I'd like to think of myself as a feminist. My ears burn when I hear a sexist remark being made, and I don't really shy away from making my voice heard. Like any feminist, I'm no stranger to hearing statements such as "you're overthinking it", or "come on, it was only a joke."
And yet, I think a very important part of standing up for women is to stand for gender neutrality. It means contending with the burden of gender that we all have to live with -- including men.
Fear, guilt and duty (what a lukewarm sentiment that is) can't be the right reasons to stay together, can they?
We Indians are a peculiar people. We thrive on dependence in the name of "family". We don't want our sons to leave the house. We want them to stay and do their duty. In our joint family system, the boy who leaves is the true equivalent to "He who must not be named" aka Voldemort, the face of evil on earth, the Oathbreaker of Game of Thrones fame. But there is an unsaid oath that has been drilled into the mind of many men -- duty, family, home, duty resounds in their mind so that leaving "home" is never an option. Either you do your duty and stay with your parents or you let them down and "abandon" them. What a burden to bear!
A simple Google search of the words "sons living with parents" throws up responses like "How to get your adult children living on their own" on Dr Phil and other non-Indian websites. While they're trying to get their kids out of the house and living on their own, we're busy holding on.
Okay, okay, I hear you proponents of the joint-family system (which is actually on the rise again in India)--in an ideal world, your system works. It's great. But we don't live in an ideal world. Fear, guilt and duty (what a lukewarm sentiment that is) can't be the right reasons to stay together, can they?
A large chunk of our society is still living in a modern-day soap opera where a family that stays together, is truly together. And if someone decides to leave the fold, the house is broken, never to be the same again.
The son almost always disappoints. "He's listening to his wife more. Would rather spend more time holidaying with her...He wants to abandon us! How could he?"
Here's where girls actually have it easy. From the day we are born, our parents know that one day we'll leave (ladki paraya dhan hai and all that), hence there are zero expectations. You meet your parents twice a month and they're delighted -- an "exceeds expectations" looks great on your Daughter Report Card. The son, unfortunately, almost always disappoints. "He's listening to his wife more. Would rather spend more time holidaying with her than calling us. He wants to abandon us! How could he?"
Then, are parents of girls more empowered? Years of practice has given them the magical power of "letting go", something that doesn't come easily to the parents of the proverbial devta (god), the man of the house. Do they have the last laugh eventually?
So for once in my life, boys, I'll say this -- it's not easy to be a man either. I'll give this to you, this once... just this once.
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