A Male Feminist’s Dilemma

So yesterday I was faced with a big dilemma, both as a man living in a patriarchal universe and as a feminist. I was out tonight with some of my friends to watch a play, after which all of us decided to go out for a quick detour for some drinks, before dinner. After the end of the “detour”, it was decided that I would accompany one of my friends (an adult woman) to the train station in a cab, even though both of us were high if not drunk.

We had to walk for a couple of minutes, to get to a corner of one of the arterial roads, so that we will have a better chance at hiring a taxi that would be willing to take us to the station that my friend had to get to. While we were walking, my friend (a feminist herself) made it very clear that she was both annoyed and offended by my attitude. The fact that I felt it was my responsibility to accompany her to the station at 10:30 pm, was very clearly something that she did not appreciate. All the while she had a very straightforward question: “Do you not trust me in taking care of myself?”. The answer was very obviously that I do trust her to take care of herself (and neither do I believe her to be someone who needs a man to protect her or accompany her late at night). But then the question also had multiple implications, because if I had complete trust in her ability to be self-reliant, what is it that made me feel insecure about her boarding a taxi all alone, at night.

The answer then became very clear to me at that moment. I did not trust the working class, the taxi drivers in this case, enough to not inflict violence on my friend. Neither did I trust them to be human and not opportunistic sex offenders. I realised the prejudice in my reasoning, at the same time I also realised the patronising attitude  that I exhibit quite often towards women around me. I realised that while my elitism did not make me trust the rest of the world to be decent human beings, I was also at the same time guilty of making public spaces inaccessible and insecure to women.

At the end of the road, where we got a taxi that was willing to go to the station, I finally decided that I had to trust both my friend and the taxi driver. At the same time, I had to convince myself to not be an apparatus in perpetuating patriarchal norms and practices, the ones which I so fervently oppose in public. It was very difficult to do and I was restless till she called me from her home, and I am still not convinced that I should have left her alone in the taxi. I will be faced with the same dilemma, the next time a female friend tells me she would be using public transport to reach home without any company. But I keep telling myself that things need to change if we aspire for a better tomorrow.

Why Your Daughter’s Marriage Shouldn’t Be Your Biggest Dream For Her

“When are you going to start saving? Don’t forget there’s a girl growing up in the house..”, countless wives have been reminding their husbands in Indian households and sometimes on TV screens. Parents in the country place too much emphasis on marriage. And if you’re a girl, this gets doubled. The moment the doctor announces the gender, the planning starts, the saving starts. And more importantly, the worrying.

Because of the pervasive dowry system that devours most families by attaching itself to destructive notions of what constitute status, honor and respect, this directly affects the family’s management of financial resources and how girls are brought up. An unmarried daughter becomes a burden to be removed which in turn subjects her to differential treatment. Giving your daughter’s marriage utmost importance means everything you do for her is ultimately influenced by this concern. You either don’t educate her beyond a basic level because you don’t have enough money to spend on both (and clearly you’ve decided marriage is to be given the bigger priority), or you educate her (often according to your own wishes rather than hers) with the prospect of fetching a well qualified groom so that she can be ‘sent off’ to a ‘respectable’ home.

 Studio portrait of three children wearing jewellery, at Madras in Tamil Nadu, taken in c. 1870 The young girl on the left is wearing the half-sari which is the traditional dress of adolescent girls in the South Indian states. The girl in the centre of the photograph is wearing the jewelled head-dress traditionally worn at marriage ceremonies or at 'rites of passage' ceremonies performed when a girl reaches puberty. source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Group_of_Tamil_girls.jpg

Studio portrait of three children wearing jewellery, at Madras in Tamil Nadu, taken in c. 1870 The young girl on the left is wearing the half-sari which is the traditional dress of adolescent girls in the South Indian states. The girl in the centre of the photograph is wearing the jewelled head-dress traditionally worn at marriage ceremonies or at ‘rites of passage’ ceremonies performed when a girl reaches puberty.
source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

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