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The Misplaced Narrative

"Even empowered women face the violence of different nature and are subject to harassment of all sorts. We need to turn to men with the same degree and sense of urgency and help them face the issues of patriarchy and masculinity head-on. This is the only way men can alter themselves and become their best selves."


Sketch by Piyush Fozan

Christine Blasey is white. She has her PhD and is a reputed professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine. This implies a great deal in the United States of America and which also reflects her education privilege and high socio-economic status. This means, by popular definition of women empowerment, that she is able to express herself freely, effectively and in ways other uneducated and underprivileged women simply cannot.


However, she recently spoke up about an incident of sexual assault by US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and testified about her allegation during a Senate Judiciary Committee. Two other women of similar reputation also spoke of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh. Despite that Brett Kavanaugh was sworn as Associate Justice and the credibility of Christine Blasey was questioned by a major American population, Trump Administration and Trump supporters.

File Photo: Christine Blasey testifying before Senate Judiciary Committee

On June 25th, 2018, Sushma Swaraj, India’s Foreign Minister (who is also one of the Modi government’s most loved and powerful ministers), found herself on the receiving end of the troll firing squad on social media after she pulled up a passport office employee for harassing an inter-faith couple. She was verbally abused, named, and shamed.


Indian Foreign Minister Smt. Shushma Swaraj

Educated at St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, and the prestigious Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Kavita Krishnan is a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). While speaking on women’s rights and consensual sex, she remarked- “one can only pity people who fear ‘free sex’ because ‘un-free sex’ is nothing but rape.” This was followed by aggressively abusive troll against her and her mother on social media. Rajya Sabha MP and prominent BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy went to the extent of screaming and calling her a “Naxalite who has free sex” in a live debate on national television.

Kavita Krishnan

The list of prominent women public figures who supposedly are women of high social status but repeatedly abused are endless.


The real question

The real question is whether women empowerment can really and genuinely empower women. I doubt. Look at all women listed here. They are all socially, politically, and financially better than some of the most powerful men. And if these women, who have all the power one can possibly obtain and yet abused and harassed like any other ordinary woman and their credibility is always in question; what kind of message does this send to all women who are even more marginalized?


So, what’s happening?

These shreds of evidence clearly underline that even empowered women face violence of different nature and are subject to harassment of all sorts. This simply means that empowerment of women alone is not enough, not even a beginning to shift the mindsets. And therefore, for a desirable and concrete change to happen, should we not focus on the ecosystem of power around women? Should we not work on men?


The Stereotypical narrative

Men across the globe have been seen as predators and culprit for crimes against women. And all kinds of women’s rights movements or civil societies advocate the common narrative that girl and women-focused programs, laws, and reservations need to be launched and multiplied to achieve gender equality. This article is not about discounting their narrative but adding the thought that it cannot be a zero-sum game. This only means that without doing less for women, we must start working with men and on men.


We just can not simply say that men need to alter themselves so that women can be better off. This has not worked, and this will not work.


Representative Photo/Sketch

All men who are created equal are not EQUAL

  1. Today, India has 51.6% of its men population and one of the largest cohorts of young men between the ages of 13-26 years. Though it’s true that men are more privileged, but it can not be denied that the cost of masculinity for men exceeds its benefits and privileges.

  2. 37.86 % of the male population is uneducated. Far too many men unemployed and stuck with lack of any positive role models, insecure family life, and additionally, they’re burdened to cope up with the perception of masculinity.

  3. A man who is sensitive, emotional, compassionate, or soft-spoken is perceived as girlish and not masculine enough.

  4. Homosexual and bisexual men are subject to discrimination, not only by men in general but women and men together as society at large.

  5. For men to remain ‘men’, they suffer and remain pretentious, not often by choice, but by their failure to escape the social beliefs about their masculinity. Needless to say, that women are not less accomplice. They’re equally responsible for not stopping to practice these stereotypes about men.


Representative Photo/Sketch

What needs to be done We need to turn to men with the same degree and sense of urgency and help them face the issues of patriarchy and masculinity head-on. This is the only way men can alter themselves and become their best selves. We just need to engage with our young men and start with a few steps:


Fighting stereotype of masculinity

Let the books and stories be re-written and re-told that even men can cry, be soft-spoken and be afraid of cockroaches and lizards. At this point, I can confide that nothing on this earth scares me more than the lizard in the washroom and cockroaches under old books.

Representative Photo/Sketch

Rights for women does not mean loss of right for men:

We must make concrete strategies to educate and aware our young men that more rights for women does not mean loss of right for men. Many men who commit crimes against women are of this popular view. We need to replace this misogyny narrative with a real one and therefore, work with men not against them.

Safe spaces

As much we need safe spaces for women, the men do not needless. We need to create safe spaces for men to become vulnerable to their insecurities and doubts. Space should enable them to express their sexuality and the burden of masculinity and the expectations they carry.


Gender Socialization

For boys in their adolescence who experience changes in their body and emotions, fight their own battle alone. They end up adopting unwarranted sexual behaviors and attitudes towards women and they begin to view women as sexual objects. But to flip the game, can we not introduce gender socialization through co-education practices and curriculum?


Representative Photo/Sketch

Neutral laws

Very often our laws and polity exhibit patriarchal biases that strengthen the stereotype about men and trap men in stereotypes. For instance, men to behave as a guard to women’s modesty. This concept is in the benefit of none but only reinforces the patriarchal framework.


We as a society need to understand that our fight to achieve gender equality can not rest upon our strategy to walk a straight line from A to Z. We need to draw a parallel line and solve men’s problems as well. We need healthy and happy men who can a better husband, a father, or a partner.


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