Commemorating International Men’s Day: It’s time we give our men their dues

What I will be stating right now would be a polar opposite to what is hinted at in the title;  I am not too keen on days dedicated to people based on factors that tend to focus on what makes them different rather than celebrating them for the right reasons. However, one might argue that some sections of the society have harder than the others and therefore it makes sense to highlight the issues faced by them. Fair enough, I would say. However, when any nonprofit organization starts to align itself with only one particular community, they tend to become largely dismissive of the issues faced by the other. For instance, I don’t think women’s emancipation and gender neutrality make sense when used together in the same breath. That’s because someone who makes a statement in such a state has already made up his/her mind about who is the predator and who is the prey.  I believe a more balanced approach is the key. Therefore, when I talk of this issue I like to state that I have a problem with gender discrimination instead of blatantly taking sides. Today I have been compelled to dedicate a post to International Men’s Day, solely because women’s day and queer’s day is celebrated with huge pomp and show, while most men are not even aware of the significance of 19th November.

It was founded in 1999 by Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh a history lecturer at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad Tobago on the day of his father’s birthday. Interestingly calls for such a day have been going on since at least the 1960s.

In more recent decades small celebrations of national nature were observed to establish an International Men’s Day in individual countries such as  Canada, France, USA, Colombia, Russia, Canada, China which suffered a lack of publicity necessary to reach interested parties abroad, and therefore the initiatives were not continued. In the early years due to the initiative was taken for making International Men’s Day widespread, is now independently celebrated in countries as diverse as Singapore, Australia, India, United Kingdom, United States, South Africa, Haiti, Jamaica, Hungary, Malta, Ghana, Moldova, and Canada and interest in the event is increasing rapidly.

The proposed objectives of International Men’s Day include a focus on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is also suggested as an occasion whereby men may highlight discrimination against them and celebrate their positive achievements and contributions to communities, places of work, friendships, families, marriages, and child care.[1]

The website of International Men’s Day gives a special mention to Indian men’s right activist who not only pioneered the celebration of IMD in India in 2007 by highlighting laws that favor women over men but by inspired Warwick Marsh, the founder of Dads4Kids. The Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation is a harm prevention charity based in Australia whose mission is to improve the well-being of children through promoting and nurturing good men who in turn would become excellent fathers. When I started writing this post, I was eager to read up about Uma Challa and praise her at length. However, it is impossible to do so once you go through the home page “Save the Indian Family Foundation” a nonprofit organization that was started by her. The organization identifies itself primarily with men’s rights but chooses to have such a fancy name as it believes that it is protecting families by protecting innocent men. No! It does nothing for the children and the elderly, in case you were wondering. The following statement is being quoted verbatim from their website itself:-

“The feminists and the many people in Arts and Media have misled society by twisting and distorting the facts and reality. Most feminists are intellectually challenged individuals, with very little academic grounding. They are frustrated angry individuals, who think intolerance and hate will improve the conditions of women in the world. In reality, the condition of women improves due to technology, which mostly men created. Feminists are also extremely ungrateful people, who never get satisfied with any improvement in the condition of women. When a man is in danger, the family is in danger. When men are mistreated in a society, then families get destroyed. It is important to save innocent men and families from Indian prisons. We actually, saved many families from prison and these families are grateful to us for their whole life. The women leveling false allegations of rape are never punished in India or the world because societies consider women as kids and think women do not have a brain of their own and hence women are not responsible for anything. In the end, if men are freed from violent protector role, if boys are not emotionally suppressed if families are strengthened, and if boys are protected from abuse by women during their childhood, we are sure the rate of rapes will drastically reduce in India.”[2]

The organization seems to be as anti-woman as it claims its arch-nemesis the feminists to be anti-men. As you can see there are some very strong words used against them. Who cares if the real meaning of feminism is actually to seek unconditional gender equality? This organization’s savior complex is for everyone to see in light of the pride it takes in saving families. The general belief seems to be that the guy’s family is always made to suffer in the fight and the woman is always bad for the children involved. There is also a very shallow understanding of socio-legal reasons at play because of which law tends to be biassed towards women. I am not justifying the inclination of the courts towards women but just pointing out what I feel about the understanding of the organization. Women alone have been blamed for toxic masculinity instead of patriarchal conditioning which is perpetrated by both men and women as rightly pointed out by the famous activist Kamla Bhasin.

The force behind the celebration of men’s day in India might be messed up but men’s issues are not. Neither are they a product of modernization nor do they affect a small chunk of the population. To date, I haven’t come across a single piece of academic writing, which looks at child marriage between a girl child and a grown man, as a means of not only repressing female sexuality but preventing men from having legitimate sexual intercourse within wedlock. The only onscreen depiction of such an issue that I have come across to date was in Ankur. Ek chadar maili si and A suitable boy have poignantly captured the familial expectation that falls upon the younger brother on the death of the older brother. He is expected to keep aside his desires and marry his sister in law regardless of the kind of maternal bond they probably shared in a joint family structure. Raat akeli hai even takes a dig on how sometimes when men refuse to take dowry the prospective bride’s family becomes suspicious about the man himself. The male lead also gets rejected again and again due to his dark complexion.

Matrimonial advertisements seeking gori chitti gharelu brides have been receiving more than their fair share of criticism by mainstream fiction and media over the years. The general perception happens to be that while women’s worth is determined by their beauty a men’s value is determined by their financial worth, thereby putting the burden of being the sole breadwinner of the family on his shoulders. More on this coming later, while we have a look at another assumption that it leads to;  a man’s success in the arranged marriage set up is based on his financial capacity. I believe this is exactly the thought process from which leads to comic liberty being taken out of a not so conventionally good looking man’s insecurities. In today’s day and age, somehow it isn’t acceptable to be making fun of a woman dabbing fairness cream and desperately trying to lose weight, but the rules are different when it comes to men. While in Badhai ho Badhai and Bala, we see the leading men come to terms with rejection in the arranged marriage gradually due to obesity and baldness, in Main meri patni aur vo we get to witness the painful insecurities Rajpal Yadav’s character is coping up within his marriage brought upon by his height.

Time and again, books and movies have been made about the peer pressure on men to lose their virginity such as Inscrutable Americans and Mumbai Matinee which have been marketed as comedies. They rightly reflect present-day societal pressure on men to be sexually active. The general reaction might be to laugh at this but it seems no laughing matter if you are at the receiving end regularly. On one hand, Huma Quershi’s “Permission Nahin liye” from Gangs of Wasseypur was applauded for highlighting the concept of consent when it comes to a man touching a woman in an intimate relationship, similar scenes in Kappor and Sons and Made in Heaven, never managed to garner a similar fan base when it came to a woman touching a man inappropriately. We can’t lose sight of the fact that in both instances the men were gay. This is what makes Aitraz significant in this regard. How Priyanka Chopra’s character has been stereotypically portrayed in a negative light is a conversation for another day. This movie for the first time indicated a possibility of a woman making a false allegation of molestation on her own without being influenced by other men against a heterosexual man as previously depicted in movies such as Saat Rang ke Sapne and Virasat. It would be interesting to take note of the fact in each of these movies, the alleged offender already had an intimate partner. I am yet to come across a movie where a single heterosexual man is shown to take offense at an unwanted sexual advance and more importantly consider it a violation of his bodily integrity. However, in a recent movie a woman although shown in a neutral light is finally revealed to have made a false rape allegation. It got panned left right and center, mostly by women over social media. The director being a man didn’t help much either.

In Adhe Adhure and Ghachar Ghochar, male characters are portrayed in a negative light due to having an ego complex fuelled by the inability to be the earning member of the family. Most reviews position them as perpetrators of patriarchy rather than a victim. On the other hand, boyfriends can be seen being grilled by the girlfriend’s father in Pyar ke side effects and Bewakoofiyan, for earning less than her, to grab some laughs. It especially broke my heart to see in Adheen how the father is held in content despite being a selfless homemaker who stood by his children as his children see him as worthless since he isn’t the traditional earning member of the family.

While addressing this issue it is impossible to forget to give Shubh Mangal Savdhaan a huge round of applause for making a movie on male infertility that is seldom even acknowledged. Despite the tacky execution, it deserves full marks for the concept itself. As much as I loved Thappad, I would love to watch a movie where domestic violence law is being misused by a woman as well. Signing off for tonight on that note.



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