Category Archives: Men, men, men
Yes, that’s what I said. Yes, all men. Yes, as an entire gender.
Notice how much male-generated noise there is in the world? In politics, in art, in the media, in popular culture, in coffeeshops and bars and drawing rooms and boardrooms and bedrooms. There are more men in the world and they are saying much more. Ergo, they generate more verbal clutter. This is not a gendering accusation. It’s simple statistics.
I ran a small experiment. I looked up the term ‘Silence’ on Pixabay. All the images of people that came up on the first page were of women doing the finger-to-lips gesture. Others were of serene landscapes and peaceful places. Even some animals. But no men. Silence is not an attribute to be associated with men.
On the other hand, when I tried looking up ‘Speak’ on the same site, I found images of frogs, monkeys and men. This was the first picture that had a woman in it. Notice the number of men and their body language in it.
The dating scene, the art beat, the corporate world — these are all rife with men making verbal jumps without caution. Mansplaining, manspreading, constant needless aggression — just what makes an entire gender keep at this, despite all evidence of it only being damaging behaviour? I think it’s because men are constantly being pushed to be the opposite of quiet. The trick is to keep talking, they seem to be told. Let the verbal diarrhoea run, regardless of sense, propriety, reason or consideration. Keep speaking because if you don’t, you will will cease to exist. Doesn’t that explain why trolls and meninists bash on with statements that mean nothing at all? Or why men uniformly descend to aggression, even threats, when they reach a verbal stop? Because when they run out of words, they think their existence is running out unless they keep well, running. Even if they run all over the other person.
Consider this. Women are constantly being pushed to quietness. Silencing by bullying, by harassment, by ridicule, by social convention. Speak softly, speak of small things, speak little or better yet, not at all. In fact, quietness is prized as a virtue in a woman. Do not be a speaker, a thinker, an individual. Be a puzzle, a prize, an object.
If female, be seen, not heard.
By stark contrast, men are NEVER told to be quiet. If a man is quiet, it must be in a hyper-glorified character like Silent Brooder. Or Cryptic Wise Man. Or Damaged (subtext: sexy) Bad Boy. If he cannot pull these off, he can always plead shyness (“Aww, that’s sweet”) or social anxiety (“Here, let me take care of you”). Like being male and being quiet are not simultaneously possible or healthy and efforts must be made to change this situation immediately. His very silence must be turned into a story that screams loud enough to catch the world’s attention.
If male, be HEARD, even if you don’t have anything to say.
That’s a tall order for a gender that science believes is not as good at communication or social skills. Silence may be a female prison but maybe it is also a female prerogative. Some of us rage on about allowing women a voice. The other side of it is to get men to shut up and to let them shut up. We need to teach our men that their existence is not built of words only and that their value goes beyond what comes out of their mouths.
So please, men, just BE QUIET. Shhh.
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Here’s something that came to me in the middle of a shower, turning up almost fully formed and demanding to be set free from my brain. I spilt the words onto my computer, edited it on the run and read it right off my screen on stage. The last time this happened, it turned into a piece that has become my calling card.
This thought has been in my head for years now. I’ve already written it as a blogpost before. Misogynist whining masquerades as desi poetry. But this piece showed up in my head just last week, whatever be its backstory and I had fun giving it life.
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I saw the fuckboi yesterday. He is part of the same circles and I refuse to acknowledge him anymore so his presence in isolation is not such a bother. But I am surrounded by his manipulative behaviour, in the form of other women who look as starry-eyed as I *cringe* probably did back in December. (Notice how I feel ashamed of myself for a positive emotion and a pretty good performance; thank you, fuckboi.)
Some of them are women I know and I’m caught in a quandary. Should I warn them, risk the heavy ugliness that society and men thrust on a woman who dares speak (including from these very same women themselves)? Or should I stay silent and let other women fall prey to the same fuckboishness that makes them doubt themselves and cripples them in male-dominated spaces? I need more women like me in the spaces I frequent and I can see how behaviour like this costs our kind dearly. What a catch-22.
Maybe it’s highlighted by the fact that I’m watching Mad Men right now. But doesn’t “Oh, he suffers social anxiety” just feel like a modern, fashionable version of, “He’s deep and brooding” (Mr.Darcy), “His parents didn’t give him enough attention as a child.” (romcoms featuring white males and Manic Pixie Dream Girls) and other such excuses? A fuckboi is a fuckboi. There is absolutely no excuse for treating another human being badly and making them question their self-worth. Women have problems too (rape culture, online harassment, salary disparity, biological clock ticking, unsafe spaces) and most of us don’t get to use that to tread all over men and get applauded for it. No, fuckbois, I don’t care if this is politically incorrect but I’m not buying it.
I am thinking about whether this particular fuckboi and my strong reaction to him is just a symbol of my deeper feelings for my ex, the longest running fuckboi in my life. That one issued a vague apology last year on Twitter that could have been aimed at anyone but that I suspect was about getting in on the ‘I’m a reformed man, applaud me’ trend. I wish my friends had not bothered sharing it with me. I was going along in my life, having put that particular nightmare behind me. But with that screenshot fed into my inbox, I was forced to think about him again.
His apology was public and got him a lot of positive attention. He never once said sorry to me, in person or in any form of private communication. He did not even acknowledge my existence. I concluded that he was no different from who he was in 2011-12 when he isolated me from my family and friends, stopped me performing or working, hit me, gaslighted me, abused me, allowed his family to subject mine to dowry demands, ended the engagement when I called it out, said “It’s not my problem” when my period was delayed and then “So what? Breakups are difficult.” If that apology was aimed at me, I say
“Not good enough. Too little, too late. Wait, was that an apology or your version or Being Human?”
But no one cares, do they? The truth has not changed but I’m forcibly pulled into this Fuckboi’s drama every time he feels the need for attention. And everyone who knows either or both of us even slightly, is looking at me expecting me to hand out the bouquets like the gracious woman I am supposed to be. I lose every way I look at it. Is there any escape from the land ruled by Fuckboidom?
The current fuckboi of course, didn’t get to do a fraction of what that one did. He vanished, then when I stopped, he reappeared with gifts and love poetry. When I relented and agreed to have a conversation, he pointed out that “You come across as having very strong anti-male sentiments”. When I refused to take note of it and him beyond that chat, he took care to message me and remind me that “I listened to your work. No, you are not anti-male.” Back-and-forth, back-and-forth till the unpredictable approval could be distracting enough to be all I would think of. So familiar. He’s just another in a long line of fuckbois who don’t care or even really see the women around them. Not in any way other than breasts, butts, vaginas to grope, ears and arms to receive their existence and words only to validate them. I am still grappling with how to deal with so many men being this way. The challenge grows exponentially considering that they’re surrounded by women who fall prey to them and enable their fuckboi behaviour, even to the point of hurting other women.
I asked a friend yesterday why I was attracting such nastiness when I tried to steer clear of people and focus on my own writing only. He said,
“You know what you want. Not many do. That creates a dichotomy between you and such people. My advice, if you want it? Not worth engaging. It will tire you and they will not understand what you are saying.”
My friend is right, in part. The tricky thing is identifying the handful that are willing to let me live, from the vast hordes that want to pull me into fuckboiness-and-support-fuckboidom.
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