After I asked women to share instances when men apologized to them, I realised something stood in the way of men and the word SORRY. I want to believe men are as rational & feeling as women and can see the damage done by not taking responsibility for their actions.
So what makes it possible for some men to get past their conditioning, to value a woman’s feelings more than the ego they’ve been taught to nurture & take responsibility for causing hurt? I asked men. The answers brought me much insight into the act of apology.
It’s a learning process for men. As girls, we’re taught to fear many things, which also means to know the price of things. Because boys are brought up without being held accountable, the idea that there are consequences doesn’t occur. By adulthood, the inequality felt by girls has become the rage of women.
The men who do care & feel (which I want to believe is most) feel hit by a ton of emotional debt. A lot of men’s answers to my question were about being apologetic, in general. Not apologising for specific actions. I realised this is a distinction many men have yet to make.
To a woman receiving this, it sounds like shame, not apology. Shame is not useful in remedying a situation. Our own conditioning makes us want to protect men from feeling this uncomfortable emotion. During great upset, it’s awful to feel compelled to take care of someone else when one is wounded, especially by that same person.
When I’m hurt by a man, I want to hear him apologize for that action. Not for existing or for being a man. It’s why I ask “What are you sorry for?” I want him to take responsibility to set things right. I do not want to take responsibility to comfort him, to teach him what his feelings mean. Because that’s not fair on me, already hurt. Because it’s exhausting. And because in most cases, my hurt goes unresolved while he assumes the situation is ‘solved’ because he said sorry.
I don’t need a thousand apologies. So what does a woman need when a man hurts her? That’s the stuff of another post. Leave your thoughts in the comments because I’m still pondering this.
I just bought a bunch of clothes and for the first time in weeks, I’m feeling really good. I’m trying to focus on that rather than the guilt of knowing that this was stress-shopping. I’m not a shopaholic or a spendthrift. An occasional binge like this always causes me some pangs but that’s probably the reason why it stays occasional. So I guess it’s okay that I feel the twinge too, else I might lose my in-built alarm system that keeps me from going overboard spending.
Why do new clothes make women feel good? I know I personally enjoy colour, cut, texture, material and style. I dress with care even while going to sleep. This is a personal act of honouring my body and savouring all that it can do. Yet vanity is seen as a female trait and worse, a foolish one to be looked down upon.
So can one be a feminist and also fashionable? I know most fashion is patriarchal, showcasing women as objects of desire and pleasure to men. Everything from pocketless dresses (so as not to ruin the hourglass cut) to high heels (curvy calves at the cost of foot health) screams that the male gaze matters more than the female wearer’s comfort. The existence of the bra alone tells us how close to our hearts we carry this oppression.
I fight these in all the ways I can. I only wear ‘sensible’ shoes and I can tell you this has to be a conscious act of rebellion since Indian shoe stores do not like women with large feet who also insist on durability, protection, arch support and comfortable soles. I refuse to fidget over visible bra straps or panty lines, because these are my bonds and if I must wear them, I’m not going to do the world the favour of also hiding them. I challenge conventional notions of beauty and I refuse to be shamed by those same conventions. I’ve fought and continue fighting long and hard over the right to dress as I want – with authorities and with strangers.
And even as I say these, I take pleasure in male attention. Attention is currency and as a woman, my looks are my surest way of earning it. I also collect attention for my intelligence, my work, my art and my personality. But my physicality is the easiest, surest way to attract attention. Retaining that attention though, becomes a function for the other things I mentioned and since I have enough of the other things, this is an adequate model. To my mind, this does not reduce me to a glamour doll. If that is all a man wants to believe of me, that is his problem, not mine.
I am a performer and it comes naturally to me to dress boldly, even flashily. This is my personality and then all of socialising is an act, after all. Why not be a star?
I’m looking at the stack of shiny, lint-free new clothes I’ve just bought with my own money. I know I’m going to look really good wearing them. I know I’m going to pull in compliments or at the very least an admiring glance or two. I know I’m going to feel like the me I see inside my head – spectacular, bright and blazing forward. And finally, I know this is what creates admiration, loyalty and even relationship.
So, expense or investment? 😜
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Earlier this month, I tweeted the following:
“More and more it becomes obvious that testosterone and machismo are the biggest problems this world faces. Can we just ban men?”
The reactions I received proved my point and make me firmly NOT apologetic for it. Personal attacks. Rape threats. Attack threats. Abuses. Trolling. It went on for over four days.
One woman badgered me about the sexism (tweets deleted now) and said I was as bad as the men I had complained about earlier, who indulged in casual sexism. When I tweeted later about the attacks coming my way, she called it ‘convenient victimisation‘.
Men who did not attack me badgered me to ‘prove’ that these were rape threats. I was asked how I felt about women drivers. They demanded that I prove these were attacks.
Two male friends got involved and how? By talking down to me, by mansplaining and by telling me not to attack all men. One of them unfollowed me when I retailiated. Another one posted a sly complaining tweet and has not bothered to have a conversation even after I’ve reached out. Why really should I care about men and what they feel? Because if I don’t, I’ll be punished over and over again.
Four people reached out, on the phone. That’s it.Not one of the causes and people I’ve supported over the years said a word. Everyone else continued tweeting as per usual, outraging about the fashionable causes and intellectualising about movie censorship, women’s rights and comedy.
I felt an immense sense of betrayal and shame for days. Why do I want to stand up for the cause of women when they won’t support me but actively take part in attacking me? Why should I support gay rights, transgender rights, environmental activists, social change drivers when not a single one of them gives a f&*( about my safety? I’m just a number to add to their support figures.
I am so disappointed in the world. And every time I express this, I get versions of ‘But why are you so hard on men?’ and ‘Not all men are like that’ and ‘Arre, you are just unlucky. Ignore the trolls, na.’
I don’t have a way to end this post because I don’t want to spew curses on the world I’m superstitious enough to believe that all of it will only rebound on me and well, do I really need any more problems? I’m already a prisoner of a lifetime sentence of being a woman with a voice. No further punishment, please. I’ll learn to STFU eventually.
Update: The trolls have followed me to this blog. What kind of a farce allows people to call themselves feminists while also harassing a woman who said something that men didn’t like?
Update 2: Over a month since the original incident happened, I am still getting slammed for that tweet (see some of the comments to this post itself). It just makes men SO angry doesn’t it, that a woman refuses to apologize for saying something they don’t like? To be clear, I’m not denying that the tweet was sexist. But reverse the genders in my tweet and you have the kind of things that get said often but rarely called out. How is men’s needless aggression any superior to women’s (so-called) hysteric reactions?
Sometime last year somebody published a study done by someone that claimed that men have a gene that makes them more likely to cheat on their partners than women do.
That’s my reply. Yes, you got that right. I scoff, I sneer, I snort. I am skeptical. How on earth can one prove a thing like that? Besides one of the most profound things I heard in b-school was “There are three kinds of lies…white lies, damn lies and statistics.” And so there.
For all the men who love to hate me on the grounds that I am a feminist, kindly sit up and take note. I do not blindly assume that men are capable of every vile thing around. (Only the dumb, moronic things!)
Coming back to what I was going to talk about…..cheating in relationships. I think the world can be easily divided into two types in a lot of ways. One of them is this: Those who cheat and those who don’t. I could have said that as those who are capable of cheating and those who are incapable of cheating. But these days I’m beginning to think that capability is only a matter of attitude. And attitude is a momentary thing.
Personally I can’t fathom the dynamics of cheating. No, not what lies work best, how to say them etc. But deep within the cheater’s (I know that isn’t a word but its easy to say and easier to type) mind, what strange thoughts twist emotion and attitude?
There are enough of shattered hearts and tattered illusions out there. And there are people causing them to be so. Relationships are available to nearly everybody, stability grows on most people and love happens to a select few. But some people never stop looking. There is always that new person with a better body, smarter wit, funnier jokes, more money. There is always that one irresistable opportunity that it is wrong to take but what the hell, what is the point of an opportunity if it isn’t taken? Yet not everyone does. I wonder if most people stay loyal to their partners out of fear or out of values.
There is an interesting discussion about cheating with one’s body and with one’s mind. Cheating with the body, that’s so easy. Easy to define, easy to catch, easy to judge. But cheating with one’s mind….that’s a different ballgame altogether. Where does one draw the line? Is it wrong to feel attraction for another when one is in a relationship? If so, is it being true to oneself, to deny it? And if one admits it to oneself at least, how does one stop the mind assuming that as permission to run into the very dangerous realms of fantasy and yearning? From there on, cheating with one’s body is but a minor step that barely seems to matter either way.
The reason I don’t believe that cheating is a gender-specific thing is because I know a lot of women, close friends many of them, who admit to have cheated. What’s more I even know someone who continues to cheat with no intention of stopping ever. This lady is married and a mom and one of my good friends. While I’ll never admit it openly, I have a lingering doubt about the paternity of the child that she adores. I also suspect that she continues to have the rip-roaring love life that she enjoyed in her younger days.
But I’m not gossiping. I adore her (as I do all my friends). Yes, in my eyes she still is the fun, affectionate gal who can make me laugh and cry alternately. I will still take up for her if anyone dares sully her name. But yes, deep down I’ll agree with the person who does. Strange, is it?
Certainly I know men who have cheated too, particularly a few who even boast about it. In fact I think the typical ‘cheater’ (yes, it is a type, there is a particular kind of person who is prone to cheating no matter who they are with)….is a bit like a hunter, who likes to display his/her trophies. Hunting has been outlawed in many parts of the world. But people still collect furs and animal heads. And hearts.
Ever read the book ‘Peter Pan’? It was about a boy who never grew up. And a girl who followed him, cared for him, made his life comfortable and generally adored him. One day he forgot her and she accepted it. He was after all, the boy who never grew up. Some people don’t ever become adults. Some people are not meant to collide with the monster called responsibility. Their own or other people’s.
I’m sure a lot of people who have read and enjoyed Peter Pan will be fuming at my comparison of this much-loved character to an essentially weak, spineless, selfish person. No denying that is exactly what a cheater is. And yet, anyone who has ever encountered such a person may remember just what makes it possible for them to be the way they are…its called charm. People use charm like a personal wand of power. Seasoned with liberal doses of sweet words, mixed in carefully with empathy and topped with that magic ingredient….an unshakeable love of themselves. Don’t those describe Peter Pan too?
Interestingly most people I know who are this way are also very dependent. Not in the way that they need someone else to boost their egos or heal their hearts. But these are people who need someone to be the stage for the performance they put up. These are people who will wilt when the stage crumbles. Annoyingly enough, they are also resilient enough to find a new person who will be willing to be the backdrop to their antics.
Its not fair, sure it isn’t. One part of society runs around doing whatever the hell they want to with our emotions and trust. And the rest of us hang around to sweep up the broken pieces.
For my part, I wish I was a Peter Pan rather than a Wendy. But well, those who will forget, will, no matter what. And those of us who are meant to remember, just are meant to be that way.
chiv·al·ry Pronunciation Key (shvl-r)n. pl. chiv·al·ries:
The medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood.The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women.A manifestation of any of these qualities.A group of knights or gallant gentlemen.
chiv·al·rous Pronunciation Key (shvl-rs)adj.:
Having the qualities of gallantry and honor attributed to an ideal knight.Of or relating to chivalry.Characterized by consideration and courtesy, especially toward women
The last time a man stood up when I walked up to his table, I thought he was leaving at the sight of me. It wasn’t till I saw Pretty Woman that I learnt that it was considered good manners for a gentleman to stand up when a lady approached or left a table.
I was taught that good manners were about saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. And about being polite to my elders. And nice to children. And do things for the sick and the old. I seem to have forgotten a lot of it. Everyone has. I don’t treat people with courtesy because they don’t treat me with respect. Men, most of all.
My mother, a long-time proponent of the old-fashioned value system of gender roles smirks at my dilemma and says, “You want your independence and feminism and chivalry as well? Isn’t that a little too much?”
Is it? Yes, I know, I’m hardly a lady..most women like me aren’t. We don’t smile sweetly when men open doors for us. The last time I took a flight alone, three men offered to help me hoist my suitcase onto the luggage rack but I smiled thinly and refused. I didn’t need any help, thank you very much. Besides I had a sneaky suspicion none of them would have bothered, had I been 20 years older and wearing a saree instead of well-fitted jeans.
Is that all there is to it? My search for a definition and similar meanings of the word ‘chivalry’ tells me that it is an ancient custom derived from the knights. That’s the Western system of course. Here in the east, we had our own code of conduct towards women.
Chivalry encompassed compassion, gentleness, protectiveness and above all, respect for women. Ah….that’s what is missing. Respect, respect, the big ‘R’ word. It about more than just doing things for one gender. It is about an understanding and appreciation of the other’s differences from yourself; a willingness to not make them wrong for it but dignify them anyway. Something as simple as offering a seat to an older person or a pregnant lady on the bus….not because you want to underline that they are weaker than you are but simply because it would probably benefit them much more than it would benefit you.
While on the topic of seats on a bus, I notice that men don’t offer seats to women on buses anymore. Could this have something to do with the fact that the first three rows on the left are reserved for women? I think so. Compassion like respect can’t be forced (or enforced). It just happens.
And here’s how the equation goes furthur: Men plainly resent the fact that there is a forced reservation of seats (on the bus or in Parliament…what’s the diff?) and they make it very obvious. I’ve fended off sneering comments about how the travelling is no issue if one is a women in Mumbai. I’ve also dealt with accusations that I could breeze my way through much faster on account of the 33%-syndrome.
Here’s how I deal with it: I get bitchy. I wouldn’t offer a seat to a man, no matter how tired he looked. At least that is what I was doing till I realised it. And I’m determined to use every single advantage I get on account of my gender, since I’m accused of it anyway.
I wouldn’t go so far to say that chivalry is dead. A lot of women I know who have had gyanaecological check-ups tell me that a male doctor is far better than a woman. You know why? Because they treat the patient with care, with gentleness..and with respect.
A month back, I had a dizzy spell and took a rick home. The driver offered to escort me right up to my door, asked me to call my family to come and get me and even after I declined all this, stood by and waited till I had walked across the lobby and gotten into the lift safetly.
Yes, it exists in brief flashes. People still remember how to be considerate to each other. Not every single moment is lost in these gender/ economic class power-equations.
It is a two-way street. I guess I don’t respect men really all that much. I don’t expect them to treat me with respect….I don’t even remember a guy I could describe as a gentleman. Which side started it is an endless debate. I am just not strong-willed enough to break the endless chain. My attitude goes something like:
Call me a bitch by all means, I need to be one in a world of dogs. If you want me to be a lady, you be a gentleman first.
Is that weakness on my part? Yes, it is. I don’t know what chivalry is. It hasn’t existed in the world in all that I’ve known of it.
I come from a country that deifies a woman, the mother-figure most of all. All prayers to godesses, in every language, in different religions are sung in praise of Mother.
Yes, it is probably a complex, near-magical bond, the relationship between a mother and son. More so than between a mother and daughter. After all, for the average woman in Indian society (still very much a man’s world), the son is the male who gives her the most respect and adulation. He is also the male who can be most easily molded by her. A comment on one of my earlier blogs made me think about the relationship of a man with his mother too. She is his first female influence, the all-encompassing womb and the protective, nurturing arms. All said and done….we all enter the world in the same way.
Anywhere in the world, insinuate that a man is attached to his mother’s apron strings and he’ll take it as a personal insult. On the other hand, most Indian men will beam proudly like you’ve called them the greatest thing since chocolate. Yes, I really don’t get it. I don’t want to get it. So fine, you like your mother, that’s cool….but for heavenssake it doesn’t make you a great human being, it doesn’t make you good company, it doesn’t make you attractive or likeable or intelligent or sensitive. And if you’re flaunting your attachment to the mater, chances are she’ll be the only one who finds anything worth loving in you.
Oh well, perhaps not…..Indian women are probably used to it. Every woman I know, married or otherwise affirms the fact that Indian men are indeed….mama’s boys. It is far from annoying….it is alarming. What makes an otherwise intelligent, smart, confident man so dependent on the woman who bore him? Yes, dependency it is. Do not mistake it for love. I love my parents too but I’d find it slightly disgraceful to keep touting myself as “daddy’s little girl”. Most of all, ‘daddy’ would have a fit over his daughter wanting to become a whining, snivelling airhead. I’m so glad I had a sensible upbringing.
Yes, I’m not about to blame the men for this one. The women are entirely at fault. I see it everywhere. What is paraded as great love is emasculation. I know a family where the son has been pampered and cossetted since birth by his doting mama (who has incidently also brought up a girl who is more worldy-wise and mature at 20 than her brother is at 26). As a result this post-graduate professional travels the world, advises his company on important business matters but can’t be relied upon to run his own house or his marriage for that matter. Oh…did I forget…wifey dearest was also “whatever mama thinks is right”. But of course. Mama’s boys like to outsource their brains. Mama is proud of the fact that her darling beta, so important to the world, still pays so much attention to her. Why? Because husband is too busy listening to his mama.
And the cycle continues…..
So it is a pity that most men are being brought up very badly. I would go so far to say that they are being totally ruined by their mothers. Being a parent can’t be an easy job but most parents of daughters do manage to instil in them a sense of responsibility and the ability to handle life. For some reason the parents of sons, on the other hand, will pander to all their whims, make them feel like they are little lords and generally give them a wholly unrealistic view of the world. Small wonder then, that most of these men grow up woefully unable to handle more than basic desicions by themselves. At some point of time the ‘little boy looking for mama’ syndrome is transferred onto the wife or girlfriend or whatever female is available. It is not nice at all. I for one, am not flattered or amused to have to play nursemaid/constant emotional prop to an overgrown baby. When I want to be a mama, I’ll have babies of my own.
There is something slightly unhealthy about an umblical cord that hasn’t been severed over two decades….how I wish men would understand that.
When I was about four, I craved a doll that opened and shut its eyes and said “Mama”. Think I was being conditioned to produce more ‘mama’s boys’? I hope I don’t have sons…..the temptation to twist a brain to fulfil my selfish need is too much to resist. I’m an Indian woman after all.
‘Paraya dhan’ is deep-rooted in the Indian family’s psyche, even in this day and age of nuclear families and the few-but-definite number of househusbands. We talk about getting a woman ‘married off‘. Is it still not possible to visualise a world where the woman is not required to sever all relationships to her past, after marriage?
How about this practice of changing a woman’s name? I think that has its basis in starting a ‘new life’ too. You can take away a person’s name, identity, relationships…but you can’t take away their memories. I think its a barbaric practice to force a person to cut out their entire past life as if it were a gangarenous limb.
A friend of mine is getting married. This engineer-MBA, employed in one of the top companies in the country is going to throw up her job and a life that has taken 26 years to build, to move across the world with a person she’s met a few times. Her engagement had her all decked up and showered with jewellery and clothes. Is that supposed to be the consolation prize? Her parents flitted about nervously through the entire function….ladki ke maa-baap hai, after all. What annoyed me the most was that her fiance was not present…was not even expected to be. Of course the ritual would have to be a religious thing built around the woman. And of course ‘Mr.Right’ took the time to wish her on the phone. With great effort I managed to restrain myself from inquiring whether she was geting married to a photograph and a SMS.
It annoys me to no end, such questions as “Does she cook? Is she respectful to elders?” Cooking is an essential survival skill and while I’m glad I can manage for myself, I don’t profess an undying love for this activity. Is is a given then that to be a woman, one must love such ‘householdy’ tasks? And how about I turn around and ask the men if they can cook? That question doesnt’ appear to go down well. Apparantly the so-called eligible bachelors with their degrees and payslips and green cards are still waiting for Ms.Perfect HouseMaid.
I’m angry. An angry young woman. Perhaps I won’t change a single thing in the system in my lifetime. But damned if I’ll go down without a fight.