucks. They should not be praised, simply because of their gender. Behaving like a girl should not be used as an insult because it makes boys grow up with a sense of superiority over the girls and women around them. Hence, it becomes difficult to explain the concept of equality to them later in life.
Parents also need to take a stand against clothing, toys and chocolate manufacturers, who encourage gender bias by introducing different merchandise for boys and girls. They should aim at giving kids a gender agonist upbringing, where preference is given to a child’s creativity and aspirations, instead of trying to mould them according to societal definitions.
The fight against gender discrimination, at home and workplace, should start at their own home first.
Women need to express to the men in their lives, about how casual sexism is degrading and insulting. They need to talk about the bro-code of calling feminine names and using slangs which berates mothers and sisters, in man-to-man conversations. Unless we stand up and explain why what they say is wrong and hurtful, they will not understand our point of view.
Eventually, men who are brought up well, will themselves start discouraging casual sexism and harassment of women. If we can teach our boys not steal or fight, certainly we can teach them to stand up for the common social issues. Maybe we might not live to see the change. But what we will teach our men, will be passed on as values through generations.
We are fighting a war against the fabric of the society. Men and women are not on the opposite sides in this war. It’s just that they don’t know it yet, that we are on the same side.
The Paternal Infrastructure of the society is affecting men’s health
The number of cases of men who suffer from Cardiovascular Heart diseases is on the rise, according to a 2016 Circulation report. Men bear so much stress due to fear of failing society’s expectation. Parents want a son who will take care of them in old age. Aspiring parents shove their sons into engineering colleges and management courses, to make sure that they bring home a fat paycheck. Boys are groomed to be earners in the family since they are little. They are not asked what they want to be. They are conditioned to make choices in life which will make their parents and community proud. Get into a professional college, crack the placement, marry a docile ‘homely’ woman, buy a car and a bungalow, and eventually produce a son who can carry forward this legendary male superiority.
The society only praises men who tick these boxes. The constant pressure to complete this checklist and to not fail takes a toll on their mental and physical health.
Men do not have the option to fail in their lives. Either they should be successful or die trying.
In our society, men are not considered men, if they don’t live and act according to medieval rule books still followed in the name of culture. ‘Are you not a man?’, ‘You are not manly enough’, ‘Be a man’. This toxic masculinity that is encouraged every day, pushes men towards crimes like molesting women, rape, domestic violence and physical abuse. But deep down, it creates a deep dissatisfaction inside them. Despite being ‘man enough’, they feel unhappy. How else can we justify the shocking number of suicides in Indian men. More and more men are experiencing dissatisfaction with their lives and jobs, with each passing generation.
Standing up for Women's Issues is essential for common social good
Gender equality does not just mean equal rights or equal pay only it means equal share in responsibilities as well. When a man treats a woman as his equal, she will contribute to the finances of the household equally. Imagine a world where women and men earn equal money, and take care of responsibilities together. Men will get a chance to pursue their passion, and choose a profession they like. Not what would pay their bills. Equal pay will let many daughters and sisters take care of their ageing parents, relieving a lot of men of the mental and physical stress which comes with it.
Women's Issues are in fact social issues, which hamper us from developing as a culture and society. Men and women must work together to eradicate the decay which lies deep at the root of the cultural infrastructure.
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.