A few habits of well-meaning Indian men that irritate me as a woman

Accept people the way they are irrespective of their gender.

 |  4-minute read |   12-01-2018
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We all want to be feminist. At least I hope so. A fat lot of us will not say it, another bunch will disagree with feminism altogether (because they are blind to what it really means) and yet another will be sitting on the fence about it. But deep down in our heart of hearts, we all want to be treated as equal. 

In my experience, though, both men and women are often guilty of certain statements and habits that reek of inequality and keep us there. We say things that pull women back and relegate them to a lower status. Personally, I am very hung up on language. I believe that language and vocabulary helps give vent to emotions and states of being. The wider your vocabulary, the more you will be able to express with precision - a big reason why in the Orwellian 1984, a new language called Newspeak was invented. It was all about limiting vocabulary so that people felt a narrower range of emotions.

I'm going to share my list of most unwanted things that I keep hearing around me from the most well-meaning people. Here you go:

1) Calling women 'girls'

Ever noticed how "boy" is a derogatory word, but women remain "girls" well into their 40s? We'll often talk about what separates the men from the boys, etc, but women are rarely referred to as women. Give us credit for our age, experience and maturity. We don't want to be bumbling, doe-eyed "girls" when we know how to live our life and run businesses, homes and much more.

man_011218040432.jpgImage: Teen Vogue

2) Heaping unnecessary praises 

The following is a real conversation I had:

Me: My quadriceps are so stiff...

Man: Oh my God! You know your muscles. That is so cool! You're cool.

Me: 1F612

Heaping praises on us for so little shows that you expect very little from women. Women are not pretty young things who know nothing about fitness, technology, science, etc. Lose the stereotype. You have real competition. It's just that we are downtrodden by a system that is set up to keep us behind.

3) Using an abusive word and then saying sorry 

We know about abusive language and words both in Hindi and English. We use them too or not depending on our disposition. So speaking a word and following it up with a perfunctory apology only makes you look silly. You meant to use the word and didn't mean the apology at all. Give us more credit. We've seen a bit of life even though you think we've been protected from everything. Using abusive language to express frustration (and not abusive towards anyone in particular) has got nothing to do with gender and is a personal choice.

4) Being overly chivalrous

This is a direct outcome of your chauvinism. The assumption that men must somehow "take care" of women and protect them just rubs in the thought that we are somehow fragile and must be treated with kid gloves. You are automatically designating a lower status to us. So stop.

5) Asking us to smile more

Again this is an assumption that women must always be and feel pleasant. We are as human as you are and we have good days and bad days. Women don't need to be smiling all the time just as much as anyone doesn't need to fake it. If we're not smiling, we're not bitches and when we do smile we are not the pleasant, peaceful presence that you want us to be. What our demeanour should be is to be chosen by us rather than imposed on us. Accept people the way they are irrespective of their gender.

6) Trying to explain things like you are the master of it (in other words mansplain)

This reminds me of a panel discussion with two other women that I lead. The topic was about women being trolled online when they speak up (I could write a book on that!). At the end of the discussion, a gentleman from the audience took it upon himself to "explain" why women should give up their inhibitions and speak up more without looking for acknowledgement from men.

Trust me, we can do without this sort of "encouragement" that you have taken upon yourself to give us.

When you do something like this, you are automatically assuming a higher position and talking down to us. In the regular world, this is borderline mansplaining. We don't need male "nurturance". We need acceptance. There are things women know and things they don't. That happens with everyone really, but stop enjoying the idea that you somehow know more and it's your job to explain things to us even when we don't need it.

Feminist or not, we all have done these things one time or another. But what shouldn't stop is noticing it and correcting ourselves. Achieving equality is not really a destination as much as it is a process that we work on every day.

Also read: Where have all the feminist men gone?

Writer

Vichitra Amarnathan Vichitra Amarnathan @vichitraamar

Branded Content expert; enjoys writing about social issues.

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