I gaze into his clear eyes
Like I gaze at the starry skies
Reflecting the colours vibrantly alive
Oh yes! He is learning
How it looks like,
What now, to me is this world’s
Big dark scary side.
Today is like any other day. He is back from school and as I change his clothes, I get to my regular question to him.
“Hope no one made you feel uncomfortable!”
“No,” he casually answers.
“Always tell mummy if someday…”
He seems disinterested and runs out to play.
He is four.
I am a mother. An awfully petrified mother. On hearing my friends distressing about the safety of their daughters, I often think about my son. With humanity stooping to a new low every day, the thought of a child’s security disturbs every parent. I do not know what we can do about it at such an early age, so I talk to him. I talk to him about everything. Everything.
I have learnt in my five years of parenting that it does really help. All these years, growing up in a rigidly structured Indian milieu, has made me realise that we really go out of the way for the safety of our girl child. We protect them from strangers, uncles, almost everyone for the fear of abuse. We protect them from dark and solitary lanes. We make them delicate and dependent. Seldom have we worried about our sons’ sexual security. We let them loose and never doubt a friendly visitor who comes too close. We teach them to fight. We take pride in their masculine might.
I gave birth to a child, they make him a bit of a man with each passing night .
The process of emotionally destroying a male starts at a very early age along with the process of gendering. They become aware about the basic socially acceptable norms for a girl and a boy. Language, I feel, plays a pertinent part in the construction of one’s identity.
The process of emotionally destroying a male starts at a very early age along with the process of gendering. They become aware about the basic socially acceptable norms for a girl and a boy. Language, I feel, plays a pertinent part in the construction of one’s identity. Communication strongly impacts a child’s brain to grow up into an individual that the society wants to see. As I delved deep into my study, I understood that all these years, while we were growing up, my parents never asserted gender roles on my brother and myself. My brother and father can really cook good food and my mother’s decision was always counted as significant. I also realise now why talking things out, crying, seeking for help is considered by the majority of men against their manliness.
Ladka hoke rota hai (you cry despite being a boy)!, ladka hoke kitchen set se khelta hai (you play with a kitchen set ), ladki jaise zyada baatein karta hai (you talk too much for a boy), mera sher (my tiger), are the widely used expressions in our daily language that demean women and uplift the status of men thereby destroying the essence of we being an individual above all. To fit in the normative gender roles assigned to us by the society, we try to mould a child’s personality. The social construction of a hegemonic masculinity is one of reasons, I feel, why men refrain from talking about them being in a deplorable condition. Everyone is aware of women being victims to sexual assaults and rapes—we explicitly talk about them on a regular basis. Predominantly taking place around us, the unspoken bitter reality of male rapes is hushed and concealed almost everyday. A significant portion of males are victims of sexual assaults and most of them stay unreported.
A large number of male sexual abuse cases are left unheard due to the lack of legal recourse and majorly because of the dishonour related to it. The hegemonic masculinity, in much simpler words, mard ko dard nahi hota(men do not feel the pain) notion plays a vital role in stigmatising male sexual abuse.
Under section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, the term ‘Rape’ was used to identify only the forceful sexual assault over a female by a male. However, with time, little amendments have been made to consider rape as a gender neutral crime. A large number of male sexual abuse cases are left unheard due to the lack of legal recourse and majorly because of the dishonour related to it. The hegemonic masculinity, in much simpler words, mard ko dard nahi hota (men do not feel the pain) notion plays a vital role in stigmatising male sexual abuse. A survey conducted in 2007 about the children who experienced sexual assaults reports that 57.4 % were boys and 42.3% were girls. The social construction of men being regarded as superior, physically and emotionally stronger by the discourse of hegemonic masculinity, propagates gender inequality and justifies the role of a female being inferior, weak, and therefore being more vulnerable.
The fact is that a sexual assault can happen to anyone but because of the stereotypical notions of hegemonic masculinity, men refuse to be portrayed as a victim of a situation. Being more protective about a female child than a male child is considered normal in our society. But this idea confused me when I gave birth to a son. My son needs my protection from anything suspicious and wrong in anyway, which is a question far beyond a child being a boy or a girl. I became a young mother and my surroundings have made an influential impact on how I should bring my child up.
Also read: Bollywood’s Tryst With Toxic Masculinity
I have strongly felt that we need to make our boys softer, calmer, and tell them that they are not weak if they weep.That it is okay to speak up and look for help when needed. That no one can touch them without their permission. So, each day I combat these social standards and try to raise him not as a boy given to me by the society but my baby, who came and empowered me to stand by him and not to let him lose his individuality.
Meghna middha is a freelance writer and a certified CSE trainer. She hails from the city of Agra where she is raising her two beautiful kids. She has been into research in gender and sexuality from 2016 and will be awarded her doctoral by the end of 2019. She has initiated various projects for the upliftment of the underprivileged, primarily the intersex community in the city. She has co-founded a trust by the name of Azaad Initiative that envisions to empower the underprivileged women who run small scale businesses from their households, thereby paving a way for their financial independence. She has published her writings nationally, internationally and on various social media platforms. You can find her on Facebook.
Featured Image Source: Chronogram Magazine