For those who care, in India, the last few weeks has opened a conversation about misogyny and the nature of male female relations in India and beyond.
I’ve since childhood been sensitized to the problem of misogyny. It’s a problem that so many refuse to even acknowledge. Yet we were made aware of it because of our militant school principal Mrs. Mary Roy. The mother of the marginally less militant Arundhati Roy fought so many battles for women. Some were famous, some were unnoticed. The larger than life personality that she is, we were often privy to the battles she fought. I didn’t fully understand all of it but I realised pretty early on there is a problem with how women are treated.
She got us to watch The Accused and asked for a discussion about it. When the then Chief Minister of Kerala said rape is… like drinking tea we had a special assembly and a discussion for it. Once there was a case of abuse in the school and she got the whole senior school together to talk through it.
However, knowing about all this didn’t really change my actions. I still expected my mother to do all the cooking and the maids to do the cleaning. In theory I supported feminism, deplored the misogyny in church but essentially all that remained in the head.
After marriage I did the classic ‘you’re better at it than me, dear’ excuse and got my wife to do most of the housework and I grudgingly ‘helped’. Thankfully my wife didn’t let me get away with it. Through persistent reminders of housework I slowly started doing it. Even then in my mind I was ‘helping’ my wife in her duty. After a couple years of marriage it dawned on me. When I did housework I wasn’t helping. I was just doing my bit in the house. That was a huge realisation. I slowly changed. Too slowly for the wife but we’ve survived.
Now we’ve reached a point where I do all the cooking and bins and she does all the cleaning. And we share the child care as our schedules permit. Thankfully we had the circumstances that allowed us to reach this point.
I think this is the starting point for the move against misogyny. It starts at the home, where boys aren’t allowed to get away without learning to cook and clean. Where husbands have to share the title of bread winner and child carer.
The question for me is, how do I as a man gather together with other men so that we can move towards allowing women to be full persons in society regardless of their gender? But I suppose small steps first.