Privileges as a Man
As a man I have privilege, most of which I am not even aware of.
And while #metoo brings out only the more extreme forms of violation, I am pretty sure there are plenty that I have been a part of knowingly and unknowingly. These may be small actions of pushing boundaries or plain abuse of privilege. And in today’s day and time, that is probably true of most men.*
So what now? What next? I’ve been troubled and searching within to find a response….here are some possibilities that I could think of. It will have to be women who will have to lead the way on this one is my sense — as the oppressed must if we are to move to a new order….
So one is to have a decade of healing….going all the way to 2030 (that’s also when the UN’s SDGs end). In this decade of healing, lets create space for all these hurts and violations to be surfaced. Let us also hope for forgiveness as well as restitution. What does it require of us to repent the wrongs. Rather than keeping it only one way (men against women), it would be fair to open the space to all genders, including men.
Two is to take up the painstaking job of restoring equality and equity in our own intimate relationships. This involves naming the privileges, re-working the status quo and even a negotiation on what are new boundaries and ways of being that can work for everyone?
Three, that we initiate conversations on how do we imagine the new world and new equilibrium to be? This is going to be a joint process because it will need imagination, it will also need consent from everyone. Through these conversations and shared inquiry (as well as experiments) I am confident that we will be able to find newer ways.
Four is to remember that making things sterile is not the answer. There is a richness in the man woman dynamic that is beautiful, that is worth celebrating. It is a dance that must be danced — sitting down because it is turning ugly isn’t the answer. The Eros, the vital energy that sustains the attraction, the creative tension, the beauty — that must be protected and nurtured.
And most importantly let us not forget that our real challenge is not around reclaiming justice at the level of identities.
Our real challenge is the system that happily starts promoting “Bournvita for Women” and co-opts the struggle. It is the economic system that will welcome more labour into its fold irrespective of gender. It is the same logic that may make us want to monetize parenting (as a way to make the playing field levelled).
Identity politics is a necessary step on this long and winding road but it is only a step, a phase. Beyond this is a space where we have to connect to our innate one-ness, our shared human experience and our shared stuck-ness in this mess.
Vinoba said that gender issues will get solved only when every man is both a man and a woman, and every woman is both a man and a woman. I look forward to a world where gender is truly fluid and a choice for each of us, such that it becomes an experience of liberation rather than an instrument of oppression.
* — Since we’re taking about gender as a lens, I refer to men. This applies equally to any other lens — like caste, economic status/class, nationality etc where privilege plays out.