Subject: Men lack freedom of personal choices in a patriarchal world
Vinay (name changed), aged 18 years wanted to become a jingles writer for ads as he enjoyed doing the work and was good at it too. However, his parents wanted him to do something more ‘traditional’ like service/job because that would guarantee regular income for his ‘future family’ and did not allow him to explore his passion.
Mohan (name changed), aged about 37 years was tired of working for 19 long years repaying education loan, marriage loan and then home loan as his wife had put a condition that she would marry him only after he owns a house.
Repaying those loans had taken a toll on his health and he wanted to take a sabbatical. Also, as kids were grown up now and his wife was working, he could think of taking sabbatical but his wife won’t allow him to take a sabbatical.
Also, he faced resistance from his own parents who questioned his manhood asking him, “Are you thinking of surviving on your wife’s earnings?” Mohan felt ashamed and dropped the idea and continued to slog despite needing a break badly.
The stories of Vinay and Mohan are neither one-off nor fictitious. They are just the tip of the iceberg. Often, it is told to men that our society is patriarchal in nature and hence male dominated. Using this argument, men are told to make sacrifices and feel happy about it. Following are some examples, by which men are asked to make sacrifices,
- Young boys are trained since childhood to be breadwinners for their ‘future families’.
- They are encouraged to make sacrifices and are told that an ‘ideal man’ puts others before self.
- Many young boys start to work and earn for the family at a very young age sacrificing their childhood joys.
- More often than not, young boys work hard so that they can get their sisters married off before they can get married. In a traditional society like India, it’s not uncommon to see that brothers first getting their younger sisters married before them.
- Men refrain from taking breaks from work if they want to, as the society makes them feel unmanly for leaving work and taking a break.
- Often, after retirement, men face a lot of abuse from their own families as the families start seeing them as useless.
- Patriarchal mindset sets a fixated role for men in the society that of a provider and as such it is always expected and almost taken for granted that men would be the ones to work and earn money.
- Owing to patriarchal mindset, men start feeling guilty when they want to live a life for themselves and thus they continue making sacrifices from a very young age so that they don’t feel unmanly.
- It’s the sons who are always expected to maintain their parents and the legal obligation is also pushed onto them via Section 125 CrPC.
- Even after a relationship is over, the obligation of maintaining the lifestyle of their ex-partner is on men and due to this mindset, men face harsh maintenance orders passed against them even if their ex is working or capable of earning.
“Men must have freedom of choices. The role of a breadwinner should not be imposed on a man. Such social restrictions force men to live a compromised life. Often, the effort that goes into earning a livelihood for an entire family and also to provide them with lifestyle is underestimated. Even after this responsibility is shouldered by men, they are expected to work at home and take part in household chores. In fact, if a man is unable to do so, he is shamed. Many television ads and product launches are based on this principle. Like the recent ads by Ariel and Airtel are based on such philosophies”, says Virag Dhulia, Head, Gender Studies, Confidare Research.
“Take the recent Ariel ad for example which says that men should proudly upload their selfies while doing the laundry. The concept behind the ad ignores the hard work, effort and sacrifice that men put just to earn livelihood for their families and additionally expects men to proudly do household chores. Also, the ad of Airtel which talks about keeping the father happy and he will share his postpaid plan with you. All these ads are a reflection of the social mindset that the financial burden is that of the man”, continued Virag.
“Patriarchy forces men to lead a secondary life. Hence, any patriarchal society that does not cater to men’s welfare is not a progressive one. Any laws or social expectations that glorify sacrifices of men considering the society to be patriarchal are actually anti-male in nature and need to condemned,” rues Anil Kumar, Founder member of Save Indian Family Foundation.
And it is this stereotypical assumption that men would bear financial burden is what allows the judiciary to pass insensitive maintenance orders even when the wife is capable of working and earning or already doing so.