Recently an old school friend of mine reacted to a status I shared on my Facebook account regarding feminism. He claimed that women use the feminist agenda to ‘get away with things’.
In his words “all men are crazy for women and so women can make them dance to their tunes as and when they please”.
I have seen the debate on male/female privilege on many online forums and this is not another checklist for a feminist or anti-feminist to prove a point for or against the notion of privilege. It is about sharing the privilege for a better world.
To me, it is ridiculous to argue which one is better than the other. I believe that every human being has qualities and talents which help them grow as a person and live a happy life. Depending on the gender to ‘get by’ life is a very narrow, shallow and constrained way of thinking. Similarly, all human beings face challenges in life too.
It is a superficial view to think that men may dance to the tunes of women in return of sexual pleasures, but isn’t this view itself highly offending? Let us assume it is true for a moment. What does that translate to? That women are objects of sexual desire and if a woman does not have sex to offer, she cannot have a loving man in her life? Or if she keeps offering sexual pleasures, the man would do anything she instructs- like the man is some kind of a dog? Isn’t that offending to men?
Men dislike when women demand their rights because according to my friend, women rule the world and use the ‘I am a woman card’ to get favors and privileges. I can’t think of what context people might use such tricks but as far as I see it, women were not given the right to vote, they had to fight for it, many died protesting. So the right to vote (for women) is not a privilege but something they had to fight for and it is finally a right they enjoy as much as men do but only after fighting for it unlike men.
It is a ridiculous notion for me to compare and contrast which gender has it easy because human life faces different challenges in different stages of life. And if it really comes down to who has it easy, people from Asia might claim that Americans are privileged people, their life is easy, they have a green card/a passport that gives their life more value than that of others. Americans might claim that Europeans have it easy because they live in a more peaceful way.
There will always be advantages and disadvantages in being one gender, religion, nationality, race or another etc. My question is:
1. Why don’t we differentiate between privileges and human rights?
In a country like India where men spend only 19 minutes a day on average doing household chores while the women spend 298 minutes, I don’t think that a cup of coffee or a weekend trip to the restaurant is too much of a privilege. Speaking strictly of human rights, it is non-negotiable for every human being to feel safe, respected and dignified. If a man is polite to a woman because he thinks she might sleep with him, this throws light on the male entitlement issue. She doesn’t owe you anything just because you paid for the meal or gifted her car. No one owes you sex because that is not a male’s right.
What we need is a world where we are seen and treated as human beings not just as one gender that offer us something in return for being polite.
2. Why don’t we combine our privileges and share our pains, together?
Imagine a couple. The man has male privileges and so does the woman, according to the privilege believing people. How about both genders sharing what comes as advantages to them while helping each other out in pain?
To be honest when we begin to treat one another as equals and share what we have, life would be much better. The misogynists and feminist haters claim that women push the feminist agenda to gain attention but there wouldn’t be feminism if women were not oppressed. As long as there is one chauvinist, pervert or misogynist in this world, there will be feminists.
All this privilege argument comes from a narrow point of view of inequality. It does not matter how the society works, what matters is what you think, how you perceive it. If you dance to the tunes of a woman because you think she might offer you sexual pleasure in return then that shows how lame and little you think of yourself. On the other hand, if you are nice to a woman because you love her, then there is no gender argument here.
Any woman or man who is in love would do everything they can do to please and show their love. Love is in fact equality because it sees beyond gender. And both women and men sometimes cheat or take advantage of their partners love. They are bad people regardless of their gender.
The world needs sharing and caring, let us all feel privileged to be human beings. But no matter what gender you are, you don’t have the right to oppress others. If you feel that the opposite gender is privileged, go ahead, feel that way. But do not deny them their rights when you are in power. Instead of seeing others as privileged people, try to look out for the oppressed ones.
I can bet you will find all genders and children from different parts of the world in the oppressed category. For instance, let’s talk about the victims of human trafficking. Men, women and children are forced to work in horrendous situations. I don’t think we have the right to trivialize one group and feel sorry for the other because of their gender. When one man dies (who was working as a slave), his entire family suffers, doesn’t it?
Looking past gender privilege and towards the oppressed is a better way of reaching out to those who need help. Sadly, women and children are in majority and when you see others fighting for these two oppressed groups, please don’t see it as a privilege of being a woman or a child.