I am and always will be a staunch feminist. But I am also traditional in many ways, rooted and god fearing. It is difficult being a woman in India, but it is not easy being a man either. And while feminism is a great ideal to pursue, we must not forget to acknowledge the good men who stand by us, and help us in our fight for gender equality. We feminists don't acknowledge our men enough. And that is not nice of us.
Just like it takes a woman of grit to foray into a man's world, it takes a man of substance to foray into a woman's world. Please applaud him.
I was raised by two very educated parents who were working full-time. We always had the luxury of a cook and a cleaner at home. If the cook was on leave, everyone pitched in, including my father. He used to make the most scrumptious breakfast, and would gladly be our teacher in the kitchen. On days when my mother had to leave early for work, he would patiently braid my hair, and make sure my tiffin was packed. Many times, he would attend to his patients with my younger brother sitting on his lap. He was super proud of his girls, and he never had a doubt that they would be career women. He would wake up at 5am many days to tutor us, and emphasised that getting an education was top priority. He ensured that meals were served on the table, and talked to us about our day, about science, about the news, about religion and philosophy. There was never any restriction on our entering a place of worship. Menstruation was not a taboo subject, and I always told him upfront the exact reason why I was feeling unwell. I feel lucky and privileged when I say that he had as much contribution in my upbringing as my mother.
It should not take you long to realise that this is an unusual kind of a father by Indian standards. Most fathers in India contribute little to the house except bringing a pay cheque. It dawned on me pretty late that my friends and colleagues weren't raised by men who believed in gender equality, and this was an exception rather than a norm.
In a country ridden by sexism and patriarchy, in which women are as guilty (or even more than) as men, in keeping it alive, must we not be grateful for the good men? Must we not acknowledge their contribution in our lives?
In a country ridden by sexism and patriarchy... must we not be grateful for the good men? Must we not acknowledge their contribution in our lives?
It's only when I came in contact with women from myriad backgrounds that I realised how tough life is for most women in India. Despite being educated, a lot of women aren't able to pursue a career or chase their dreams, because their husbands don't allow them to. Of course, independent women don't need anyone's permission, but how good can life be if two people living under a roof disagree all the time. Imagine how miserable my doctor mother would have been if my father insisted that she cook him three hot meals a day, or that braiding hair was not a man's job? Not even once in her life was my mother told that she couldn't have the keys to his cupboard, a reality that millions of women live with everyday. I was aghast the first time I got to know that men like this exist. The petty things they do to feel powerful, and suppress their wives. Most women have no say in the financial decisions of the house, even if they are earning themselves, and a vast majority are expected to provide details of how each penny is spent. Men portray themselves as gods for being the "breadwinners", while the women are treated no better than bonded labourers. Many deal with domestic violence on a regular basis.
[T]hese are the men who help lay the foundations of a society in which feminism is not a bad word.
A man is as responsible for the upbringing of his child as a woman is, so why do we applaud him? But the truth is, it takes a good man, a courageous man, in a patriarchal society, who will agree to attend a PTA meeting, which has traditionally been the mothers' domain. If he got a round of applause from the other mothers, he deserved it. For, just like it takes a woman of grit to foray into a man's world, it takes a man of substance to foray into a woman's world. Please applaud him. Encourage him. So that others around him feel encouraged to do the same. So that he has something to look to when someone shamelessly calls him henpecked. Why must we not be grateful that men like him exist?
So, my dear ladies, if you are a homemaker who is loved and respected by her husband for her contribution to the house, please acknowledge the good man. If you are a career woman, who can balance work and family with the support of her spouse, please take a moment to know how lucky you are. If you are a young girl who is encouraged to pursue her dreams by her father, please be grateful for his presence in your life. For it is good men like these who are helping us in making gender equality a reality. For these are the men who help lay the foundations of a society in which feminism is not a bad word.
This is an edited version of a post that first appeared here.