A tweet by journalist Barkha Dutt, sharing a warm and fuzzy picture of the US Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff has offended many on Twitter. The picture, shared by Emhoff after Joe Biden and Harris were announced as winners of the 2020 elections by leading international news agencies, showed him hugging his wife and was accompanied by the caption “So proud of you.” Dutt retweeted Emhoff’s tweet with the caption, “Please show me the Indian Man who’d be secure enough to be this man.” As expected, Barkha Dutt is trending on Twitter with many having taken offence to her tweet.
Please show me the Indian Man who'd be secure enough to be this man. ❤️ https://t.co/46YsknZY6g
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) November 11, 2020
So is Barkha Dutt right in signalling that Indian men can’t be as “secure” as Emhoff, who put his career on hold to campaign for his wife and was her biggest cheerleader throughout the election season?
Are Indian men the insecure and jealous type, who cannot even entertain the idea of being married to a successful woman, let alone cheer for her success? Or are they simply too shy or conscious to say it out loud, being conditioned since childhood to never wear their emotions on their sleeves? Or does the reality lie somewhere in between and beyond?
The question that comes to my mind is, is it fair to make a generalised assumption about all Indian men? Isn’t it stereotyping of a similar kind that women have been trying to break free of, for decades now? Surely there must be men who are as secure as Emhoff, but we may never get to know about their feminist outlook simply because they are not married to a Kamala Harris, who is a household name now.
This is not to say that there aren’t men who are insecure, controlling and wouldn’t shy away from playing the gender card to assert their dominance in a relationship. But even with such men, we have to ask, who must the blame lie with? For centuries men have been treated as the superior gender by our patriarchal society. They have been conditioned to believe that being a breadwinner and bringing fame and success to their family name is their responsibility. How do we expect men brought up with such patriarchal values to be “secure” of their partner’s success? How do we expect this mindset to change among men unless we change the way we parent our boys?
Then there are men who are indeed proud of their wife’s achievements but cannot bring themselves to praise their partner in public or express their pride on social media with such cute posts. Why? Again, because Indian men aren’t conditioned to be expressive or show support openly for their wives. Just think for a minute how men who cook, seek the advice of their wife openly before making any crucial decisions or stand by them during family feuds are treated in our society.
Any man who does something as simple as serving tea to guests at home, while his wife sits and chats with them is snidely called “joru ka ghulam“. So the question is, do we encourage men to be secure and supportive of a successful wife? How many men would find support on social media from their families, friends etc., if they do what Doug Emhoff has done? Can you guarantee no one will pull their leg or call them names?
I am glad that Barkha Dutt tweeted this picture with that caption because it has, yet again, exposed our tendency to unconditionally outrage over issues, whether they are big, small or inconsequential. Instead, we should be initiating more conversations, asking more questions so that we can become a more equal society.
Yes, there are a lot of men who are as secure as Emhoff, and there are as many who are not. However, if a man isn’t secure enough to celebrate his wife’s achievements, then we need to ask, what’s keeping him from doing so?
Image Credit: Doug Emhoff/ Twitter
The views expressed are the author’s own.