When we use the word empowerment, we tend to associate it with the female gender. More so here in India, a country so infamous for its misogyny and sexism that till date women are denied basic rights. However, this does not mean that Indian men have got it made.
Our patriarchal society, albeit on a smaller scale, suffocates and oppresses men too. In order to empower women, men need to be empowered too. Here are a few ways to do so:
1. Dismantle gender stereotypes to promote equality
Why are boys banned from the kitchen, while girls have to know their way round it? Why should girls be at home before dark, while boys can stay out for as long as they please?
As a society, we are wronging boys and girls by segregating household chores, daily decisions, even life choices on the basis of gender. It’s 2017 — we need to do away with predefined gender roles right now.
Empowering men means imbibing the right values and giving them proper upbringing as early as possible, so equality is not just a word, but a way of life.
Homemaker mom Anita Arora* , 29, agrees. She says, “It is high time Indian moms educate their kids about conscious and unconscious gender bias.
“As a mother, I ensure that my 7-year-old boy helps me in household chores like setting the table and doing the laundry. He pitches in just as much as his 8-year-old cousin sister. My in-laws don’t really approve, but I don’t let that stop me.” (*name changed)
2. Let men emote and be themselves
Via toxic generalisations like ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘man up’, men are made to stow away all their feelings inside them.
Over the years, they find it hard to express themselves. And that’s not all. Guys have rules and restrictions in other areas of life as well: like having only certain careers to choose from, being cold and uncaring, etc.
All this stifling and conditioning — just so that society thinks they are manly enough. It’s high time we let them grow into themselves without worrying about others’ opinions.
Mumbai-based HR Professional Ashwin Kumar, 28, says “I think men should be told that they can be what they truly want to be, not what society expects them to be. A man can cry, be tender-hearted, be more of a listener than a talker, and a woman can ask a man out instead of the man being expected to make the first move.”
I believe that if we celebrate male kindness, sensitivity and vulnerability, more men will be open to being their authentic, emotional selves. It’s only human nature – what is celebrated tends to last longer than what is shamed.
3. Teach them about boundaries to protect them from abuse
Some men do not comprehend consent — they do not understand that ‘no’ really means ‘no’. They need to first understand the importance of respecting oneself and then, members of the opposite sex. After all, boys and men suffer from sexual abuse too.
However, we hardly hear of such cases being reported in the media. It is a common misconception that males are safe from abuse because they are the stronger sex. In reality, research has revealed that boys are even more vulnerable than girls.
What’s more, men who suffer sexual violence (typically at the hands of other men) do not even have the law to protect them. This needs to change as soon as possible.
Ashwin believes that children should be taught about good touch and bad touch, and that “a man should be taught the concept of space, that a woman has right to her body and mind, that consent is a must in a relationship.”
I totally agree — boys need to be taught about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour so they can stop both: perpetrating abuse as well as being at the receiving end.
You cannot empower men without empowering women, and vice versa. Only when each gender advocates for the other can we achieve true equality in society.
How do you think Indian men can be empowered? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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