We all stand against gender inequality and are, individually and collectively, working to end it. We have made it a mission of our life in the hope that soon, women would be respected and acknowledged for the quest for Equal Gender Partnership. While accusing the Patriarchal system, we assume that our message is loud and clear and would mobilize the men to come forward and extend an equal hand in making this world a gender equal space for women and men to equally grow and prosper in all walks of life.
It is easier said than done. I have been interacting with men, women, girls and boys on issues of gender through out my life. In discussion forums, offline and online sessions, meetings and conferences, I talk of gender and its implications on society. Here, I am reflecting on the male perspective that I have heard during such engagements and would like to share a few.
1. Sex and Gender: Men are often unaware of the basic difference between sex and gender. They do not understand the social process of sex becoming a gendered category that changes the WORLD of women and men, slots them, compartmentalize them and differentiate them from the time the child a born. When explained to them, men often nod their heads and there is a remark like - ' Well! Thats how it has been. We need male and female spheres of life for a conflict free society. Why change it'.
2. Women are Goddesses: During a recent engagement with youth, I heard from an elderly male faculty member that women in India are the goddesses and are worshipped. They are empowered so there is no need to talk about women empowerment. When I talked about the status of women in terms of development indicators, the fallacy of his words was explicit.
3. Unmindful of women's contributions: Men often say that women are privileged because they get a special seat in local bus and train, they are pampered by the family, they get all the comforts while the men fend for money. There is no mention about the women's contribution in home, family, care of his parents and hosting his relatives and friends. If asked, the reply I got was, So! Whats the big deal! If women dont do this, what else would they do? How I wish, we could actually monetize women's contribution and deposit the amount in a bank.
The list of such observations is very long. But I would like to say is that we must take into account our observations on male perceptions and views in our fight against gender inequality. Times are changing so we assume that we are moving towards development and progress. What we tend to forget is that male perception may have been stranded in the same web of gender discrimination as it had been before.
For a gender equal partnership, our engagements with youth must include practical scenarios which they can relate to their family, neighborhood and the community. Sharing our ground observations are more likely to hit the nail on the wall. Our educational institutions these days, follow the co-education system where girls and boy study together. The ground observations would resonate more with them and their understanding of gender concepts would be strengthened.