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To you, From a man.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but to me it seems the gender equality campaign is more polarized than it should be. And by that, I mean it so much more focused on women that it blinds us to the fact that there is another gender on the other side battling its own problems (maybe not as severe but they are problems nevertheless). I say that not because I am a man who feels threatened by the prospect of having women in higher positions, doing better for themselves, living their lives. In fact, I relish the idea of having a society in which gender is not a factor in regarding merit, a society in which we all feel safe and free to live our lives, a society in which we are all free from the restraints of gender. I say this because I am a man who feels as though the problems I face are often trivialized, as though they do not matter. I am a man who feels as though even if gender puts its restraints on me as well, there isn’t enough room for that conversation. I am a man who feels as though I have no right to point out my problems or speak up about them because “someone has it worse.”

I do fully understand why the conversation is polarized, perhaps rightly so. But it continuously feels as though it is getting to a point where we are becoming oblivious to the fact that men do have problems too, that men too have many hurdles to get over, that gender is a two-way street; which means that as much as it is binding for women, it is binding for men as well in some respect. Along with the traditional gender precepts for women came certain precepts for men as well, some of which were burdening, but we barely talk about those. For instance, while we are disparaging the notion that it is a woman’s job to stay home, cook, clean, take care of the kids and whatnot, we conveniently forget to mention that along with that dependence of a woman came the burden of providing, all of which fell on the man. And even with all the change we are experiencing on one end, masculinity is still very closely linked to money. Many men are still being emasculated because they do not have enough money. So while we are freeing women from that bond, we are keeping men tied to it. Mustn’t we then be disparaging the burdening notion that men alone must provide? Shouldn’t these conversations be brought to the fore as well if gender equality is what we are really trying to achieve?

Perhaps the reason for the polarization is that men are deemed the problem. It is an undeniable fact that a lot of men have been the cause of many a problem in our society. But the statement “Men are the problem” is still very generic. It implies that the problem is being a man and that by virtue of being a man, one is the problem. That being the notion we work with means that we wedge war against men in general when in truth we should be wedging war against the actual problem. And truth is the problem is not men in general , the problem is not being a man because there are millions and millions of good men. Hell, your father is probably a lovely man. The problem is men with the problem; the problem is what men have been taught about gender and men who refuse to rethink, question and challenge what they have been taught; the problem is men who refuse to listen and see that life is harder for the other side because of their ignorance; the problem is men who rape, assault and harass women; the problem is men who stay silent. Take this next statement with a pinch of salt: that's not all men. I'm not saying that as some sort of retaliation or some defensive statement. I am saying that because it is a truth that we need to keep in mind so as to avoid slipping into the habit of villainizing men based on their sex as opposed to their actions. We are to villainize people because they are actually perpetrators, not because they are men. Point is the war should not be against men in general, it should be against men who HAVE THE PROBLEM. As long as we continue failing to distinguish between men (as in the sex) and men with the problem, we will continue to fight and villainize all men and we will fail, as a society, to empathize with the struggles that they face. I mean, how can you empathize with someone you are fighting?

The point is I am all for gender equality. I am all for feminism and ensuring that the issues women face get the attention they deserve. I am all for having everything way more on women’s side because it is they who have faced the greater challenges over the years. I am all for holding men accountable. But I am saying that gender is a two-way street; there is two sides to it. There is always a flip side. The precepts that were antagonizing for women came with binds for men too. And we should be talking about that as well. If we are to level the playing field, we must have both sides on board. We get men on board by showing them how inequality is detrimental to them, how freeing women is a win for them too, not by ignoring the challenges that they face. Yes, men have it easier than women. But easier does not mean easy. We too are fighting our own battles every single day. We got here, as a society, because for centuries, one side’s cries were deemed to trivial to be heard. And if we continue to polarize gender as much as we do right now, in 20-25 years, we would have made it full circle to this very point, only with the tables turned. We would have achieved nothing at all.

I am by no means making this about men. I am not trying to make men the victims. I am not saying this is a woman’s problem to fix. It’s a societal issue. I am only saying that men have problems too. Men are humans too. And ignoring their problems will be far more consequential than beneficial in the long run. While we police men’s actions from here onwards, we must be careful enough to not let that slip into an oppressive habit. We must be careful not to villainize men in general. We are trying to create an environment that is safe for everyone, including men. So listen to their problems. Even though they seem trivial, they are problems regardless. We are trying to create an environment that is hostile for men who are problems to the society, not all men in general. We are trying to make it harder to be a perpetrator in our society, not harder to be a man. I said last time that I am afraid of bringing a daughter into a world that is ready to swallow her whole at any turn. Well, I am also afraid of bringing a son into a world that will trivialize his problems and villainize him straight away.

There are 3 times as many male suicides as they are female. There are men who were sexually abused as kids… or even as adults (did you know that 1 in 6 men has been subjected to some form of sexual assault or abuse according to 1 in 6?). There are men who are in abusive relationships. There are men who get beaten up by their wives. There are men who have been manipulated and used. There are also many standards set for men’s bodies (you know how the below 6ft fellas are continuously ridiculed?). Men have insecurities too. While “all women are beautiful”, there are still "ugly" men. Masculinity is still very much linked with money, which means that millions of men who do not have it are made to feel less of themselves. Men are still put under immense pressure to be “men” (whatever that means). The phrase “You are a man. You are supposed to…” and "A real man should..." is just as irritating for men as “A woman should…” is for women. And there is much more. Remember all that. Speak about it.

To you, from a man.

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