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Does sexism affect only women or are men also a prey to the patriarchy that has been lobbed upon us since our childhood?
Okay, I’m not going to lie. I always stated that men have it easier. They truly do, in SO MANY WAYS. But there was a whole new facet of sexism that I was unaware of.
There was a time when I had only female friends. Now, I have friends of both genders, and it opened my eyes to how Asian culture also suppresses men and ruins their lives to an irreparable extent.
I am not downplaying the struggles women go through, (I’m not insane or stupid to do that), I’m only presenting the other side of the story. How do men fight patriarchy and sexism? I did not even consider this a valid question, until recently.
One of my male friends, who has become my agony aunt and confidant over the years, made me aware of the other side of sexism. A side that I had failed to understand as a woman, until Vardhan (Name changed to protect his identity) divulged how sexism has impacted him.
My ‘beta male’ friend as society would describe him, has taken a few punches to the gut, in the name of ‘being a man’.
I had no idea that men also struggled to live up to any kind of expectation from anyone and thought they could do as they please. I always thought that everything was hunky-dory.
But here is the truth about how Asian social ideas have affected my friend:
Vardhan was forced to become a software engineer.
Vardhan is a couple years older than I am. He is a fantastic writer, and could easily become a best-selling author, had he not studied engineering.
He has two older sisters who are married with kids, and the responsibility of running the household rests on his shoulders. The best paying job at that time was in IT. After the IT boom, he jumped on the bandwagon, because he had to ‘man up’ and look after the family. He slogs in his office for hours, without getting a chance to do what he loves the most – write. He took one for the team and gave up his dreams of travelling and writing, just so that he could pay the bills for his family.
Had he not, he would’ve been accused of being selfish, lacking filial piety and ‘not being man enough’ to take responsibility of the household. He would be titled a ‘bad son’, ‘an ungrateful son’, and he would have to hear things like: ‘I did not raise him so that he would dump and betray me like this’.
Don’t get me wrong, Vardhan loves his family to death. He took up engineering to run his family but the pain of giving up his dreams haunts him till date.
He suffers from depression, is constantly frustrated at his helplessness and often longs to pick up a pen and write. But he was told that pursuing humanities was only for women. Science is for men.
Is it Vardhan’s fault that writing doesn’t pay as well as IT? No. Neither was it his fault for being the only boy in his family. Patriarchy has gobbled up my friend’s dream, leaving him depressed and sad, unable to make time for his dream career.
Vardhan cannot reveal that it was his wife who proposed to him.
Yes, surprisingly, it was Vardhan’s wife who asked him to be her boyfriend a decade ago, and it was she who proposed that they tie the knot.
As a man, the society has expectations of him, and this is one he has not fulfilled. It is embarrassing for him to admit it. Everybody would say that he was not ‘man enough’ to propose to his girl, that ‘he lacked the balls’ and he failed to take the lead.
Has society ever considered that maybe not all men want to take the lead? It’s not that Vardhan doesn’t love his wife, he just let her take the lead sometimes. She doesn’t dominate him.
Is it wrong that his wife who will now be dubbed as an ‘alpha female’ stepped up and confessed her feelings? My buddy was and still is a little shy,(even though he is a boy, as society would say) his wife sensed that and took the initiative. Is that so wrong?
He has decided to deal with severe criticism regarding his competency so that he could move to India, so his wife could work.
That’s right. My male friend loves his wife and is a living example of what gender equality actually means.
Vardhan lives in the United States, and as spouses of H1B holders aren’t allowed to work, he didn’t think it was appropriate for him to extend his visa. His wife is a skilled journalist, and due to the new immigration laws, she is unemployed.
Vardhan rejected all offers that could help him stay in the country for another few years, so that his wife could work. Now, he kept this a secret.
His entire family would blame his wife for this. They would say things along the lines of : ‘So what if your wife can’t work? You make enough. Why aren’t you happy with that? Why is your wife so demanding and selfish? She lives in the States, as a woman of leisure. What more could she want?’
To save his wife from such comments, he informed his parents that his visa could not be extended, and has dealt with the onslaught of criticism and nastiness from his family.
Since he couldn’t follow his dreams, he wants to support his wife who actually has a shot at it.
Why should he be labelled ‘a –good-for nothing pathetic excuse of a man’? My friend studied 18 hours a day, and worked double shifts for years at some of the most prestigious IT companies in the world. Why should he be labelled incompetent at work?
Vardhan wants to adopt
This is the mother load of all bombs. My buddy and his wife have been discussing adoption since before they even got hitched. They want to adopt a baby girl.
Neither of them wants to start a family the old-fashioned way. My friend is in his thirties now, so his decision will be met with more acerbic comments. His entire clan has bombarded him with questions already: ‘Why haven’t you given me grandkids yet? Are you so bad in bed? Aren’t you man? Why can’t you get her pregnant? Is something wrong with you down there? Should I recommend a doctor? I told you to marry your wife sooner. Why did you wait until you were thirty? That’s too late’.
Despite these horrific and degrading comments, my friend is firm with this issue. Why the hell would anyone, let alone family comment about a man’s bedroom skills? It’s appalling. Just because your son doesn’t have a litter of kids like your generation, does that mean he’s an incompetent man?
In conclusion, if you want to be a decent human being, stick up for your wife, society is only going to pummel you with insults about your ‘lack of masculinity’.
In Vardhan’s case, men cannot do as they please. They are judged as well. This is what I found out.
Is it so unacceptable for a man to be a beta male? Why should all men get their women knocked up instantly? How is that a proof of their masculinity? If he acts as leverage for the woman he adores, why is he a servile man? Why can’t society just be happy that he actually cares about his wife’s career?
Women are expected to forgo their choices and careers for men, why can’t men do the same? Is it really that awful for a man to do so?
Is it because they have to deal with all this, they feel the need to be what society expects of them? If that’s the case, shouldn’t fighting for gender equality help men as well? Wouldn’t it liberate men as well?
This has become food for thought for me now.
Picture credits: Image is a still from the Hindi movie Ki And Ka
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