Changing your family is the most necessary and the most difficult life task

It was the year 2008, and I had just finished my 10th std. To my shock, my father did not want me to study further. I knew my family was conservative, but not this much. He said that I could only study if I wore the burkha. At that point, I was not entirely convinced of the burkha. My mom wore it, but out of choice. I knew women who wore and did not, and I do not think the cloth per se made them more or less pious. We somehow got him to agree that I would do it post my 12th.

Two years later, I was still not convinced. I researched a lot, and the evidence was sketchy at best, about it’s requirements. Besides, the burkha as it is came because of Khomeini’s campaign in Iran during the 70s. Back then, I was still unsure of my arguing powers so we settled on the midway of a headscarf. I stopped wearing it after a while. I didn’t think it was necessary to wear a piece of cloth to prove my worth to anyone.

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Now, my stance on that was very clear. I guess somewhere my father had realised that. I would be ready with all Quranic evidence and hadith always. Another fact was that I would bring up what men were “supposed” to do as well, according to Islam. That would shut them up.

But what mattered along with that was that my academic record was impeccable, I would go out of my way to help out at home and get a lot of tasks done. And yes, there were never any late nights and for the longest time, most of my family did not think I have male friends. In an ideal world, I should not have to be a typical “good girl” to get basic rights like education and freedom. But this is not an ideal world.

While I was working up to my education, I agreed to certain things and challenged certain things. My dad said I could do my masters only if I agreed to seeing potential grooms after the first year. I agreed. But I’m still not married at 24. Most of these things don’t even happen. It was just a way for him to show him who is in control. While I agreed here, I started challenging that women should eat yesterday’s rotis if they were left. I said, divide the leftovers equally. I helped mom to start questioning things. I helped her stop being a slave for my brothers and bring them down from the pedestal.

The point is, change is slow. And, change is difficult when you have to change the people you love. Because repulsion for their beliefs and love for them as people – both have to exist together and that makes it hard for you.

But it’s possible. Its all about the negotiation. Agree to certain things, and push them for other things. Shifts in reality are always slow.

Recently, a cousin of mine was almost forced into an engagement. She wanted to talk to the guy a little more before deciding, but her parents did not let her, because their society did not allow that. They valued society’s opinion more over their daughter’s happiness.

When my dad came to know this, he said “How can they do something which will surely make their child unhappy?”

Would my dad of 2008 have said this? If this is not change, what is?

Why ‘men will be men’ is most damaging to men.

So, if you google ‘men will be men’, you will find a million memes, videos and images that reduce men to sex boxes. Thanks to Imperial Blue’s ad campaign, this is reinforced all the more.

In the typical ad by this company, men are pretending to be fitter because they can only thinking of deceiving a person into sex when they see a woman, or they will ‘protectively’ keep a hand on the shoulder of their wives/ girlfriends to show another male that his is better, or at least he has one.

Apparently, men have the egos of five year olds and the mating rules of the animal kingdom.

I disagree.

I have had the most moving emotional conversations with some male friends of mine. Others have given me great intellectual insights. Still others, have engaged in philosophical debates with me, enriching me all the more with it.

My guy friends are good friends who are there for me, they are good at what they do, they are good at their hobbies, and they are great people.

I refuse to think that their brains do not function beyond sex, gaming and sports.

Most human beings think about sex. It’s normal. No need to make it a man’s domain. And women also like gaming and sports. And there are men who do not like gaming and sports. And even if they do, they do not suck at balancing their emotional lives along with their interests.

Although it is very convenient to want to say ‘men will be men’ for certain stereotypical male behaviour, it is damaging in the long term because it portrays men as some sort of one dimensional, unfeeling, sex boxes. They are so much more. This kind of understanding about how men are and supposed to be, is what reduces the chances of sexual abuse and rape against boys and men being reported, this increases the likelihood of domestic violence on men, as well as makes it possible to misuse women protection laws because men are always seen as perpetrators and strong – they can never be victims. If a person is craving sex all the time, of course they can’t be raped – this thinking is encouraged.

This kind of thinking makes bullying and ragging look like rites of passage and young boys growing up not reporting horrendous acts of violence because you are supposed to ‘take it like a man’.

It makes it very difficult for men to have fulfilling romantic relationships.

Lastly, it reduces women to one-dimensional beings who do not like their male partners to be involved in sports and hobbies and play hard to get. Redundant crap.

After so many years on this planet, we as people certainly have more depth than being the one dimensional man and woman. Even cave-people did.

It’s easy to use ‘men will be men’ to justify something you or your friend did, but it is not very different from when women are offered privileges due to patriarchy (date bills paid by the male partner), and by succumbing to them, women add to the status quo of inequality.

Next time you or someone you know wants to use the above justification, stop yourselves and give yourselves permission to be a complete human, not a one-dimensional sex box.

No, thanks IB.