I still remember my first day in primary school. The “male chauvinists” in my class insisted that they will not be sitting with the girls anymore. I was the only boy who was willing to sit with them. I have always had a very exact mind, a mind that took words literally, a mind that judged an idea on its own merits. The other boys said, “If you love them so much, why don’t you kiss them?” I sat there, feeling alienated—feeling cut off.
I was convinced that this “attitude” was transmitted from father to son, but the Indian economy was at the cusp of liberalization. I felt that it would take a few more years for the country to undermine, and eventually wreck the remnants of the patriarchal culture. But, I was wrong. On my first day in middle school, I walked into the classroom, and found a place without noticing that there were separate rows for girls. The girls looked at me with intense disapproval, and said that my handwriting was “very bad”. It hurt me so much.
In junior high school, when the boys were discussing an alpha-female in South Indian movies, the topper of my class, and the only atheist I knew apart from me and my little brother declared that he did not see anything wrong whatsoever in a woman beating up men. He was the odd one out. I felt that he too had an exact mind, a mind that is an asset and liability at the same time, because the problem was universal.
In 1998, Judith Harris observed in ‘The Nurture Assumption’ that all over North America and Europe, fathers are changing diapers and mothers are shifting gears, but childhood is as sexist as ever. Feminism was spreading like fire, but the little boys and girls everywhere refused to reconsider their “bad attitude” towards each other. In other words, the “sexist” attitude of men in India is not transmitted from father to son. It is innate. The boys in Judith’s class used to snap the bras of early developers when the bolder girls chased a cute redhead threatening to kiss him when he squirmed away, because it was a fate worse than death to him.
The situation was not too different a century ago. In his autobiography, H. L. Mencken wrote that “If, perchance, a wicked boy could not resist the temptation to pull a pigtail, the afflicted girl was social-minded enough not to yell. And if a wayward girl dropped a slate pencil down the neck of a boy, he scratched and wriggled without an outcry. At a time when the boys of my own class were at such an age that they thought of girls only as catlike creatures with pigtails to be pulled, the senior dummies viewed them with lubricious gloats and winks.” I myself feared and despised those senior dummies who had to shave many times a day.
One of my fondest adolescent memories is that of placing my feet below the bench of the girls who used to sit in front of me. The boy near me said that they might slap me, but one of them used to giggle, placing her slipper heels on my shoes. Soon, her friends joined. When I once wrote this on my blog, many boys told me that it was every boy’s favorite pastime in high school. If the feminists had them in hand, they might force these boys to undergo psychotherapy, to help them understand that they are all accomplices in this vast male conspiracy to “show women their place”.
But, I do not remember anyone every complaining about the fate of boys that were dominated by the female teachers in school. Am I comparing rape to physical discipline, something that even many learned fellows think as “a necessary part of human development”? Perhaps, but when “The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012” was passed, it was the first special law to address sexual offenses against children. There were many instances in the past in which a complaint could not be registered against child abuse because there was no law under which they could be punished. The authorities were helpless, and told these children, “Tough luck”. Many harridans now want the rapists to be sent to the penitentiary, with the keys thrown away. When this bill was being debated in the media, I remember that many of them had said that the last thing we need is one more law. But, no one says that our society is ageist.
The truth is that men and women are different, and they have their strengths and weaknesses. If sexism means dislike of women, it probably is not a major force in the issues that feminists are concerned with. Of course, the world is not a moral philosophy seminar. When I hear that this or that group is oppressed, I do not balk. It just confirms my worldview. I do not think that people always create their grievances out of thin air—Not because they do not do it, but because it is hardly necessary. But, when I hear it too often, I am convinced that they are a privileged class. Why? It is almost impossible for a truly oppressed group to whip up so much public sympathy.
Do Indian men have a “bad attitude” towards women? Perhaps, but if people are moral retards, what we have to establish are the true proportions. When theft happens, no one claims that in our country, there is a “bad attitude” towards the propertied class. It is not because people do not have a “bad attitude” towards the propertied class, or because the thieves do not share this “attitude”. They almost certainly do. But, we do not hear this argument. We know why men steal. But, I would say that we ought to know why men rape too. But, what if you were robbed because you kept the door unlocked in the night? Any sane man would say, “You stupid idiot, what the hell were you thinking?”
Every year, at least hundreds of people die when they cross the borders to live in the US. Many more are imprisoned. People should be free to live wherever they want. But, if I simply take a flight and move there, to make the USA my home, I might end up in jail. How would the media respond? How would even the staunch open border advocates respond? Much as they agree with me in the abstract, they would say without any qualms, “You stupid idiot, what the hell were you thinking?” You can say that I ended up in jail because I broke a law, but that would only strengthen my case. A prejudice becomes a law when the prejudice is deep enough, and widespread enough.
But, if a girl who walks through the street at midnight in shorts is raped, how would the liberal media and the feminists respond? They would shout the same old slogan, “Don’t tell women how to dress, tell men not to rape. Don’t teach women how not to get raped, teach men not to rape”. But, remember. There is no law that prevents women from dressing as they wish, and roaming around at midnight. But, we always hear about the evils of sexism. We do not hear much about the evils of citizenism.
Liberals are convinced that women should be free to walk through the streets at any time, wearing whatever they wish to wear. Some women have told me, “It is very hard to dress the way these sexist men want us to dress.” Yes, it is very hard. I am sure that if women are free to wear shorter clothes and roam around, it would be a beautiful world. But, this proves far too much. The world is full of things that everyone should be free to do. I should be free to not pay taxes, to move to any country that I prefer to live in, to compete with the government post office, or even to start my own police station and court. I am not being sarcastic. People who know me know that I really, really mean it. It would be a wonderful world. It is only that we do not live in such a beautiful world.
The feminists might say that women should be free to get drunk with a guy, and sleep in his room. Yes, they should be, but that way madness lies. Perhaps, what is more rooted in reality is the seemingly sexist retort, “So perhaps momma’s caution about visiting guys in their homes late at night had something to say for it after all?”