The Role Of Men In Today’s Gender Struggle
Updated: Sep 10, 2018
01 Aug'2018 | Satyaki Sarkar
If you assumed from the title that I was suggesting men have played a role in the gender struggles of the world today, I wouldn’t blame you, because I definitely was and am. But let’s try to move past something so obvious, and discuss a more effectual and pertinent concern; the role that men should, and need to play, in the gender struggles of the world today. Yes, I’m speaking to only the men, because I’m a man myself, and a straight man, at that. As a result, I have had to undo several centuries of social conditioning that had shaped and influenced my thoughts, views, actions, and more, in ways that one can’t even begin to imagine. I still can’t, not to the full entirety of it. However, growing up, I have had a number of incredibly strong and brave individuals guiding me all my life, including women who no longer let their voices be silenced. This has given me a modicum of perspective on how we men, can at least begin to take responsibility for the damage that we’ve caused, and bring about a change in ourselves, and the society.
However, I acknowledge that I might still be driven by my conceited sense of self-importance, unconsciously. For that, I would sincerely ask for forgiveness for my ignorance, and any errors, oversights, and mistakes made in this feeble attempt. Thus, I would also welcome wholeheartedly any advice, suggestions, and feedback that I can receive from the ones on the other side, the more critical the better.
Break The Padlock On Your Opinions
The thing about opinions is that they’re like assholes. Everyone has one, but we all think the others’ stink. Many of you might have cackled at this popular quip, scrolling leisurely through Facebook. But when you look at it as more than just a meme, it actually does make a whole lot of sense. Remember Philip Franklin, Vice-President of White Star Line, the owners of the Titanic? He’d very publicly and proudly claimed that the colossal ship was absolutely unsinkable, but we all know how that turned out, don’t we? So put on the boots of your beloved Lord Commander Jon Snow, and consider for a second that you (might) know nothing. Instead, always be prepared to re-learn and re-understand; to find out more and keep an open mind.
Stop Being Defensive
For men, one of the first steps towards bringing about gender equality is understanding that we are part of the problem, intentionally or unintentionally, and not being defensive about it. To cite an example, women had to fight long and hard for the very right to vote, in a democracy, which is fundamentally defined by every citizen’s right to cast a vote and elect a leader. Even in modern society, many women still have to fight for the right to education, or to pursue a career of their choice, instead of being married off at the earliest opportunity. This is why we need to stop being defensive when dealing with fundamental issues faced by other genders, including the LGBTQ+ community. Instead of letting our egos rule us, we could at least try to be a little more receptive, stepping out of our toxic comfort zones of superiority.
Recognise Your Privilege
Patriarchy might have been set up by men, but it has, in many ways, taken its toll on all genders. From regressive customs like Sati and the right to abortions and birth control pills to the freedom of sexual and romantic partners, women and the LGBTQ+ community have had to fight a long battle. However, while the rest of the population has had to fight against it at every stage of their lives, men have also been systematically encouraged to forego all sentiments and emotions as weaknesses, to cite an example. If you’re a man who’s had the fortune of not falling victim to any of these struggles, you need to acknowledge it and take responsibility to do your part for those who have.
You Aren‘t The Solo Action Hero Of This Story
Often, in our pride and over enthusiasm to prove ourselves, we men tend to diminish the efforts of the ones who’re fighting the injustice they’ve faced, positioning ourselves as their saviours. Imagine a football match in which the goalkeeper snatches the ball away from the striker believing he can do a better job of scoring than him. Forget the boos and the howls, he’d most likely get assaulted by his own team, right? Women, still don’t go so far, and only ask that we reflect upon ourselves, acknowledging how the injustice having been perpetrated is part of a deep-rooted, age-old, social conditioning set up and practised by our gender. It does not, however, give us an excuse for our role in it, but instead, should propel us to respect the struggle of the others, and act as allies in their fight.
Question What You See And Hear
Today’s struggle towards equality inherently feels uncomfortable to most of us men because it attempts to undo the toxic conditioning that runs through our very veins. For a recovering drug addict, it is quite easy to fall back to his habits and be swayed by other addicts, unless his convictions and willpower can stand up to it. This is why we need to question even casual jokes and remarks that are sexist or problematic, as they easily become gateways to the larger problem of casual sexism and prejudice. The easiest way to do so is acknowledging the problem, and by trusting in the principles of facts, kindness, compassion, tolerance, fairness, and humanity.
Teach What You Learn
One of the most pertinent issues of today’s date is consent, and while it is important for us to understand what consent truly means, it is equally important to teach it to other men that we know. For instance, you ask for coffee and are suggested tea by the waiter, which you refuse. But you’re still served tea and told that you’ll enjoy it. If you were served coffee, which you’d specifically asked for, it would be an example of granting consent and having it respected. Using simple examples like this, it is our responsibility to teach the fundamentals of gender equality, instead of falling prey to peer pressure and being silenced. We need to have the courage to stand up, even to our male friends and relatives, whenever sexism is practised by them, speaking up confidently, and letting go of our inhibitions.
At the end of the day, to truly embrace gender equality, we need to recognise the struggles and victories of all humans, all genders, and encourage conversation around it with everyone. This involves overcoming our pride and ego and practising empathy while fighting to be better human beings. While this might seem a monumental task at first, it begins with taking the first step; towards awareness, understanding, and action, to bring about change in a world plagued by a monster that we created.