Finally Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj has uploaded the Tedx talk she gave on men’s issues in India about a month ago. She is a great resource of information for people who do not live in that country. I am very glad I found her after being puzzled for a long time abut why the European media is only presenting the women’s side of things. After all men and women exist together, so you can never have the whole picture by consistently excluding one half from the conversation. With this one sided perspective it has gotten to the point where people look at you like you’re the scum of the earth when you say that you’re not a vegetarian but the same people don’t blink an eye when you confront them with the astronomically high male suicide figures across the globe. So it just happened to me at a party I recently attended where upon me saying that I work on men’s issues a French lady went ballistic, exclaiming: “But ….. but … men are the perpetrators and women are the victims …” Note that this is NOT paraphrasing but the actual words used, from which she went on to say that she had recently been to India where the men enjoy so much more freedom than the women. She was completely untouched by the suicide figures that I confronted her with. When people have more empathy with chickens than with men my admiration for someone like Deepika, daring to go against the grain, grows even more.
One Indian lady fighting the empathy gap:
In the past few months – since my very non-nondescript blog about my six week trip through Pakistan almost two years ago – took this direction I have thinking about writing a new introduction that would explain my interest in this topic. I was never sure where to start, as I had so many experiences in my life that drew me in this direction and how personal it should be as personal attacks on people who write about and research these issues are not uncommon and I do not want to cause distress to my family. Now I have just come across a note under an article about male suicide from The Guardian that was posted on the facebook site of the ManKind Project. It makes the point very clear why drawing people’s attention across the globe to men’s issues is of vital importance.
Intuitively we tend to focus on women and girls when there is a tragedy and completely black men and boys out. Having done my M.A. in Literature I encountered the phrase ‘writing women back into history’ more than once. In the same vein people claim that Men’s Studies is not needed as every history class is men’s studies as it recounts men’s lives in the past. But that is not true. It only recounts the lives of men in certain glorious roles and says nothing about the hardship they suffered under strenuous conditions. Yes, we need to write some of women’s achievements back into history books, as they were not always appreciated. But at the same time we need to write men’s suffering back into history books. And if someone now thinks that this is a big whining contest in the run up for the oppression Olympics they are still not aware of the real world implications of ignoring men’s suffering. As shown above they are deadly. While men always lived slightly shorter lives than women the life expectancy gap has widened globally in the past 100 years from one year to seven years in the worst affected countries. The male suicide rate is 4 times as high as the female suicide rate in most western countries. In India a married man takes his life every 8 minutes. And while suicide is a sin and considered a crime in many Muslim countries (and thus difficult to get numbers) evidence points to men outnumbering women in Pakistan as well. In western countries it is quite clear that these high numbers are not due to ‘male egos’ as Feminists like to claim. Men are certainly not exactly encouraged to come forward with their problems in a society where if they do so they are called cry babies, laughed at for their ‘male tears’ by journalist Jessica Valenti and told to go to a psychiatric ward instead when calling a domestic violence shelter hotline. Our natural inclination to focus on women and black out men has furthermore led us to make gender specific laws in the name of equality, that clearly have put men under severe hardship.
Globally we now have the UN’s HeforShe campaign that once again asks men to don the armor to be the shining knight and enter the service of women’s protection. Knowing that western NGOs operating in developing countries already heavily favour women even when something affects mainly men I was rather shocked by this campaign that asks men once again to shut up about themselves and help women. Feminists and some anti-feminists alike like to claim that women in the ‘third world’ need Feminism. No one would deny that women in developing countries, such as Pakistan, are suffering. But Feminism will certainly not help them bring food on their table or protect their sons and husbands from being wrongfully incarcerated or killed in a fake police encounter. It is men and women who are struggling in these countries and focusing on improving the lives of only one group and claiming that the other is responsible for their hardship is the last thing the people in these countries need. With a lot of sectarian and communal strife that is already taking so many lives and putting psychological strain on people what is needed are strong communities and a rebuilding of trust in one’s neighbour! The very opposite of what feminist ideology aims for. What we need across the globe is respect for human lives, which grows out of empathy for each other. Claiming that a group of people somehow has privilege makes it impossible for us to have empathy towards them and consequently makes us blind to the fact that they are spending considerable less time in this world than the so called oppressed group.
PS: Feminists like to claim that speaking about men’s issues as long as women’s suffering has not been eliminated is ‘derailing’. As someone from a rail family I do not find this metaphor apt. I would rather say that people working on men’s issues are ‘expanding the network’ and bringing the rail system from 1848 into the 21st century: more lines, affordable fares and more frequent trains, so that anyone can go anywhere at any time they wish :)
My urdu teacher this week when one of the guys was slow at reading: “When I was teaching Arabic in Bonn, the boys used to sit in the front row and I would pinch them when they didn’t know the answer. I couldn’t do that with the girls obviously. But then the girls started to feel sorry for them.”
Patriarchy = a system in which men and boys suffer violence but girls and women are excempt
I made this website two years ago, after visiting my friend from study abroad in the UK in her home country, Pakistan, with the aim of dispelling stereotypes and prejudices about this South Asian country. When I told people in the UK and Germany where I was travelling to I was told that it was too dangerous and that Pakistan was a country that was bad for women. When I came back I couldn’t say anything to counter the first claim as the safety situation is poor to say the least. The fear from terrorist attacks and communal and political violence determines how people live their every day lives. Add to that constant power outages and every day activities that people in Europe don’t think about twice become a challenge even for the part of the population who is lucky to not belong to the majority of the poor. That the international media tends to focus only on one half of the population has begun to increasingly bug me.
So it was very refreshing to see this video that Pakistani men and women have made recently:
On the same issues: http://www.dawn.com/news/720187/the-flip-side-of-domestic-violence
All around the world people share two basic beliefs:
- A man’s greatest desire is to oppress a woman.
- Because men have historically written most texts and appeared more in the public sphere they are the ones who determine how life should be lived by all women and the remaining men who are not public speakers, writers, judges, etc. (Feminists call that ‘patriarchy hurts men too’)
So, a man has this desire to oppress women AND the power to enforce this oppression. Having lived among men and women for 31 years my impressions about what desires they both have are slightly different. But let’s look at #shirtgate and what Matt Taylor’s desires and actions were, apart from that insignificant thing with the comet. ;-)
For his big day he wore a shirt that his female friend made to promote women empowerment. Mh, interesting way of oppressing a woman by wearing the shirt that she made and transporting her message out into the wider world. His actions look more like he likes women and wants to please them. When another woman complains that his shirt is bad for women empowerment (how is head not buzzing with confusion at this point? Mine certainly is!) he breaks down in tears and apologizes. His strong desire to make women happy and do anything to please them should be clear to anyone right now.
Further, it should be clear to anyone what has been clear to women who are honest all their lives. There are some vocal women who have a keen interest in pushing their own way of life onto other women and making them belief that this is how a woman has to be and it is the only way. I was quite confused as a teenager when I opened women’s magazines and were told on every other page that this and only this is the right way of being a woman. Ever since them I have avoided them like the pest. But in recent years women’s issues have been creeping into the mainstream media in such a dominant way that you cannot open any publication anymore without being told how you should live your life as a woman. I am getting sick and tired of being made to feel that I have not succeeded in my life because I am not in a STEM field. Apparently women empowerment is not about women doing what they are interested in and being successful in realizing their personal dreams. No, they have to realize the dreams of some outspoken Feminists. Become engineers, computer programmers or politicians even though most women have no interest in going into these fields. They claim that women aren’t encouraged enough in their childhood to go into these fields. As a child I have probably seen more trains and have been their explained their inner workings than most kids, but ironically I observed that they worked just fine whereas I observed very odd behavior in adults. That’s why I developed in interest in learning about different behavior in humans, in order to understand why they acted so strangely. I still ask myself why? when I see strange societal phenomena. When I see men sit cross legged on the subway I ask myself why? Because they are anatomically different to women. When I see Feminists starting a media campaign about men sitting cross legged on the subway, I ask myself: why do they not know that men and women are anatomically different? Why do they at other times pretend that anatomic differences mean that men are indestructible and instruct social services to look for the fault in the husband whenever there is a family conflict even though women in relationships are just as violent as men? Maybe, just maybe, if Feminists didn’t make people behave so strangely girls would not want to explore the world or human behaviour and study literature and culture but will want to find out out how to make faster and more climate friendly trains. :)
I ventured slightly off topic in trying to show how it’s women and not men, as is usually claimed, who like to define how women should live. Tomorrow in my seminar on “Islam, Gender and Democracy: Comparative Aspects between the Arab World and India” we might again talk about how certain Hadiths and Sunnahs were interpretated in such a way as to very clearly define the roles of women. Apparently that was done by men to control women. Ironically I have in 31 years not come across men who had a strong opinion on what I should be like as a woman. (Except for male Feminists) I have though personally come across such women who claimed: “This is what women do.” (I never do such things) or “This is how women live” (I never intend to live this way) and been bombarded with media reports on what women should be like. While I am not conservative, I found this article that I came across today very interesting. It talks about how the majority of women in the UK feel like they have to live the life that a minority of vocal women have defined as the ideal life of a woman. Needless to say that they are finding it less than ideal. http://conservativewoman.co.uk/belinda-brown-feminism-silenced-women-far-effectively-men-ever/
With everything that is going on around me I find it very hard to believe that in the past women had no opinion of their own and men had a strong desire to define their lives. Very hard indeed to believe that there were no women involved in convincing men to interpret certain hadiths in such a way that they would present they lifestyle of this particular woman as the ideal one. No one could fault them. In the past societies had to be very homogeneous. It’s completely understandable that women would push for their life style to be declared universal so that they would not have to fear being asked to live differently. Live and let live! :) And stop holding men responsible for women’s decisions.
Who is the slave to whom?
So they say we live in a patriarchy, in plain English = fathers/men rule. In some countries they are said to do that to a lesser in others to a greater extent. I don’t need to go through the whole list of the 76 countries in which it is considered a crime to reject a relationship with a woman in favor of a man to know that these are countries which are considered strongly ‘patriarchal’. Apparently the men make the rules. And so men have made this rule that a man who prefers to be with another men instead of a woman should not only be a social outcast but live in fear of punishment. Accordingly men prefer every man around them to be wanting a relationship with a woman. We have all heard that men like competition. Thus it would make sense to have many rivals when trying to establish a relationship with the lady of his dreams. Considering that DNA analysis has recently found out that humanity’s ancestors were 67% female and 33% male (Baumeister, Roy F.) the odds for winning her heart or any woman’s heart seem already quite heavily stacked against the guy. Would reducing his competition not have been a relief for him and if he was the one making the rules shouldn’t he have encouraged male homosexuality? The vast majority of women during human history found a partner and had children, the vast majority of men did not. Would it thus not make sense that men would be more than happy to see some men leave the party with each other and thus increase their chances of getting the lady exponentially?
While you ponder the question look at the situation from the women’s point of view. When it wasn’t all about butterflies in your tummy and the state wouldn’t support you if you were in need women had to find a man who would stick around to support them and their children. So they were looking for the best quality male. As DNA has shown women did not face such high competition from other women as men did from other men. So, not such high motivation for social exclusion and punishment for women who preferred to pair off with other women instead of other men. Lesbians have been sometimes more sometimes less stigmatized during history but no death penalty ever. But obviously the last thing women needed was a shrunken pool of men to chose from. When we want to buy something good from the market we go in the morning when we still have huge choice and not when the tables are almost empty. Women had a great motivation to keep men from pairing off with each other. Men had no motivation to prevent the shrinking of the number of their rivals. The rules with regard to homosexuality were / are tailored around the woman’s needs.
And yet we keep saying that homophobia originates with straight men. According to Feminists straight men have an aversion to gay men because of their femininity, because men in general reject the feminine. The latter might come as a surprise to any straight man who tends to be quite fond of the feminine and has during the course of history risked everything to win a woman’s heart. The point of femininity in gay men is also quite odd as most gay men do not correspond to the stereotype. They look and behave pretty much like all men. They only prefer male over female partners. Otherwise they are as male as everyone else. When the death penalty was introduced for homosexuality in Uganda I saw quite a number of Ugandan women comment that if men were allowed to have a relationship with each other there would not be enough men left for women. That seemed quite an odd thought to me. While I am good friends with gay men, the idea of having a romantic relationship with a man does not desire me physically seemed quite absurd to me. A relationship/marriage is after all different from a friendship. But putting high value on a close emotional bond with your partner is a luxury that women in the past and in many countries still today cannot afford. Without paid paternity leave and health insurance a woman needs a man who will protect her and provide for her and their children. Whether he seems particularly cheerful when her brother is around is of no concern to her as long as long as looks aren’t followed by moves.
Keep telling me about patriarchy and how men rules when the rules are cut out to suit women’s needs!