Is masculinity (or femininity for that matter) measured by what you desire, or choose to wear or feel obliged to follow? Two Delhi men who were seeking answers to these questions decided to conduct a social experiment. While one of them set foot in the Delhi Metro in a skirt, the other dressed similarly and went to IIT Delhi! Surprised? Cross-dressing? How dare they?
Well, this question was very much expected. The objective was to ditch the trousers for a skirt and enter the metro and other public places to conduct the social experiment. Naturally, these two men –Atul Khera, team leader at Pravah ICS (International Citizen Service), who flaunted a beautiful pink long skirt, and Mubarak Vazhakkad, a former volunteer at Pravah ICS — were alienated, becoming a part of social media trolls, but the message was loud and clear.
Guess this idea could take a while for you to grasp, but supporters were never this happy to see the coolest cross-dressing. What emerged was that we normally label as a “macho look” and pride on the “masculinity” of the clothes, but it’s actually just garments and a person’s nature cannot be defined on the basis of that.
Sadly, in India, it just takes a piece of cloth to determine whether or not you’re “true sanskari”. But the idea these two men used sure the bull’s eye. Now we know that not only women, but men too, at some level, face patriarchy.
We are a hypocritical lot — accepting women in pants, but cannot see a man in a skirt. For all he knows, he is embracing what has been labelled as women’s clothing. But we are not comfortable with that! Remember how people reacted at Jaden Smith’s skirt suits?
In his blog, Atul gives us a glimpse of his action, stating, “Staring and head-turning was expected. I expected getting scanned from top to bottom. Being laughed and pointed at by people was expected. What wasn’t expected was me being confident and keeping a smiling face throughout.”
He further writes, “Amidst the laughter and smiles, there were 2 people who complemented me how beautiful I was looking in that pink long skirt. And how daring and gutsy I had been by wearing something which challenges the mindsets. Honestly, I didn’t feel that I had put in my guts to do it. I didn’t make any eye contact. I tried to be as natural as possible, the way I am, in my usual days. But a constant thought of what I am wearing was always there. A constant thought of not having an eye contact with anyone was always there.”
Mubarak, who also took part in the same campaign, wore a skirt to IIT Delhi and ‘performed an invisible theatre’. In his Facebook post, Mubarak shares, “I got some non interested smiles as responses when I told them I choose my dress which comforts me and who labelled this as a ‘her’ dress. Some people accepted and stood on my side and some were on the other part of the coin.”
We agree with Mubarak’s statement, “My question is simple as, why should I change my wishes for the sake of other people?”
Not so long ago, a group of Indonesian men had spearheaded a novel protest to end violence against women. They were seen flaunting skirts to protest issues deep-rooted in the patriarchal society of the Muslim-dominated country. The movement was flagged off by Syaldi Sahude, a member of Aliansi Laki-laki Baru (The New Men’s Alliance).
However, this is not the first men-led initiative that interested us over the years. In Colombia, the Men and Masculinity Collective uses theatre and music to challenge gender stereotypes. And in Mozambique, a campaign brought together thousands of boys and men in kitchens to cooking in order to confront machismo. In a slightly different way, a few Iranian men started a campaign, posted photos of themselves wearing headscarves on Facebook and Twitter, rocking their #MenInHijab looks to support equality.
So the bottomline is that it’s not just women who face prejudices. That leaves us with one important question – What is masculinity or femininity? Do you have a definition? Write in with your comments.
Feature image credit: THE POETIC WAATERMELON/ATUL KHERA
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