We hear a lot of people around us talking about equality and uplifting women. The question is whether we are doing every possible thing to empower women? And if we are, then why is it not working? In my opinion, there is a gap that we know of, but don’t do enough about. The gap is– how we treat men in our society. That has a big impact on achieving equality, and it’s sad that we largely ignore that.
Think about how children are raised in a typical Indian household. A girl is comforted, consoled if she cries. A boy is told– “You are a boy, don’t cry like girls”. And the difference starts at that point. Women grow up as expressive beings because they are allowed to and it is considered absolutely okay. However, men are told to stay strong at every point. Mard ko dard nahin hota, right? So boys then end up growing into men who have a sense of toxic masculinity, and who feel the need to hide their emotions. If we have to fix how women are looked at in the society, then we have to fix how men are perceived, too—we have to stop differentiating between the ways we raise a girl child and a boy child.
At the age of 30, a man is expected to have a reputed degree, a good salary, a house of his own and a good car. However, a woman at 30 doesn’t have this particular pressure, because she is expected to be married to a guy who owns all of the above. That’s not how we achieve equality. Women are and will be treated as the weaker beings until we change this conditioning. If men are the ones who are expected to financially run a household, are not allowed to cry, and are not allowed to give up at any point in life – nothing will change.
Thankfully, my siblings and I were raised in a home where my father and mother both worked and I saw how they both used to struggle to manage the household together (in small towns there was no concept of domestic help then). My father always made breakfast for us while my mother made lunch. I saw equality in my home; both my parents always contributed equal money in our education. And at 17, when I was sent to do my higher studies in Delhi, my father told me, “Earn your own money, then think about spending. We can only afford your studies.” They told the same thing to my siblings as well. There was no difference between a boy and a girl in my home. This, I acknowledge, is a huge privilege, and I wish that for many more girls and boys out there.
In the end, I think we can make greater strides towards equality when we stop expecting men to be the emotionless and strong rocks we’re used to. We need to end the stigma around men doing things that women are traditionally known/expected to do. A man who decides to stay home and raise kids or run a kitchen should not be shamed; he should still be looked at with respect. Why can’t we have woman and men both do same things, express in the same manner, and be treated same irrespective of the gender? The change begins in our home.