This week, we all marked the International Men’s Day.
Yeah I understand that the day must have gone unnoticed for many men and women. For me too, this was the first time I ever noticed it, even though it is believed to have existed since 1960s. Since UN does not mark it in its calendar, it does not seem to have gained much in the talk of the crowd. But, does not it seem absurd speaking of men’s rights, while the whole world has been banging heads and tables to make this world a better place for women? Conversely, is it a decent initiation to restate the role of men in women’s world towards gender equity?
When we are celebrating International Men’s Day, it is extremely important to understand what are we celebrating? Are we celebrating men against women? Are men celebrating the social power of being a man? Or are we telling the world that men’s right are also at stake, and the time has come to acknowledge it? The website www.internationalmensday.com, which looks like the official website of the celebration, claims that the objectives of International Men’s Day includes a focus on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. While the words like “gender equality” and “improving gender relations” keeps me optimistic, some other words in the same website “The ability to sacrifice your needs on behalf of others is fundamental to manhood, as is honor”, retaliates the feminist in me.
When I conduct sessions on gender in trainings or workshops, two schools of thoughts arise every time in the discussion “Girls believe that the main reason for their oppression is men” and “Guys reply: I have never beaten any women in my life, so I am not to be blamed for gender inequality.” At the surface, both of them are true in their own ways, but to get to the roots, we need to dig the up, down and sideways of gender roles. Neither men nor women, but it is the system of patriarchy that is to be blamed. The system that teaches us the stereotypical role of being a man and a woman, the social construction that made man the bread winner of the family and gave more access to money and family decisions; and that gave women less of everything, less or no education, food, health, empowerment and so on.
If you look at the situation carefully, the battle of feminism was never or almost never, against men; it has always been against patriarchy. But when the patriarchy teaches a man to feel powerful and impose his power on woman, the generations and generations of men will always preserve patriarchy, not realizing that that this social system curbs them too. There are millions more women in the world who are curbed by patriarchy but men do not stay unscathed.
With the stereotypical role of being the breadwinner of the house, they are expected to have a good job and take care of the family, sometimes at the cost of their own interests. Parents do not want to get their daughters married off to the one who does not have a decent job. So does not having a good job pose great stress on men? Men should look strong, what about men who do not look strong, tall, dark, handsome? Many adolescent boys fall victim of sexual violence, and also go through similar challenges of lack of information during puberty as girls. News of wives ripping everything from her husband and fleeing with her boyfriend fills the newspaper these days. The phrase “Men don’t cry” forces men to conceal their emotions. I ponder if patriarchy is a boon for men in true sense?
When we deconstruct patriarchy, a man who wants to stay at home and compose music can also stay at home and change their baby’s nappy while woman can go to her office. People tend to do what is apt for them, and not what is apt in society’s eyes. There would be nothing as gender roles, and people could work the best for themselves. Men and women would not face against each other, but look at the same direction together. Men in the women’s world would together dismantle gender roles, and when we deconstruct these gender roles, we would no more need to mark the International women’s day, or International Men’s day in that case. The opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy, but rather is a world of equality.