Sweden is famous for its fetish with gender equality. So it came as no surprise recently when the male train drivers there started wearing skirts to work. Faced with high temperatures, the guys had actually asked for permission to wear shorts. The same was promptly denied – because the dress code permits only trousers and skirts! By doing so, however, the male train drivers possibly revived a fashion invented long time back by the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans!
Ask a psycho-analyst and he is likely to dismiss the news rather calmly. Most behavioral studies establish that our personalities are made up of masculine as well as feminine traits. So, what is new, he might well ask. Ask a spiritual guru from India and he is sure to point out the relevance of the concept of ardha-nareeshwara – a combination of the Purusha and the Prakriti – propounding the unified nature of the universe. However, he may be hard put to explain the Indian male’s attitude of denigrating females – whether in public or in private. Since females in India are in short supply (940 females for 1,000 males as per the 2011 Census), the males should instead be found indulging in acts of chivalry befitting an English count. Alas, that is not to be. Eve teasing is taken as a birth-right, as is the tendency to lay the blame on the way the females either dress or behave.
Cheering Up the Fairer Ones
If politicians in Mumbai – the commercial capital of India – are to be believed, the surge of sex crimes is due to mannequins which display lingerie. Even while dressing up the ladies in plastic, lascivious thoughts are supposed to corrupt the minds of male staff. As most fair-minded souls would agree, this is rather too one-sided. The ban should also cover male mannequins. Even the commercials where Bollywood heroes publically endorse innerwear brands should go. Surely, such ads have the potential of igniting amorous thoughts amongst the fairer of us?
The government in India also tries to chip in by bringing about some changes. Having failed to bring in a law giving better representation to women in legislative bodies, presently it is pushing to set up a women’s bank. However, one is a little clueless as to how a purely economic criterion like credit-worthiness can be assessed based on the gender of an entrepreneur! Irrespective of caste, creed or sex, the commercial viability of a project alone can determine its eligibility for institutional support. Incidentally, between 1975 and 1980, the US had nine women’s banks. But the numbers shrank as their business became unviable.
When it comes to pro-female initiatives, the corporate world is not found wanting. Terms like ‘gender balance’ and ‘gender diversity’ are the buzz words these days. Companies like Diageo, Cadbury, Coca Cola and others are making conscious efforts in that direction. Leading businessmen in India are hiring icons of the stature of Deepak Parekh, G M Rao, Mukeeta Jhaveri and a host of others to mentor women who can shoulder board level responsibilities in the days to come. Policy makers in Europe and Canada are already chewing their nails trying to figure out ways to persuade the private sector to get a higher number of females on their boards.
The Hassled Not-so-fair Ones
A sizeable segment of the males which nevertheless deserves our empathy is that of the hassled youth who have to woo the love of their life by buying gifts, roses and chocolates and by taking the lady regularly out for candle-lit dinners. Since the party of the other part lives in high-rise apartments these days, the prospects of serenading by standing below her balcony and using one’s vocal chords are passé. Instead, MP3 files transferred through smart phones appear to be more effective. Sure enough, many marketers are not complaining.
Yet another category of males who deserve more to be pitied than to be censured is that of the hen-pecked and harassed husbands who suffer all over the world in absolute silence. Other than earning the daily bread, the poor souls also need to hone such skills as baby-sitting, cooking, cleaning and dish-washing. The kind of patience they show while dealing with their spouses would put any Nobel Peace Laureate to shame. After all, they suffer in a selfless manner only to ensure that neighborhood peace is maintained and their fragile egos do not get crushed in public.
The Bertie Wooster Code
Majority of males today would agree that treating females as mere objects needs to be frowned upon. Lustful glares are best avoided. Perhaps the best approach would be to treat the fairer lot according to the good old Bertie Wooster code of conduct – never bandy about their name in public, restrict oneself to furtive side glances while silently appreciating their profiles, and generally maintain a healthy distance while dealing with them. One also needs to be wary of goofy females who befriend males merely to use their good offices to have horrors perpetrated onto their stingy uncles. Treat the ones with motherly tendencies as confidantes for one’s innermost feelings. And steer clear of females who have intellectual leanings and possess reformist tendencies when it comes to the not-so-fair of the species.
If a saunter down the aisle (or, circumambulation around the sacred fire, if you prefer) cannot be avoided, focus only on maintaining peace and harmony. Be aware that her cousins would be much better treated than your real siblings while visiting the place one believes to be one’s home. She should have a free hand in taking all routine decisions – like what food to have, which dresses to buy, the kind of house to live in, which movies to see, etc. Rather than getting involved with such mundane issues, one had better focus on worrying about strategic issues; like, if Obama’s cyber-snooping affects the lives of others around the world, how the steady drop in China’s GDP levels affects other countries, why Abe should be supported for what he is doing to rev up the Japanese economy and what the Indian government must do to prop up the Rupee.
Men who seek and support equity amongst men and women – neither denying the masculinity of men nor the femininity of women – are indeed role models. Perhaps men in India should try to put on skirts once in a while, thereby making India safer for women!