Around a week ago, I came across an article by New York-based journalist Jamie Primeau, where she documents the results of asking men a simple question on the dating app Tinder—are you a feminist?
The idea occurred to me that the same experiment would yield interesting—nay, sorely needed—results here in India.
As a foreign woman living alone in urban India, gender equality—along with what it means for social norms, freedom of expression, and safety—is a chief concern in my everyday life. Having grown up in considerably liberal, egalitarian environments, I am constantly struggling to understand the ins and outs of this heavily male-dominated society in which I now live and work.
Plenty of activists have spoken out on gender issues here, especially since the 2012 Delhi gang rape incident stirred up a media sandstorm, which was reignited by the recent Uber rape case. Yet men's voices have been almost completely absent in the public discourse—here norms of expression are reversed, and men take up the role of the silent half. Indeed, the only inkling I have of what Indian men think of gender equality is this disturbing slew of comments backlashing Vogue Empower's recent #StartWithTheBoys campaign video.
So I turned to my phone and popped the question to 75 men on Tinder. Not to take a definitive poll of the proportion of male feminists in India or to judge the respondents based on their identification with the label, but simply to understand how feminism is perceived by our male counterparts in this country.
In a few minutes, one had promptly responded, "Go away. Bye," and proceeded to unmatch me immediately. Looks like feminism is scary terrain to tread on.
The rest of the results, however, defied my expectations—while some were decidedly unsavoury, many were insightful, illuminating, and thought-provoking. At the very least, they gave a rare glimpse into what some Indian men actually think of feminism.
This man has a utilitarian view on the matter:
And I couldn't really tell if this one was being serious:
I guess it is a wooing platform after all.
It looks like feminism can be threatening to some:
Glad to learn that feminism is a source of online entertainment.
He wasn't the only one:
And this one feels very strongly about it:
I didn't bother carrying on conversation with this guy:
And this one should maybe just go with his gut instinct.
Like this man. Hallelujah.
It looks like the view is indeed different from the other side:
Or this one:
But this one literally gave me a facepalm:
Here is the experience of a girl growing up in India, as explained by this Indian man:
This was one of the most interesting perspectives I received:
As was this simple answer:
Hats off to you, mister.
This was actually the most common response I got:
And here is a view that pretty much sums up what a lot of people can relate to, within and outside of India:
In all, I had conversations on feminism with 45 Indian men, and four simply unmatched me without responding. I am fully aware that this is an extremely biased sample, but from what I have seen, there are Indian guys out there who have actually given serious thought to gender equality and who can compel the people around them to do the same, if only they speak out.