The man-woman friction does not stem from male strength or its misuse as much as from male weakness.
By Deblina Chakrabarty
I have been surprised to discover that people who read this column think of me as a male basher. Given that I have routinely pointed out female foibles without mincing any words I naturally opposed this tag at first. But the more I opposed, the more Debbie the Male Basher stuck. And then I realised that this doesn’t have as much to do with accuracy as with the easily digestible pop culture caricature of a strident female vigorously banging her ham fist on legions of hapless males in righteous indignation. A prototype of a female columnist of man-woman equations who doesn’t bash men simply doesn’t exist.
In pretty much the same fashion we as a society are wired to co-relate men with strength. Try thinking the word ‘strong’ and see what word follows immediately — most probably it will be ‘man’. Society rests on the shoulders of the strong man, the guy who can control his tears, bring home the bacon, fight the war, protect us from miscreants and stand for truth and justice. Strength is the default setting as well as the aspirational ideal and weakness is inadmissible, whether it’s physical, mental, financial or moral. It’s the one taboo a man is not allowed unlike a woman in whom weakness is accepted and even becoming at times.
As I sat thinking about the man-woman conundrum and all the friction that gives raison d’etre to my writing, Irealised that the friction stems not from male strength or its misuse as much as from male weakness, suffocating in a social cellar, not allowed to breathe or exist. Think about it…
The commitment phobe who went AWOL leaving the girl heartbroken and disillusioned, was he a calculating monopolist or some poor schmuck with very distorted views on marriage and togetherness as a sexless gulag of obligations? I’d say the latter because eventually he either bites the dust due to exhaustion (or a receding hairline) or remains trapped in a vortex of variety that yields diminishing returns on excitement and novelty. What might have helped is if he could have articulated what he felt (fear, absence of true love), addressed it and moved on or away. But it’s not ‘manly’ to talk about feelings and fears and ergo, sexually less gratifying since the girl might withhold her munificence. Solution? Carry on with status quo till one day you quit and run onto the next disaster.
Or how about the possessive guy? The one who doesn’t let his girlfriend go out alone with male friends and scrutinises her FB wall for possible interlopers? Might look like an assertion of strength and power but more likely it is deep-rooted insecurities looking for quick fixes. What he needs is the same advice given to insecure girlfriends: spruce yourself up, develop your personality and work on the foundation of the relationship rather than nitpick… and if your partner is truly a remorseless philanderer, then leave.
Ditto for money matters. Nowhere is a man expected to prove his masculinity more than when it comes to shelling out the dough. Modern female empowerment demands equality in parenting skills, his bank balance, sexual desires and individual development as long as his money is their money and her money is her money. But the fact is that men are not pre-ordained to ceaselessly spin the money machine without any problems or pauses any more than women are. If women are allowed the choice to pause and reconsider their career choices based on aptitudes and passions so must men, without it being considered a failing or a weakness.
Where it stops being funny is when things get sexually abusive or violent. Society abounds with whispers of child molestation, incest, spousal abuse, marital rape etc. and more often than not they are notched down to misuse of male strength. Iam sure all of it is true. But much stronger and festering below the surface is some intense fear, insecurity, memory of abuse or searing sense of inadequacy which has no outlet for expression or admission and thus manifests itself in the only ‘manly’ avatar viz. display of physical strength. Am Imaking a sympathetic case for these deviants? Certainly not. Seeing smart, intelligent girls acquiesce to verbal and physical abuse in the name of love or alcohol makes my blood boil. But it’s not the guys’ strength I abhor as much as Ipity their unresolved and unaddressed weaknesses.
But every problem has a root. And the root of modern male weakness is the female ideal of the strong masculine man. Like many women Iam perhaps guilty of the same crime where I have demanded impeccable strength of character, grace under pressure and financial infallibility from the men in my life. More often than not they have failed to deliver. Unsurprising. Because we have failed to identify a rot in the foundation, there has been no question of repairing it. But unlike popular misconception, admitting to weakness isn’t a sign of defeat; au contraire it might be the first step towards the strength we so desire.
So I think we should allow for men to be afraid, inaccurate, (occasionally) broke and honest about what they feel, even if it’s unpalatable to us. We might just sow the seeds of the perfect man in the process.