'Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted.'
Sunday 18 March 2018
Men, be allies, not apostles of equality
Facebook friend, a guy, once tagged me in a video. It showed men
apologising for what women have to go through every day because they
are, well, women. Several men stood by their women friends in the
wake of the #metoo movement as well.
number of men are coming out in support of feminism. They appear to
understand the need for gender equality. Still at times they slip,
and you draw their attention to it. You expect that they would
discuss the situation with an open mind. You don’t require them to
know every aspect of the problem but you have seen them being
sensible and compassionate. So you assume they would agree that those
regularly privileged by hierarchies of religion, caste and gender
should now take a step back and listen to others in the room. But
this supposition is often broken with a “now this is too much”
draw the boundaries, and decide what is enough or too much for those
who have been marginalised for centuries. In that moment, they cease
to be your fellow travellers moving towards a common goal. They start
worrying you’re going to jump over their backs and gallop ahead
leaving them behind. In that moment, they become a peeved donor and
you, a greedy, ungrateful beggar.
have faced being patronised by men who tell me how I am quibbling
over small things while I should be focusing on bigger issues
widening the gender gap. I would like to share a “small” example
here of why we as women stand up for these apparently bite-sized
literature festival invited many authors; I was one of them. The
invites and posters carried the names of the men. For the women, they
had used the prefix Mrs. Anyone reading would have got this
information about the men in the following order: an author named
so-an-so is going to be there at the festival. About the women, they
would have learned: a married woman, called so-and-so, who also
happens to be an author (apart from being married), is going to
participate in the fest.
had a problem with this partisan approach, and the organiser
understood and tried to fix it. But many men who heard termed it as
nitpicking, and started stressing on how their knowledge of what was
important should gain precedence over my lived experience.
similar happened around the time of my wedding. My partner and I had
chosen to have a Brahmo
which is supposed to be egalitarian towards the couple irrespective
of their gender or religion. The acharya/priest who was to conduct
our wedding was a highly placed official in a private body. His
gentle smile and soft-spoken demenaour immediately put our wedding
jitters to rest. He proudly shared with us the tradition of equality
practised in Brahmo weddings, and showed sample scripts which had
detailed the rituals. In the days to come, my partner was in constant
touch with him. We modified some of the rites to make them even more
uniform for the couple and the acharya readily accepted the tracked
few days before the wedding, I noticed the word “brotherhood” in
the script. No matter how much thought I give to women, when it comes
to such words I am unable to visualise women in the picture. I
politely, and with much hesitation, talked to the acharya about it.
(I was hesitating because my feminism had not erased from my mind the
taught fear of upsetting men in the venerable role of elders or
priests.) He was irked at my suggestion: “This is how language is.
You cannot change language. If you have a better word, tell me.”
did not say that language wasn’t discovered while it was roaming
about like innocent, blitzkrieged sheep. It was shaped with a design
in mind; it has its history and politics. I only tried to find a
substitute, and when I suggested ‘kinship’ in place of
‘brotherhood’, he gave it his go-ahead.
he been upset at first because he was tired of our various
modifications? Would he have reacted differently if, as usual, my
partner had spoken to him?
people announce themselves as allies to a certain movement or an
ideology, they should not expect that the ones they are supporting
should take it as a favour and not raise questions. It was precisely
by dominating clans denying the truths and everyday realities of
certain sections of society that these groups had originally got
pushed to the periphery.
to the feminist, or any other, movement would have to stop being
imperious in order to contribute and gain equally, just as those who
have faced persecution needn’t always be right about everything.
The words of Australian activist Lila Watson makes sense in this
you have come here to help me,
you are wasting your time. But if
you have come because
your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”