The #MeToo campaign was helpful in many ways. It got me to publicly admit my wrongdoings towards women (before I became a feminist); something that I should have done much earlier, without the need of a campaign to bring out guilt and remorse buried at the back of my mind. These are my two posts on that – https://ashwinkumar1989.online/2017/10/18/i-am-part-of-the-problem-part-1/ and https://ashwinkumar1989.online/2017/10/19/i-am-part-of-the-problem-part-2/ . The campaign also made me more aware of the rape culture that exists in India, as I saw many horrific stories of sexual abuse and harassment suffered by women; and the callous response of the society (including many privileged women), especially the act of victim-blaming and victim-shaming – this has been a pattern throughout : “She was asking for it”, “She should have worn tighter clothes” etc.
The campaign has also made me more active in my feminism, especially online. I see a lot of hate towards women in Twitter; and often brutally troll these trolls. However, Twitter being a massive encyclopedia of trolls from all over the world; my activism has little effect. In Facebook too, I call out sexism as often as possible. From what I have learned; as a male feminist, it is more important to talk to other men and convince them to change their mindset; than talking to women about what you can do for them. The main reason why I made my earlier wrongdoings towards women public, was that men know “how not to behave” towards women; and introspect on how they could have behaved better (and can behave better) towards them.
However, as I have found out; convincing other men is a difficult task. As my therapist later said (when I shared the issue with her during my latest session), people have been conditioned in a sexist manner right from being children; so it is much more difficult to convince adults than kids. Thus, it is the duty of the parents to instill a gender-sensitive and egalitarian attitude in their children; which unfortunately does not happen most of the time in India.
I would love to thank the person who originally sent this picture (I saw it posted in the Facebook group “Indian Feminists” that I am part of) ; it explains sexism in a nutshell. I am known as a nice guy to most people, yet have benefitted hugely from sexism. As mentioned before, I have committed wrongdoings towards women before I became a feminist; and I did most of these without really meaning to. It’s because of our sexist culture that I had felt the need for such sexist acts in the first place; and also got away with them. Had I been a girl, I would not have been allowed to vent my feelings the way I did. I would have to put others and the society before myself, and think twice before saying or doing anything. In short, I wouldn’t have had freedom to be myself.
This #NotAllMen movement, apart from diluting feminism and women speaking out about misogyny; has also somewhat whitewashed the sins of men and diverted the attention from sexual abuse and harassment suffered by women (and men too!). Calling out sexism is seen as hatred towards men. Women have to soften their words while calling out misogyny, which results in diluting the message being sent out – as a result, sexism prevails. Even the best of men sometimes end up saying #NotAllMen. It is a vicious circle.
Now, coming to convincing men; I had a particularly difficult time with one of my friends, who has right-wing and anti-feminist views. I met him once in Mangalore two and a half years ago; we originally knew each other through our common passion for trains. Later on, we have talked quite a few times on the phone; apart from which we have communicated largely through Whatsapp. Most of our talk was centered on trains, but since last year we have begun to discuss other topics also; like cricket, Harry Potter etc. I have had a few arguments with him related to religion, politics and gender issues – in Part 2 of this blog post I am going to share screenshots of our conversations (in which I have blacked out his name to avoid public shaming), which will give an idea on how difficult it is to convince men about our sexist culture and the need for change in the attitude towards women. Apologies for keeping you waiting till the 2nd part!