Why Men Are Scared of the F-Word
I was sitting at the Senate House Library researching on Claire Underwood’s model of power politics when I came across this interesting post on my friend’s timeline. What was even more interesting (as is given on any Facebook post nowadays) were the comments that followed: – A vehement soliloquy on the defence of rape jokes and an attack on ‘extreme feminism’ (a term that I have learnt only very recently).
The thread initially made me gape in wonder and amazement about the world that is around us. Thriving on toxic masculinity and misplaced notions of chivalry, we are taught to mock every real concern that threatens us. There are real people who believe that most rape cases in India that are brought about are fake, there are people who believe that climate change is not real, and of course this morning, I heard about a cab driver in Indianapolis who scoffed at ‘fake news media’ for trying to preach that the earth was round!
It’s the “D” word. At every point of human history, when we have confronted the first signs of a catastrophe, our mind slips into its oft-used setting – Denial. The world might soon end pushing us all to face the wrath of nature –Nopes, not real! Racism still exists – No man, not real! Neo-Colonialism is a thing- What? No, its called Democracy. But then, that brings me to the question, of why would someone be scared of feminism? Or ‘extreme feminism’ as my friend terms it. Why is asking for equal rights that preposterous a demand? And the answer to that is what opens another Pandora’s box of human love for power and its interaction with history.
The worn out pages of history talk of years of entitlement and privilege. Every time a class asked for rights, they were struck down as greedy, manipulative, or liasoning with the devil. The Church preached humility and glorified frugal living. The Indian Vedas commanded the ‘low borns’ to remain where they were and serve the upper castes. All of this in the quest of a divine afterlife. What we missed was a cloaked attempt at justifying governmental inaction, preserve existing imbalances of power and resist the idea of equality of human lives.
History stands witness to the frenzied actions of the monarchy every time their subjects took to arm threatening to overthrow them. From the French Revolution to anti-colonial struggles, the ones in power have held on to the last string till cries of revolution outdid the ordered structures of power. Feminist author Grace Saxon Mills writes in the years before 1914, about the strong arguments against women being given the right to vote. “Suffragette seemed like an absurd idea because Woman Suffrage was based on the idea of the equality of the sexes, and tends to establish those competitive relations which will destroy chivalrous consideration.” Men scoffed at the demands of equality in the mighty kingdom of Great Britain, where they swore in the name of their Queen, that women were no good on seats of responsibility and power. The question that has plagued me for years is, why exactly are men so scared of women?
In a particularly scathing 2001 essay for the London Review of Books, Jenny Diski wrote about a book titled Misogyny: The Male Malady, by an anthropology professor named David Gilmore. Diski argued that the book was nothing more than a wan apologia for sexism and, in her words, “the real victims of the malady of misogyny: the psychogenically challenged male who needs all the understanding we can give him.” According to Gilmore, if women had a hard time as a result of being loathed and bullied by men, it’s nothing compared to the hardship suffered by men that have resulted in their feeling the loathing.
In a post-Harvey Weinstein world, where men visibly appear shaken with facts narrated as they have historically stood, their defence mechanisms run at an all-time creative high. From #NotAllMen to an absolute denial of these incidents, the reality has never been more ironical.
Our friend and colleague, whose post triggered this chain of thought, invoked the Constitution of India, his fundamental rights and a directory of statistics, only to argue for his right to make rape jokes on the internet. For the entire 20 minutes that I spent scrolling on the post, I failed to understand as to why it was so important for him to mock an experience of trauma and horror of another individual, whoever she/he might be. With all due respect to constitutionally protected rights of speech, we as humankind, don’t mock certain incidents and events that have happened over time. Having grown up and spent most of my life in India, I have never heard people demanding to make jokes on the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre or 1947 Partition Riots or the 2006 Tsunami which took away the lives of thousands in a span of days. I do not see, why then it is so difficult to understand the implied restriction on his freedom of speech, which stems merely out of regret that mankind is capable of stooping so low and respect for the others’ emotions.
The fragility of male egos has been a matter of discussion ever since the day women had been asking for rights. Questions as to why ‘equality’ has been equated to a luxury that can only be afforded by a few, continue to be asked as loudly as ever. The study of feminism has been dissected more than the letters of the Magna Carta. Terms like feminazi, femifacsist, and a 100 other variations have ushered a culture where women spend more time talking about what kind of feminist they are not, (if at all they are brave enough to identify as one) than what their views actually are. The answer has always been one. The demand to be treated as an equal. And by that, one means an equal contender to the power that men so vociferously fight to keep within their brethren.
I have always believed in de-gendering the core of all crises governing human emotions. Why men want to joke about rape, has much more to do with their need to flag it as a trivial offence than a situation that is a plague upon mankind. In my not so limited experience of trying to raise these issues with the other sex, the phrases ‘but what about…’ and ‘those kinds of feminists’ recur with a periodicity of close to 100% and each of these incidents have only pushed me an inch closer to the image of the everyday man, i.e an insecure being in denial of reality, masking his fears under the pretext of logic, strength and sometimes just vocal volume.
To the many, including the clearly confused strangers on the internet, who laugh hard at the trauma of others, I offer them nothing but sympathies. It must be tough to lead a life where you fear losing your dominant position every second. I cannot even begin to imagine how life could look, for a being sans compassion, respect and empathy for fellow beings. When the only way to summon the goddess of laughter is at the cost of someone’s horrors, then the life must indeed be a tedious one.
About the Author:
Esha Meher is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is currently engaged as an associate with Strategic Advocacy for Human Rights (SAHR) in London working on gender and sexual violence in India and Afghanistan.