An ex-colleague shared this on his FB wall. Before my work day was over a few others had done so and all their walls were populated with comments on how this was an atrocious bit of writing, ranging from how it is in bad taste that the columnist is using Tejpal as an example of anything good, to how he is "cashing in".
But to my reader's eyes, the writer does not come across as championing Tejpal's case. He isn't suggesting that Tejpal, if guilty of abusing a colleague, should be allowed to go free.
He is asking if we, as a society, swing wildly from one extreme to the other. And taking forward his point, I’m wondering that if that is indeed so, whether such a society -- so prone to teenage-like mood swings -- should indeed be given the right to make any important decision.
And maybe more pertinently in this context, if male-bashing has become the ultimate symbol of liberalism, especially if taken up by the Man of Today.
That most women have long forgotten what feminism had originally set out to achieve is not news today. Or, maybe because it did achieve a lot of its goals, we decided to let the end fizzle out. Like Mehrotra says, women like Lessing (and all others who have worked for the equality of men and women) have themselves pointed out many times that the solution to the woes of women does not lie in some vindictive turning of the tables. I’m thinking, neither does it lie in stubbornly refusing to look at our own problems, or by blindly supporting whatever pro-woman statement is issued by whichever talking head is free to take to Twitter.
And it makes me wonder why our men are more ready to go into ostrich mode today than our women are. Not so long ago, this post by Chetan Bhagat went viral on the net. As can be expected, there were many debates and arguments over this. Just like in the case of the Mehrotra article, there were more men bashing Bhagat than there were women.
In fact, I clearly remember many of my girl friends and acquaintances (including me. I really do think this is one of those rare articles where Bhagat make sense) freely agreed that his assessment was right.
But the men won’t agree. “What gives him the right to tell women what they should do”, raged a man friend. Many "likes" followed.
How about this: why not? Why can a man, if he is sensible and observant and balanced enough, not have the right to point out what is wrong with women today?
Why is it considered audacity if an even keeled person calls out that the needless laughing at jokes that are not funny to feed a man’s ego does not doing anything for the cause that everyone from Wollstonecraft to Rammohan Roy fought for? And if gender is not important when it comes to evaluating a woman social commentator’s point of view on men, how is the fact that Bhagat is a man important here?
Here’s what gives him the right to write : not that he is a man, but that he is a person who is making a fair point.
Now my question is, how do men not see that? Do they really not see, or is it that they do, but choose to go silent for fear of being labeled insensitive MCPs?
I am a woman. I presume I get the trials and tribulations and restrictions of being a woman a little better than a man does, simply because while a man can understand, I live through it. I have lived through judgmental snubs about how my “looks could never tell you understand politics”, supposedly meant as a compliment. I make sartorial decisions based on the locality I’d be travelling to/through. I constantly battle the “you’re a girl, you need to settle” preachers. Driven to a snapping point, I've slapped a co-passenger in a crowded train. I've been asked to not “do that again because you never know what he’ll do in return”. I've been afraid of getting mugged in dark alleys. For me, the fear is compounded because as a woman, I can get mugged and raped – a fear the average man does not face every day while travelling to or from work or from partying. I've felt helpless rage when well wishers of the family have expressed concerns about “young girls these days living by themselves and doing what they want.” I know there’s a very good chance if I get into trouble while I’m out with my friends, it will more readily be put down to my “looking for it” or “pushing fate” than it would if I were a man.
I am grateful I've never had to face anything more worrying. But even so, I would think “feeling for us” as we fight these everyday troubles is not the same as living through them.
And yet surprisingly, I still see more women ready to give the Man a chance than men are.
And there, I can’t help wondering if this is really about change, or about a fad. That it is cool to be a man basher these days. That it is so important to be in fashion that we should completely crush all voices of reason, lest we get thrown out of the cool kids’ group.
For I know from personal experience that the same men who rave about feminism on FB also smile when they say “Delhi is a man’s city, nothing you can do about it.”
The statement, stated as a fact, does not bother. What bothers is the smugness in the saying of it.
And I know most of those liberated men will not help me out if I am lying in a street corner beaten and bleeding, for fear of getting involved with the authorities.
I also know many will act outraged when they read this, but will silently know in their heads that they won’t lift a finger when it comes to that.
Like you, I’m tired of dealing with this eternal debate of man vs woman. I’m tired of having people judge things I do as done by a woman, instead of just being done by someone who can do it. I think it’s all rather silly: people who really move mountains have never cared about that stuff anyway; they just go ahead and do it, and the rest fall in line. But I’m also tired of this ridiculous man-bashing that I see growing among people . And I’m scared, because this is not stuff fads should be made of. Violating a woman’s right is a serious issue: people do it every day, sometimes even unknowingly. And there is nothing fun or fashionable about being on the receiving end. If you’re thinking raising hell on FB for a couple of days is your contribution to correcting this wrong, you are mistaken.The truth is, you are only adding to the traffic, creating confusion and distracting those who are really trying to help.
If you really do care, start at home. The next time your mother berates a girl for wearing “short clothes”, or staying out late, teach her a thing about individual choice instead of standing there like an idiot.
The next time your brother makes a lewd comment about the college heartthrob, talk to him about being respectful towards others instead of smiling indulgently. When your dad says your kid sister should not go to another city to get her college education because she’s a girl, stand up to him.
The point of my post is not to insist every man, no matter how evil, should be forgiven. It is to say that every person, not matter a man or woman, should be given a fair chance. I know there are people, many of them women, who think it is OK to let the scales tip the other way just a little to make a point. To let a man or two be more sinned against than sinning, just to drive home a message. To say and show, “this is what will happen to you if you dare cross your limits. This is for all the centuries of thinking you can get away with being cocky, simply because you are a man.”
And I’ll be honest. There have been times when I've agreed. When you hear of what men can do to women just because they can,one wishes the scales did tip over to the other side.
But a voice in my head keeps telling me that is not, cannot be the answer.
I’m not a feminist. I quite like Victoria’s Secret. I think there are things a man is better at, and there are things a woman is better at. Broadly, for exceptions do prove the rule. I don’t see how it is important for me to be able to lift heavy suitcases or dress like a man to prove that I am equal to him. So yes, I shop at MAC, love shoes and am interested in reading about politics. I am not seeking to be a man, I’m saying respect me for who I am and what I bring to the table. And if I am to be respected for who I am, I must give back that respect, no? And also learn to acknowledge that there are problems with us and that just because someone is pointing that out and raising a few valid questions, it does not automatically make him (or her) evil.