I am a feminist. Now before you hit the back button in haste to get away from me, hear me out. This post isn’t about hating men. In fact, it is about loving them. Let me explain.
One day at office, a bunch of colleagues and I were discussing Caitlyn Jenner. Amid the uncomfortable laughs and the effort of left wing hippies to appear #tolerant, my mind started to wander. I began to wonder about the male and female soul and whether I would ever survive waking up tomorrow and being transported into a man’s body. This has nothing to with actual transgenderism, but whimsical fancy. I wondered whether I would want to change back.
Speaking for myself, and feminists, please don’t kill me, is NO. I would not.
The truth is that I experience acute moments where I yearn to be a man. This is different from wanting a penis. While I see all genitals as equally gross and wonderful, my yearning doesn’t come from wanting a ‘mini me’, but wanting the advantages that a penis gives a human. People may laugh and say that is not surprising at all. All ‘man hating’ feminists secretly want to be men. Since they can’t, they seek to destroy them out of jealousy and plain old resentment. But in reality my moments of want come from cowardice. I am just too much of a pussy to be a woman.
It would just be easier to thrive as a man than to survive as a woman. The desire comes from the same place a lot of poor people want to be richer and why children want to be adults. It all has to do with power and convenience. Rich people have access to many more things and adults can make their own decisions. In the same way, I would grab the privilege of being a man and never look back.
Yes, Mr. MRA activist, don’t look at me like that. I would never change back despite the ‘unfair’ alimony laws, the standing on the bus, the disgusted looks women give me if I bump into them by accident, the child custody laws, the ‘threat’ of false rape complaints, the token promotion of my female colleague over me, the bouncers outside a club rejecting me, women rejecting me because of my low salary etc. etc.
Because None of that actually compares to the feeling of being a liability. To the ones that you love and to yourself. This brings me back to the point of my article. As a human being I feel the need to protect the people I love. To make them proud of me, to allow them a feeling of security in my presence. However as a woman, I find it difficult to provide these things to the men I love, especially in public spaces.
Let me give you an example. While chaperoning a bunch of younger cousins on a picnic to Elephanta caves, I remember my mother telling me to take my 16 year old cousin to my trip to the bathroom so I would stay ‘safe’. To put this in perspective I was 30 at the time. It was humiliating. I remember how embarrassed my own cousin was, but I also remember the slight puffing of chest, the boost to his self confidence as his power was validated. I have never been allowed to feel that. And I can’t even resent my mother. There were packs of men roaming about that place, veering too close to my younger sisters. My mother could not leave them, and she could not send me alone either. After that, my cousin’s and my relationship changed forever. Yes, he still respected me. However, I was no longer someone who protected him, but someone who needed to be protected. And make no mistake, only one of those roles is empowering.
In private spaces, where gaze is (mostly) not gendered, I am able to be a security and strength. In public spaces I brace for not only my humiliation but theirs. I am never allowed to forget that my vulnerability is not only mine anymore. My womanhood, my weakness, is projected onto the men that I love.
Let me give you another example. My father lives in a household of women. Two daughters, a wife and a widowed mother. One day my sister, mother and I were all dressed up for a wedding and we bundled into the car. My dad was driving. I felt the usual anxiety I feel when exposed in a such a way ; steeling myself for the hungry, violent sneers that bored through the car windows as we drove by. However, this time, a trio on a bike started following us after I mistakenly made eye contact at a signal. My mom and dad were oblivious, involved in their own bickering and my younger sister had her eyes glued to her phone, probably a defense mechanism in itself. It was only me who’s neck hairs rose when I realized this trio swerving close to our car, trying to get my attention. The three young men, probably adolescents, were grinning and pleased at my obvious discomfort and lowering of eyes. They probably thought they were wooing me successfully . Or maybe just took a predatory pleasure in making someone afraid of them. Or maybe they were validating their ‘manhood’ in the only way that they knew.
Whatever the reason , the end result was that I was afraid. Very afraid. Logically I knew nothing could happen. They would probably follow us, make rude gestures and speed off after making sure they had had their intended effect. But at that moment, with my blood rushing to my face, and my heart beating very fast, I was aware of two things. One – if they wanted, they could swerve in front of us, and physically overpower my father easily. Second, the reason they would do this was because of me. ME. My father was a target because I was a woman. He could get hurt trying to protect me. And why? because I had a vagina.
Shame was the over riding feeling. I remember wishing desperately that my sister had a brother and not me. Because if I were a man, my sister would not be a target, my mother would not be a target and neither would my father. My glare would not be a source of amusement that spurred their harassment, but a concrete power. The three men on the bike would make a risk assessment and decide that this car was not worth it since it had two men protecting it. As it were, with only my father and three vaginas, it was a prime target.
I could barely look my father in the eye that day. I wondered where else my reproductive system had made him feel more vulnerable than a father of a son. I started to remember sympathetic eyes and ‘hmms’ as a child when my father would say that he had two daughters. I don’t even blame those people. To have only daughters in India is to gear yourself to a life long fight. The physical danger is real. It looms. It stalks lone men accompanying women with the same persistence that sexual violence shadows women. And I haven’t even touched upon the economic repercussions.
If my father read this he would be horrified. He has communicated to me time and time again by his actions that he does not care what gender I am. But I can’t help but feel that society has never let him forget that he has no sons. In a thousand different ways. From the well meaning advice to start saving as soon as I was born, or to the shock and sympathy to know the large amount my sister earns and it’s negative effects on her marriage prospects, to the priest’s disapproval when I insisted on no kanya daan during my wedding, to the leery eyes when my family is out together, to the discomfort when bosses make misogynistic jokes, to the threat of violence in public spaces everywhere and all the time.
It is systemic. It is heart breaking, It makes me hate myself, my vagina and my vulnerability. It makes me want to be a man. If only to the effect that I can be considered worthy of being a strength rather than a liability. In this kind of atmosphere I feel it is impossible for any true equality. This is why a woman’s love is forever idolised as subservience and duty to her protector and lord god. And that makes me very, very sad. Everyone deserves to provide a love that empowers.
And yes, people will say that the only reason I feel like a liability is my own insecurities. I am sure this does play a part. But I would ask you to consider the reality of the ‘jungle out there’. It does not matter how much you earn, your position of power, the number of people who respect you. As a woman, every breath you take you are conscious of the fact that the leering man on the road Can, if he chooses , overpower you , hurt you and humiliate you in a way that they would never do to a man.
I would compare the fear of rape in a woman to the fear of castration in a man. Yes, death is worse, but the fear associated with castration is much more visceral. This is the kind of threat women feel everyday. The worst part is that we are made to feel responsible for the violence in another person. We are reminded every day that most people do not look at us and see a person, but just a cunt or someone’s mom/sister. If one dares to be more and venture out unprotected into the ‘jungle’, then beware.
And best of luck.