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What is it with cis-het men and their giant-sized egos? I’m curious and I really want to know. If you have an answer other than ‘#NotAllMen’, do share.
As always is the case on social media, cis-het Indian men, whether living in a western, first-world country or in India, cocooned in their bubble of privilege and ignorance, decide that the entire universe has laid this burden and responsibility on their sturdy shoulders to tell women how they are wrong. Quite typical, considering how men frequently take it upon themselves to educate women on feminism, women’s rights and their struggles! After all, what would we ignorant women, who face the everyday struggles in their fight against patriarchy and internalized misogyny, know about any of these things?
It usually gets to a point where a cis-het man, blinded by his thick entitlement-and-privilege-coloured glasses is unable to handle being challenged, and resorts to name calling, threats, and personal attacks. He refuses to see reason even when pointed out how his actions amount to gaslighting, sealioning, and mansplaining.
Time and again, women who comment on such posts invest their valuable time, energy, and efforts in pointing out logically and rationally why the line of thinking as endorsed by the man is problematic. Presumably in the mistaken belief that if they would discuss and reason with the man and tell him where the problems lie, he would understand. But alas! What do they know that the man is already learned enough. Silly women, such high hopes they have that someone with a Godzilla-ego and zero-lived experience would be willing to listen or learn!
Often, such an interaction leads to the man targeting the woman with personal attacks and subjecting the woman to further abuse, along with ‘preaching’ to them how they are ‘armchair activists’ or ‘social media warriors’, and ultimately ends with the woman getting silenced.
If there was a textbook case of what men should not do, it is right there on the comments section of any post where a woman talks about feminism or women’s rights.
Statements and comments that reek of entitlement, privilege, and hypocrisy do not make for logical arguments. Furthermore, defending their own actions or the actions of other men, or defending sexist traditions, rules, and practices just because they exist, without giving thought to how the arguments itself are apologia, defensive, and problematic is what amounts to encouraging rape culture.
Men calling women to be ‘sensible’ is code for women to be silent, for the moment you dare to speak up you are being ridiculous and illogical.
Men asking women to be ‘polite’ can be translated as a warning for women to just agree with what the man says. Because the moment you decide to challenge him, you are being rude!
Men telling women to not be ‘emotional’ is code for women to not bother putting forth any argument. Because, otherwise anything you say will get you the label of being ‘too emotional’.
The question isn’t about any one particular man or a single instance of such misogynistic behaviour. In fact, this is quite common. I’m sure many women must have encountered some or the other man who loudly screams that he believes in gender equality but goes on to prove otherwise with his actions and words.
I have often heard men use the ‘I have the right to freedom of speech’ argument to defend their racist, casteist, sexist, misogynistic, not to mention abusive comments. No one has ever questioned anyone’s freedom of speech, and yet, men use the argument like a default thing that needs to be said.
I understand freedom of speech, but why is it available only to men and that too when trying to defend patriarchy or patriarchal attitudes. Why is it that men exercise this freedom only when fighting, trolling, silencing women, and not in actually supporting the women or defending their rights? Why is their ‘freedom of speech’ so selective?
Does their freedom of speech entitle someone to defend normalised misogyny that feeds into rape culture? – and we know how that works out in the end.
Does freedom of speech not exist for women, unless of course they agree with the man, and behave in accordance to the expected social diktats of ‘good behaviour’?
Is it okay for any man to take it upon himself to ‘teach’ women about women’s rights, and tell women to “not be judgemental or illogical”, when in reality it is the man who displaying such behaviour, and using every classic tactic that inflicts more violence on women?
More importantly, why is this argument of them exercising their right to freedom of speech the only fallback defence every time their flawed opinions are challenged?
Many women have encountered such men at some point or the other in their lives. Men who think they know better and take it upon themselves to ‘explain’ to the women how they are wrong. When all else fails, they portray women as the culprits, and present themselves as the harried and harassed victims of women’s scheming machinations. They refuse to shut up and listen, refuse to grow up, refuse to check their own privilege, refuse to educate themselves, or share the burden of creating an equal society.
The #NotAllMen argument too comes up; just as quickly as benevolent sexism also makes an appearance. “I too have a mother/ sister/ daughter/ friend, and I respect all women” is a common refrain. As if women are to be respected only if you have a female relative.
What’s really interesting is how quickly these men go from “I’m trying to explain to you” to “You woman, how dare you oppose me.” Their feeble defences that they are unmindful of the other person’s gender or that they support gender equality crumbles as soon as they use words like “be polite”, “don’t be emotional”, “these feminists”, and the most common “Don’t expect support and sympathy just because of your gender”. Statements like “I believe in gender equality but….”, “You feminists have a problem in everything”, “Just because you’re a woman…” are also very easily found in such interactions.
Never mind that the man has been rude and abusive; or that the fight that feminists are engaged in is exactly about how women are controlled and dominated at every step.
And if the women fail to meet the set expectations – toe the line or agree with what the man said – the men take it upon themselves to teach the women a lesson.
The flow of how such conversations typically unfold reminded me of many such previous instances where the woman is eventually threatened in similar ways. Priya Ramani being sued for defamation by M J Akbar after he was the one who sexually harassed her is one. Meena Kandasamy being sued by her abusive ex-husband being another. Physical violence like acid attacks, rape, murder aren’t uncommon either. All of these are instances of men silencing and inflicting violence on women who dare to challenge them in some way or the other. Oppressors doing what they do best – oppressing.
The specific details of each such incident may vary but the basic plot structure remains the same.
Woman challenges a man.
Man’s ego is hurt.
Woman refuses to back down.
And boom! Silence the woman with whatever form of abuse is readily available.
It’s as if there is a user manual out there somewhere for men to refer to, step-by-step detailing what they should do when. #MeToo still continues, albeit in a different form. It would be hilarious if it weren’t such a serious issue.
Why do these men pretend to be allies? Why do they mistakenly think they believe in gender equality? Why do these men refuse to learn, grow, evolve, despite a number of women actually investing their energy to patiently point out their mistakes and how they can actually do better? Why do these men take up the space that anyway doesn’t belong to them?
The answer is patriarchy, yes, but also male ego and entitlement, which in turn stems from a hollowed sense of male superiority. The firm belief on part of the men that they know better. The men taking it upon themselves to teach the women. And if they don’t toe the line, punish them in some form or the other – threaten them, mock them, gaslight or ridicule them, and as we have seen in many cases, even murder or rape them. There isn’t much difference in those outcomes. It’s a circle that originates with patriarchy but ends with women being subjected to violence – yet again.
Meanwhile, our fight will continue in comments, in family discussions, in posts like these. We refuse to be threatened, intimated, or silenced.
Men would do well to stop preaching to us, and instead, first educate themselves, then join the fight. Because this time the women have banded together.
Priya Ramani will not be threatened.
Meena Kandasamy will not be silenced.
Neither will any other woman.
Image source: a still from the film Mission Mangal
Piyusha Vir is a writer, artist, a CELTA-certified English Language trainer, and a Creative Writing Coach.
She was awarded the Top 5 position in the Orange Flower Awards 2018 for the category of Writing read more...
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The incident took place ten years ago.
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Trigger Warning: This has graphic descriptions of violence and may be triggering to survivors and victims of violence.
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