As I was returning to home from office on a fine evening, and Sonu Nigam’s “Best Songs” CD playing in my car, I just could not help but take note of the lyrics of a very popular song playing at that time. Listening to the lyrics, my rationale was irked to think about it – and the question was “Are our social norms domestically violent for men?” We will revisit the statement as we proceed.
Before that I must mention the lyrics here that disturbed the peaceful waters of the pond. A brief background about the lyrics:
The lyrics are from a war-movie titled “LOC – Line Of Control”, that depicts the lives of Indian soldiers posted at the Indo-Pak border. This song is from a sequence wherein a man, a soldier with the Indian Army, who is newly married, has to go back to border as war has broken out, and as he prepares to leave, his wife sings this song and the man replying to it.
Pyaar Bharaa Geet Koi Dekho Piyaa Tumko Gaanaa Hi Hogaa
Hey Hey Samjhaa Karo Mushkil Meri
Chaahoon Na Chaahoon Mujhko Jaanaa Hi Hogaa
Piyaa Mere Tan Man Mere Pyaar Ke Bandhan Do Pal Tumhein Rokte Hain
Koi Jaataa Ho To Pichhe Se Usko Aise Nahin Tokte Hain
Sautan Meri Kyaa Hai Koi Jaldii Hai Kyun Samjhaanaa Hi Hogaa
Aa Aa Aa
Jaanaa Pade Jo
Jaanaa Pade Jo Mujhko Kahin To Aise Na Roothaa Karo
Na Sar Ko Jhatko Na Pair Patko Na Thandi Aahein Bharo
Haan Jaao Tumhe Kyaa Jaise Rahoon Main
Sunte Nahin Ho Jo Bhi Kahoon Main
English Translation of Lyrics
You must sing me a love song [Female]
Please understand my problem [Male]
I must go even if I do not want to [Male]
Dear, my heart and my body and love stops you for a while [Female]
You must not stop someone who is about to leave [Male]
Are you having a mistress, what’s the hurry, you must explain [Female]
If I have to go, [Male]
If I have to go somewhere then please don’t stop me like this [Male]
Please don’t nod, please don’t throw tantrums or weep [Male]
Yeah, you leave, how does it matter to you how I stay [Female]
You never listen to me, whatever I say [Female]
Now, these lyrics may seem just like ordinary from a romantic song wherein a sad wife is just trying to stop her husband for sometime, who would be going away for months and the usual attempts by the husband to cajole her. And how does the question of these social norms being domestically violent to men arise?
But hey! Hold on your horses for a while. All the above arguments hold good as long as we do not think at all about the husband, the man here and just look at it from a feminist perspective.
Now, is the time to get to some truth here, it’s time to get a masculist perspective.
Let’s look at the facts here.
- The wife is well aware of the fact that her husband is a soldier.
- In fact, that was one of the major motivating factors for her to marry him, after all, what better of a protector can a woman get than a soldier,
- And can be summoned anytime for war, to the border.
- Also, when he will be summoned, he won’t be having much control over it and will need to oblige.
Yet, when he is being summoned she sings this song in which she holds the husband completely responsible for her situation and also accuses him of infidelity! Whereas, the poor husband is busy explaining her, cajoling her and requesting her not to be so cruel and non-understanding. Apart from the tensions of going into an extremely violent zone, where there is no guarantee of the safety of his life and limbs, the poor husband also has to go through this emotional torture at the behest of his wife.
And here lies the irony of the fact. If, the husband does not do as mentioned above, he is tagged as an irresponsible, insensitive, uncaring, unloving, torturous husband who has no regards for his wife’s emotions etc.
But hey, here the woman is cruel on the man! Why are the same questions not put to her?
Why is she not being tagged as irresponsible, insensitive, uncaring, unloving, torturous wife?
And pop comes the answer – “But ain’t it a social norm that the husband is responsible for the wife’s happiness?”
And there lies the crux of it. This very social norm of making one individual (the husband) responsible for another individual’s (the wife) happiness is what makes it precarious for the norm to be followed.
Because, this social mindset is a very dangerous one as it puts no onus absolutely on the wife and puts the entire burden on the husband to make the marriage work and if he fails to do so, there is a volley of anti-male laws to tie him to the tenterhooks. And the very basis of all these laws, fueled by anti-male social mindset, is “Has the husband kept the wife happy enough?”
That sounds like a good question, but the problem is, “Who defines what enough is?” And the answer is, “It’s the WIFE”. And so, the entire structure has been handed over to the wife who decides whether her husband deserves a peaceful life or not.
And, marriage is so deeply integrated in our society, culture, psyche and thoughts that almost of all other social structures/norms also revolve around marriage. And the basic tenet of marriage being violent towards men, all other social structures that revolve around it are also basically anti-male. They are anti-male not in the sense that they openly demean men, but in the sense that they primarily hold men responsible for everything and in the event of unfortunate eventuality, its none other than the man to pay the price.
By and large, this violence is emotional and psychological but it can be physical, at times, as well. Men’s rights helpline get a good number of distress calls every week and many men report physical violence they endured, which was unleashed onto them by their wives and/or in-laws. And, as far as the emotional violence is considered, it is pretty much contiguous in forms as we shall see further.
I recall a function I attended few days back. In that, the MC was doing some filler event and in that, she ended up calling 5 random couples onto the stage, from the audience. As the event progressed, she happened to ask one of the husbands, “What color bindi, is your wife wearing?”
Irrespective, of whether, it was answered correctly or not, what perturbed me is – “How correct it is socially and politically to insult husbands publically?” It is a source of entertainment for the society!
It is this social norm that harms men and is violent towards them. For example, in the above scenario, it is quite possible that the husband might not have noticed it or might have forgotten, but because he was asked in a public forum, the wife will get an opportunity to blackmail the husband emotionally later charging him of ignoring her, not loving her, not being observant of her, and many times the allegations cross the boundary of personal space and accuse the husband of infidelity as well.
How many times do we recall such public humiliation of wives that goes unchallenged?
However, this is not the problematic part. The problematic part comes after this. It’s the conspicuous absence of a non-judgmental communication channel for men. For, when, men complain against such behaviors of their wives, more often than not, they are dismissed, invalidated, trivialized, chided and ignored at best. Sometimes, they are counseled to learn to take such events in ‘light mood’!
But, it never happens the other way round. When, women complain about their husbands, they are taken so seriously that the husband’s punishment starts even before verification of the allegations!
Mostly, in public functions, television shows, comedy programs, it is not uncommon to see that “abuse of men” is a source of entertainment. The so-called “abuse of women” is never a topic!
It is these kinds of social norms that constantly feed the cognitive capabilities of the society that it is OK to abuse men, make fun of their problems, trivialize them, ignore them, dismiss them, invalidate them and in that process, it’s also found OK to plug the communication channel for men.
And when, that happens, many men cannot withstand the suffocating agony of social norms and they give in. Yes, you got it correct; they commit suicide and that too in large numbers growing every year! The alarmingly high suicide figures of married men are a testimony to this fact as shown in the below links,
The figures may be India specific, however, the scenario ain’t. In fact, internationally, it’s the men who commit far more suicides compared to women and internationally, very little justice is available for such men. Society considers them as weak and is more than happy to “get rid of them”.
And, yet it is the same society that does not hesitate a bit in exploiting the very men it predates upon.
Often, I have seen women expecting their male colleagues to provide them with a pick-up or a drop from a party. And it is considered highly irresponsible if the man refuses to do so or is unwilling to do so. The woman considers it as her RIGHT to ask for but it is not in the purview of a man’s RIGHT to abstain from it.
It is such pathetic social norms that are filled with hypocrisy, that are violent towards men as they force the man to do things he in not exactly interested in doing, but does it nonetheless as he does not have much choice left before him. These kind of social norms are also the root cause of a majority of crime happening as it is the same social norm that defines what is crime.
Coming back to the question at hand, “Are our social norms domestically violent towards men?” suffice it to mention here that the family is like a thumbnail of the society and the social norms smoothly translate into familial behaviors. If our social norms are anti-male, then the very social norms, when they encroach into the contours of family, become domestically violent for men.
Again, it is a choice that belies with us. We can allow the situation to continue unabated or take a stand against anti-male social norms and do our bit to change them by not judging men, not expecting too much out of them and accepting them the way they are.
Till the time the change begins to happen, “Our social norms are domestically violent towards men”.