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Home >Opinion >Columns >Many women don’t adore the idea of men: Now what?

After the death of some elderly Indian men, their widows grow healthier, their eyes flaunt life and their skin glow. The signs were always there, but until now it was rare to hear women state clearly how much they despised men. But now, wherever I go, I hear women say they “hate" men, Indian men in particular, also the very idea of men, the smallest things about them, how they stand, how they behave on dates. Even “the sound of their footsteps at home." Sometimes, I wonder if they know I am a man.

The way women express their dislike for men is somewhat similar to how a typical street boy in Chennai starts a brawl. He begins in a jovial way, in the mirth of friendship. He wrestles laughing, but then as his arm is twisted, his face slowly turns serious as though in a sudden painful memory; he stiffens, snarls, folds his tongue into the floor of his mouth, and then lashes out.

Monologues of women about the disappointing nature of Indian men usually lead to specific details of the unnamed men they know, and always end in a warm appreciation of Indian women, their poise and beauty and intelligence, and how undeserving Indian men are. These days, the only time I see love in a woman’s eyes is when she talks of women.

It is hard to defend Indian men. Men in other cultures have reputations. They are cool, or hot or stylish or brave or great passionate cooks, or they are tall or dashing, or dance using calisthenics or sing haunting songs on the streets. Indian men, on the other hand, are not famous for anything except coding—and even that is branding more than truth. But when women start explaining their disenchantment with Indian men, they usually then extend their sentiments to all men, everywhere, including those who notice upholstery and know colours like ‘salmon’ and ‘mauve’.

But women do like men. Barack Obama, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, for instance. And some men they actually know, but who are sexually innocuous like their granddads, dads and sons. It is as though maleness is an evil spirit in an otherwise fine human.

What are the consequences of this vast disenchantment?

Men react to it in different ways, but mostly they are amused. Being roasted by women for being men is a bit like mid-air turbulence. It’s funny at first, but as its intensity rises, the faces around slowly turn serious.

Men who are easily hurt by the general insults of women are usually the provincial who cannot accept a fundamental principle in storytelling—that the underdog has special rights to make malicious fun of the privileged. Also, they do not understand why they are being cursed for the banal privilege of walking fearlessly on the streets. But there is another type of hurt which is more substantial. Most Indian men have had fewer opportunities than women who use words like ‘patriarchy’.

In essence, the call for equality is a battle of the top 2% against the top 1%. Most Indian men would readily give up their privilege of walking down streets at night in exchange for the opportunities that most elite feminists have had.

A darker reason why some men have a low threshold of tolerance for being despised by women could be that they know how severe a general aversion to a class of people can be, as they themselves abhor communities and races. So to realize that they, too, can attract similar emotions is humiliating. This is the same reason why so many Indians living in the West are hypersensitive to racism—they know exactly what it is.

Men do not feel they are part of a single collective male organism. Despite the term, there is no ‘brotherhood’ that gender bestows. But there is a global phenomenon that is underway that may train men to feel something of the sort. Across the world, the tactics of social activists are being copied by those who have been traditionally dominant in society, like upper castes in India and Caucasian men in the United States—they are recognizing the power of lament, vulnerability and victimhood. For instance, upper castes in India are increasingly demanding quotas, and Donald Trump effectively used a widespread sentiment among Caucasian men when Me-Too was at its peak that they were under attack for being Caucasian and male.

The overt scorn for men, or at least the overt articulation of this scorn for men, which is slightly more than a lament but less than a desire to see men harmed, is part of an ongoing attempt to reform men. But the reformation of men occurs because of a very different force.

The new men who are a lot better than their fathers, the young men who are fond of women the way women are fond of women, and who can be nice without the farce of political correctness, got here not because activists reformed them. These are men who observed their fathers and decided they do not want to be like them; they saw the generation before them and decided they need to be better. To know that you do not want to be your father—that is clarity.

The notion that the new generation of urban men is somewhat better is often held by mothers who are probably influenced by their estimation of their sons. If you ask girls, they scoff at the idea that their male peers are not despicable. It is a generalization, as many observations are, but it is made often.

A 13-year-old told me that the boys in her class rate girls. “These boys are so low, they must have been raised by boys."

Manu Josph is a journalist, and a novelist, most recently of ‘Miss Laila, Armed And Dangerous’

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