Friday, April 14, 2017

The Man Problem, And What To Do About It.

By Siddharth Shiva

I wrote this in January, when everyone was talking about the nonsense that went down in Bangalore on New Year’s Eve. Decided to hold out on sharing it because I knew that people would stop talking about it within a week. 

Scoopwhoop shared security footage of a woman being harassed by two men on a scooter. I’m not linking to that horrendous video. It shouldn’t be online without the woman’s permission, and it most certainly shouldn’t have been presented in viral video format. But in the comments, several times: "When will parents start sending their daughters, wives and sisters for martial arts lessons?"

What happens when the perpetrator is better trained or just stronger in general? Why is it that people still think that defense against sexual harassment is women's responsibility? Its been said by thousands of people that we wouldn’t say this to a person who has been mugged. Men need to stop talking about what women should be doing, and start talking about what we can do to stop this shit from happening. 

Have any of these idiots considered that maybe there's something terribly wrong in the way India raises its boys to be men? Starts with kindergarten teachers telling boys and girls to sit separately. Then suddenly one day you find yourself in college doing the same thing. Dudes are scared to friggin’ talk to women. They feel constantly threatened by them because they're thought of as, almost, a separate species. Men are made to think that a woman who doesn’t embody Indian cultural values, is not a woman, but a foul thing. A whore who’s whore powers will bewitch them into doing things that they won’t normally do. Men are made to think that a woman who abides by Indocultural propriety owes them what they want anyway. This, often by their families. Our movies and television glorify stalking and assault. Because stalking and assault somehow gets you the girl. "Locker room talk" attests for your manhood. The badder you are, the more manly. 

In the old days - Simpler Times (TM) - people didn’t care a whole lot about what women had to say. They were coveted belongings. I mean, they were doing amazing stuff, but mostly invisible to men. So men took this to its logical extreme and drafted laws that more or less sees women as objects, maybe pets. Preferring to protect women’s “modesty”, rather than the woman herself. Why? Because “modesty” can be defined by a man. Laws can be structured around ideas that make men comfortable, with the way they treat women, and their idea of what counts as mistreatment. These obviously need to be changed. This would of course, require women to enter into legislative discourse, if only men would allow them a voice.

But how will this ever happen, when the police and the judges and literally everyone’s grown up in an environment that teaches you that women are, almost, a different species? 

There should be a radical change in the way men are raised, and an environment should be created to ensure that boys are taught that women aren't their enemies while they're still children. Anything else is indoctrinating them into a system of sexual repression and misogyny from a very young age. 

We need to create an environment that stops making sex seem like a badge to be worn. You’ve slept with 10 women? Big fucking deal. I’ve eaten (probably) more than 3000 scoops of ice cream last year and you don’t see me bragging about that (I just did, but that’s beside the point). My point is. Women are human beings. They’re not achievements to be unlocked nor are they prizes to be won. Getting laid is cool, but it ain’t the same as getting lucky. Luck is winning the lottery. Sex is a mutual decision. You don’t slip and fall into pussy by luck, but through dialog. And if that isn’t the case then you’re committing a crime. By treating sex as one kind of statement of manhood you create an environment that makes people more desperate for it. And this needs to fucking stop. 

This environment needs to be confronted from two directions. The first is by encouraging grown up people to understand the things that create this environment so that they can avoid perpetuating it, and the second is by raising the next generation of children in a different, inclusive, even environment. 

What does it mean to show a grown up person that the environment they create when they say “bros before hoes” is not a healthy one? A lot of work, and some compromise. 

I encourage forward thinking men to actively participate in the dissolution of this environment. Because OF COURSE, men value male voices more than they value women. So the next time your catching a coffee with your boyfriends (or bros, if you’re bothered by the connotations of “boyfriend” in 2017), or you find yourself in the middle of a locker room chat, work towards cleaning it up. There are ways of doing this without making you seem like a “killjoy”. This is where compromise comes in. There are two keys to how to effectively communicate feminism to bros: humor and relatability. Your dialog must be easily accessible. I get that not everybody’s as able as I am to spin jokey webs like some kinda joke spiderman, but bros don’t have a very high standard for humor. Humor, to a bro, by itself is abrasive, and it’s quality doesn’t matter a whole lot. All that matters is that your statement is made. They’re smart enough to get that, and they generally appreciate when it isn’t told to them in an “uptight” manner. 

This means:
  • No more bro code
  • No more friendzone (be happy she’s still your friend you fucking creep)
  • Moderation of language: words like slut, whore and fag are absolutely unacceptable 
  • No rape jokes, no sexual assault jokes
  • No objectification; which means no rating her out of ten, no talking about her tits, and no talking about how she was last night. Just fucking shut up about people if you’re going to talk about them like they’re products on Amazon, dammit.
But bros aren’t the only kinda grown ups you will find yourself having to deal with. The arguably more difficult variety of grown up is the Conservative. These people mistake their shitty rhetoric to be respectful. And convincing a person that what they perceive as a positive opinion is actually a negative one is no simple task. For this, once again, a little compromise is in order. It is generally not preferred to draw upon wives and daughters and sisters as examples for why feminism is necessary, because it makes it about the men. However, for some people, there is very little alternative. You must work this angle, in the hope that eventually, they understand that the problems they face go beyond the people they directly care about. So find ways to explain the ways sexist rhetoric affects people that they know. You will find yourself getting through to (most of) them slowly, but surely. 

Convincing grown ups that things that they’ve believed in all their lives are wrong is difficult work. It’s much easier for children to learn. And while I personally dislike children and think that they’re mostly huge assholes, they also have more potential to exhibit compassion than the rest of us. And that’s why, the second angle that I mentioned before, is arguably the more important one, as it has the potential to change everything about the future. People tend to imagine very bleak futures, but those are very avoidable, even without Barry Allen’s help. All it takes is for you to make a solid impression on the younger generation. It’s of utmost importance that they’re raised in an environment that doesn’t discriminate between them based on gender. 

Children are quick in responding emotionally, and are very moldable, characterwise. It’s incredibly important for their happiness, and for our society, that they’re taught the importance of equality and positivity starting at a young age. Realism is a thing that they will discover for themselves at an appropriate time. It’s important that they have the tools to deal with this realization well. For this to happen, it is important that they’re familiar with the nuances of gender and sexuality by then, and therefore, it is important for them to receive a sound education in both of these. There are, of course, other things too, but I mention gender and sexuality, because they’re pertinent to gender equality, which is what I’ve been talking about this whole time (don’t you dare “what about this problem” me). 

In an ideal world in my eyes, we wouldn’t assign genders at birth. People are allowed to build their own character as they grow, and they’re allowed to be attracted to whoever they wish to be attracted to. They could even choose to opt out of these things - agender, asexual people exist (autocorrect doesn’t even recognize agender as a word). Basically, you, friend, and everyone around you, friend, can just be whoever they want to be. Free of expectation. free of societal responsibility. But we are light years away from this. We’re going to be wrapping babies in pink and blue blankets for decades (maybe centuries). 

Really, it all depends on which generation makes a start at working against this tide of time and culture. I’d hope that it’s ours, but we’re all so busy being confused at our place in all of this. Nobody has a confident opinion yet, because our facts and beliefs aren’t yet surely cemented. This is not an affront to our generation; it’s merely an indication of just how far our human civilization is from maturity. We can only get there through a sort of domino effect; where we help each other understand the work that needs to be done. I have faith. I think that we have the a good chance of making it out of this happy and equal. Maybe that’s my privilege speaking. I don’t know.What I do know is that if I were to think anything else, I wouldn’t sleep very well at night.