From a certain Gandhi making ‘Women empowerment’ a household phrase, to Patricia Arquette’s inspiring, powerful speech at the Oscar’s, ALL of us are well aware of the pressing nature of Gender equality. Gender equality implying that all genders are equal in all aspects.
Just as a modern women have no hand in the perpetuation of stereotypes that plague their daily lives, similarly, the modern man has had no hand in the development of those. Like women, even men are forced to live up to obscure social standards, so ingrained in the minds of people that they are considered to be normal. In recent times, as the society takes note of women’s rights, we still see people adequately addressing problems women face. However, the issues that these men face are neither highlighted, nor questioned as much.
The perceived notion of masculinity is drilled into the heads of males from a very young age. Boys are automatically supposed to be either good at football or cricket, any sort of ‘manly’ sport. Instead of restrain, they are taught to retaliate, to beat up the first person who dare insult them. This is one of the main reasons males perpetuate and suffer from violence in different firms throughout their lives. Boys are supposed to be tough as nails. They’re expected to be heroes, the saviors, always in control and expressing emotion is considered to be feminine.
A memorable 3 Idiots scene insinuated that if the child born is male, he’ll grow up to be an engineer. Of course, the poor boy has no choice but to accept the gender stereotypes and expectations thrust upon him. Not only does he have to fulfill them, but he is ridiculed if he doesn’t meet the supposed high bar of masculinity. Have a look at the ‘Boys don’t cry’ campaign by Vogue, against domestic abuse. According to the makers, instead of teaching boys not to cry, we should teach them not to make women in their lives cry.
It seems like they targeted issues of both domestic violence and regressive stereotypes at once, but what’s really wrong with the video is that it tells you to ‘Start with boys’. Instead of saying, let’s teach both men and women, to respect BOTH men and women.
Speaking of domestic violence, Domestic violence against men is not even recognized by the law in India. The general perception is that men cannot be victims of violence even though studies conducted in India state that in about 100 cases, men are the victims of domestic violence in about 40 of them.
While news of dowry-related harassment and crimes against women are reported extensively in the media, there are a growing number of men who are at the receiving end of harassment, and face physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their wives.
What’s worse is that they are always the risk of false accusations of dowry or sexual abuse. Not only is it hard to shake off the social stigma that comes with being charged with such an act, but the cases also tend to drag on for years and are almost always in the woman’s favor. There have been cases in India as well, where men have been falsely accused of rape but not much action was taken against the female accuser. Agreed, the perpetrators in most cases are men, but the lack of any judicial backing for them speaks of gender inequality.
Another problem that deserves to have more attention is the growing recruitment of young boys to terrorist factions. It is brilliant that the society has finally woken up to the horrors afflicting women around the world, be it sexual abuse or denied access to education. But again, not enough attention is giving to the issue that more men are rounded up and tortured in war zones. Boys as young as 5, are trained and brainwashed, kept away from their families and taught to be suicide bombers. Shielded from modern society hundreds of little children, young boys are trained in combat and in the art of killing.
Inside a school for suicide bombers:
With terrorism on the rise, Al Qaeda and ISIS are ruthlessly rounding up these kids from poverty struck families and all I’m asking is, where are the frameworks to save these children? Even though this might not qualify as a classic case of stereotyping against men, but this is a problem affecting young boys on a large scale, especially in areas of conflict.
This is simply an example of issues that we haven’t spoken enough about. Violence needs to be considered as gender neutral as it affects both men and women across the world, deeply and equally. Simply side lining men’s issues on the basis of infrequent occurrences is not reason enough to not adopt suitable frameworks to counter them. Gender equality does not mean spotlighting solely on women’s issues neither does it mean being complacent with sexism that men face, just because the other gender faced that privilege before.
We’ve seen each gender stand up for the rights of the other and I sincerely hope we see a society where people as one, stand up for human rights. There has to come a time when instead of playing war in the ridge which is the difference between man and woman, we start to mend and celebrate it.
By Manvika Athwani