Gender versus gender

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While women’s rights are being lauded, are men being given a raw deal?

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Often we think that we are doing the right thing only to find out that our efforts have aided the wrong purpose. Such is my wife’s dilemma. Was I partly to blame? I don’t know because I too believed she was fighting for the right cause.

I come from a conventional and traditional background, and from a family where the rights and the power of women were always secondary to the needs of the men. My father’s wishes were never thwarted and until she passed away, my mother ensured that even her thoughts were an echo of his.

I had three sisters who all had to fight for the right to study and work. My father conceded to their first request and their husbands to their second, but only because it was a financial necessity.  My wife’s family was similarly inclined. She never graduated and after marriage was unable to work, as the children came soon after.  But her resentment as her ‘unfair’ lot was not displayed until she met a couple of ladies who were vocal advocates of women’s rights and privileges.  And it gained momentum when she was finally able to start working after the last of our children began high school.

Having fought for my sisters, it was but natural that I would fight for my wife’s cause and support her in her endeavours.  We ensured that our daughter was given the same freedom as our sons, and that our sons learnt to respect women and their roles. We taught the boys to be extra courteous to the girls they met, and polite and respectful to the ladies. They offered to carry shopping bags for elderly women, especially as they crossed the streets. They stood up and vacated their seat in trains and buses for every lady.  We instilled in them old world etiquette, and educated them in the values of equality and decency.

Our kids grew and times changed. Feminism took greater hold and within the short period from when my eldest child entered high school to when my youngest son left it, women’s rights was not just a notion, it has become a reality. A full frontal war had been waged and it was being won in state after state, and country after country.

No one was happier at this progress than me. I had fought alongside my wife not only for my sisters’ and wife’s rights, but more so for my daughter’s. I wanted her to have what my sons would receive. Freedom to do what they wanted and to achieve their respective goals!

What neither of us realised was that in our fight for our daughter’s rights, we were sacrificing our sons. We had asked them to hold the door open for women, but today’s women where insulted by that show of courtesy. We had requested them to vacate their seat, only to be put down by the very lady to whom they offered their seat. We demanded that they never express violence against a woman even in jest, only to see their girlfriends hit and smack our sons, half the time for fun.

I remember one incident when my second son had a birthday party at a laser game venue. His party consisting of all boys aged ten was joined by a group of fourteen year old girls.  Once inside the game area, surprisingly it was the girls who were the aggressive players, pushing and shoving the boys against the walls. But what took the cake was when one boy returned the push, the girl turned around and said, “I am a girl, you can’t push me!” So instead of giving equal rights to females, we now were giving lesser rights to the boys.

Another incident was when my neighbour’s son was assaulted by his wife. Many laughed, some mocked him, but only a handful were shocked by the wife’s action. Why? When women are beaten up, society awakes to make it a cause at every opportunity; yet a man must suffer in silence or expose himself to ridicule.

I see in a working environment, that people are now conscious about the boundaries of what sexual harassment constitutes; yet while women are now working in a more socially aware environment, our sons are subjected to sexual innuendoes and overtures without a second thought.  Young male employees are ogled at by older women or even by their male colleagues. Yet do we encourage them to complain?

I see women taking on more and more executive roles. While most have fought hard for this equality and take on the role as true professionals, there are many that use this newly acquired power to dominate the male race. The tone of the voice is a clear giveaway of their attitude to the male race. Once they complained about ‘the jobs for the boys’ whenever a man got the job they wanted; yet I see women being placed into positions merely because they are women. How is that right?

Recently a law was passed that gives daughter-in-laws the right to claim from the expected inheritance of their partner. Is a son-in-law allowed to claim from his wife’s expected inheritance? And what of the son’s right as he surrenders his children and his parent’s property to his now ex-partner?

From a society that once dreaded the birth of a daughter because she represented expenditure, we have not ‘progressed’ to a society that wishes for a daughter because she will bring back assets from her husband’s family to her own. If a man is rich, as soon as he is divorced, women queue up to be his next bride. Of course, what the first wife got is well and truly taken into account.  Nowadays parents talk of their daughter’s marriages as ‘deals’, and their sons as ‘potential losses’.

While I will continue to support my wife’s endeavours, I have now begun one of my own. I have begun the ‘Save our sons’ venture. Maybe between my wife and myself, we will find a balance for the next generation. Equality is only good if things are truly equal. Shifting the rights and privileges of one gender to another is not equality.  Let us stop playing the gender versus gender game and make it the fight for rights, a fight for every citizen. Let equality be truly equal and not a disguised shift of privileges.

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Rani is married and lives with her family in Sydney. She prefers to write fiction and has been contributing to Indian Link for over ten years. She is currently working on a trilogy based on three generations of women
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