Man, today's Women's Day

Man, today's Women's Day

To all those who have stood by women, encouraged them to conquer new heights, loved them, applauded them, respected them, Jisha Krishnan writes to say Thank You.

Dear men,

March 8, International Women’s Day. There will be stories galore about women who have made us proud, women who have broken glass ceilings, women who have dared to realise their dreams, women who have survived against all odds… it’s all about women.

And rightly so, one may say, given the kind of struggles the female of our species has had to go through for centuries to stake claim to what is rightfully theirs – an equal life. The right to be born, the right to education, the right to decide the course of one’s life, things today’s urban Indian woman can take for granted, were gained after much hardship. And the fight is far from over. Female infanticide, dowry deaths, rapes, domestic violence, sexual harassment at work, the list of atrocities that women continue to endure is rather exhaustive.

Even so, at the risk of sounding insensitive, I wonder if you, men, feel left out. As the world celebrates the coming of age of women and their emancipation, do you feel like an outsider? You are conspicuous by your absence in these celebrations. Apart from being villains in the stereotypical, patriarchal set-up – or at best, indifferent bystanders – you apparently have no role to play in the success stories of our female protagonists.

Yes, there are men who gang-rape girls and kill them ruthlessly, husbands who set their wives ablaze for, allegedly, kissing a bachelor politician, fathers who abuse their little girls at home. The newspapers, television news channels, news portals tell us that everyday.

You must feel ashamed. They belong to your tribe, after all. You are the ‘Other’. You are not one of us, the women, who have to face these atrocities day in and day out. You can’t possibly understand what it must mean to be a woman. Do you?
Behind every successful man, they say, is a woman. A surprised one goes the joke.

What about the successful woman? Is there no man behind her? A proud father, a supportive husband, an enthusiastic brother, an encouraging friend, a helpful colleague?

This letter is dedicated to you.

To men like Onler Karong, the husband of five-time world boxing champion Mary Kom. He walked into her life when success hadn’t yet made its promising entry. Mary has gone on record to say that if it weren’t for Onler’s unflinching support, she may not have become the inspiration that she is today for many aspiring sportspersons.

If it weren’t for Ziauddin Yousafzai’s courage to support his teenage daughter Malala, would she have gone on to become the role model that she is today to innumerable girls across the world who dream of going to school someday?

It is hard to say if Chanda Kochhar would have reigned supreme in the Indian banking sector, sans the empathetic backing of Deepak, her erstwhile MBA batch mate and now, businessman husband.

Are the Ziauddin Yousafzais, Deepak Kochhars and Onler Karongs exceptions to the rule? Do most women succeed, despite you men, and not because of you? I doubt.

That brings us to the letter. I write to express gratitude. It can’t be easy to be a man in today’s world. So much flak, so little appreciation! If you ask for the cheque at the first date, you are an MCP. A woman can afford to pay for what she eats, thank you. If you don’t offer to foot the bill, you need a lesson in chivalry. Just because she is your equal, you don’t stop treating her like a lady. It must look like a lose-lose situation to you, doesn’t it?

Take heart. You aren’t doing that badly. We, women, tend to get so caught up in our superwoman role – juggling multiple responsibilities, managing fragile egos, walking the tightrope between being assertive and aggressive – we sometimes fail to acknowledge your contributions.

So, let me take this opportunity to list out a few ways in which you make this a better place for us:

By trying on the apron

True, in most Indian households, the kitchen is still the woman’s domain. But we are more likely to find you stepping in to help today than, say, a decade ago. May be it is the Master Chef series on television, or the hot male chefs at star hotels, whatever the reason, we are happy to share the hearth with you.

Even if it’s just a cup of tea, the fact that you made an effort to step into the female bastion is reason enough to make us smile. Having grown up in a society that encourages you not to set up the dinner table or offer a glass of water to the guests – it’s not a man’s job – it can’t be easy to just breeze into the kitchen and cook up a storm.

Thank you for trying!

By offering to change the baby’s diaper

Yes, it’s still the sleep-deprived mother who, in all probability, has to wake up at two in the morning to give the baby a change of clothes. But, the good news is that when you are awake, you no longer are afraid to dirty your hands. It’s not that rare a sight to see the new dad take the baby to the diaper table, while the mom manages a siesta or lunch break.

Chetan Bhagat, IIT Delhi alumnus, best-selling author, ex-engineer and banker, has said in many interviews how he considers himself lucky to be able to witness his children grow up. You see, now that he has quit his job, he is enjoying the perks of being a “house husband” – waiting at home for his kids to come back from school, while his wife deals with office politics.

You don’t have to become a “house husband” – there’s no harm, though, if your spouse and you can make that work – to get more hands-on with the child-rearing. Let’s start small.

Thank you for those baby steps!

By showing that men cry

Men, we are told, time and again, never cry. It’s what women, the weak ones, do. Men, the strong ones, would never do that.

And then, one day, we see Kapil Dev cry on national television. Whether or not we believed what he was saying, it was touching to see the Punjabi munda get emotional. Ever since, there have been many macho men who have dared to weep.

Now, before you roll your eyes, I’m not asking you to cry me a river. The fact is that there’s something very endearing about a grown-up man who can cry – not the ones who fake it for cheap publicity on reality television. Studies claim women find such men sexy.

At a deeper lever, perhaps, it makes us feel not so weak, after all, for letting the tears flow. Men do it, women do it. It must be okay.

Thank you for crying!

By admitting that you are vain, too

It is meant as a compliment, really! For ages, we were made to believe that only women care about the way they look. You guys are wired differently. If it weren’t for the women in your lives, you could go on for days wearing the same clothes; without looking at the mirror; without shaving that beard…

Now, we know that’s only a myth. You like to dress up. You like to flaunt your six-pack abs. You like to go for a manicure (if you are metrosexual, that is). And there’s no reason to be bashful about it. We like men who make an effort to look good. Hint: Hrithik Roshan. Note: Try not to get carried away, though. Some things are best left to us, women. Say waxing, for instance.

Thank you for your vanity!

By attempting to read our minds

It doesn’t come naturally to you, we are told. Mind reading. You like to take things at face value, without having to look for sub-texts and hidden implications. Alas, that’s not how women correspond! Ask any intelligent man and he’ll tell you how the word ‘fine’ can have myriad connotations – from seething rage to utter disappointment to plain nonchalance - depending on which woman is saying it and when.

Despite your biological wiring, though, you try. To decipher the many meanings of our sighs, grunts, monologues, euphemisms, sarcasms. The trailer of Shaadi Ke Side-Effects, the Bollywood flick, shows the husband (Farhan Akhtar) asking his wife (Vidya Balan) whether she wants him to cancel his evening plans. She says ‘no’. He then asks whether he should then go ahead with his plans. Again, she says ‘no’.

“What do you want then?” asks the poor, baffled husband. “I want you to not want to go,” she says, visibly angry. Poor fellow, he’s just learning.
Thank you for attempting to learn!

The United Nation’s theme for this year’s Women’s Day is ‘Equality for women is progress for all’. As we march ahead on this journey of progress, though, let’s not forget to find some happiness along the way. The average woman, apparently, smiles 62 times a day, while the average man smiles only 8 times. This day of March, hopefully, we have given you something to smile about.

Sincerely,
(For) Women

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