Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Indian Male Privilege

A lot of the people I chat with, or interact offline with, especially men, keep telling me I am being too unfair, too caustic, too aggressive in my blogs, comments, opinions. Many of these people believe feminism is outdated, no longer required, because the world has changed, and “these days such things don’t happen, and women have all the rights” (to me this only means that these people don’t read the news, or have any idea of current affairs/reality). Most women would tell them they are living in a fool’s paradise. Any woman knows the reality of how patriarchy treats women. Even privileged, upper class, educated women, from loving, supportive, egalitarian homes (like mine) face enough social discrimination on a daily basis to never be fooled. Women in India re-realize every day of their lives, at home and outside, what it means to be a woman.

For the men who think Male Privilege doesn’t exist in India, who think everything is all rosy and heavenly now. Here is a small checklist of things you DO NOT have to face… because you are a man and not a woman.  

·         You were not killed before you were born simply for being the wrong gender.
·         You were not killed immediately after you were born by your father/grandfather/uncles chucking you in a well, stuffing you in a pot and filling it with salt until you suffocated, or drowning you in milk.
·         People congratulated your parents when you were born. Nobody consoled them with, “don’t worry. Try again, and you might just get lucky and have a girl.” Nobody asked  “What will become of you once you marry him off?” No one will comment about your parents “itne bacche hain inke….magar ek santaan nahi.” No one will be sympathetic to your parents about not having the child of the right gender to perform their funeral rites, ensuring their entry into heaven.
·         Even if you were the second or third boy born to your parents, you felt no less loved and cherished. No one treated you like crap because you had dared to be born. Your parents, especially your mother, did not get stigmatized as the bearer of only sons.
·         It was a foregone conclusion that even if your parents could only send one child to school, you would get an education.
·         You could say what you wanted to be when you grew up, when people asked, and people acknowledged your ambition, saw nothing strange in it, and encouraged you to achieve anything you wanted. Nobody laughed at you.
·         You had lots of role models, Tata or Birla or Sachin or whoever. You didn't have to search to find someone of your gender in your desired/chosen field to serve as a role model.
·         Growing up, you could choose from an infinite variety of children’s media – books, TV shows, Cartoons, featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of your gender. You didn’t have to search for meaningful male protagonists, they are the default.
·         There are numerous festivals around the year for the women in your family to give thanks for your existence, and none for you to give thanks for the women in your life. Clearly, you are precious and important enough but they are not. You don’t have to fast, and pray for the well being of, and worship, your sisters in festivals like Rakhi, and bhaiduj, or your wives in festivals like teej and karwa chauth.
·         As a child, if you misbehaved, and got into trouble, you were scolded only for your behavior. Not because you would make a bad prospective groom or son-in-law for some random unknown people 20 or so years in the future.
·         You were not constantly told to speak softly, laugh softly, sit properly, and behave like a “gentleman”, even when you were five or six years old.
·         You were not only allowed but encouraged to play outside. Becoming dark from the sun was not a problem for your future, and learning how to do household work, again for the benefit of random future spouse/in-laws, was not a priority.
·         You could dream of having a high flying career, earning big bucks, owning a fancy car and a big house instead of just a red lehenga.
·         As a 5, 6, 10 yr old, you could learn to dance, if you wished. No one stopped you because “in our house boys don’t dance like bazaru mard” or because “in-laws don’t like boys who dance; it creates the wrong impression about his character”.
·         You could wear shorts as a child, continue to wear them as a teenager and still wear them as an adult, at home or outside without fear of repercussions from your wife, your in laws, and society in general.
·         You only had to go to school/college, and relax when you got home. You were not expected to look after younger siblings, or serve your sisters hand and foot while they sat around like lords of the house. Neither did you have to help your mother in the kitchen, in household work, etc as a duty, and as training for your future.
·         You were never the one who had to stand around, waiting hungry -- with fathers and uncles -- while people much older than you ate their meals. You were never the last to be served, eating whatever was left. You did not even have to think about hurrying through the meal, sharing, or saving a little bit for the siblings of the wrong gender who were waiting for you to finish. You ate your fill and took your time. If nothing was left for them to eat, or if they had to wait hungry for a long time… well, that was not your problem. If there was one egg in the fridge, you got the omelet. If there was one chocolate, you ate it.
·         You could talk to your friends, even brag, about the changes brought about in your body by puberty. Your mom never asked you to keep it a secret, or to pretend you had no idea what others were talking about when they discussed it. You weren’t ashamed of the changes in your body and didn’t try to hide changes in loose fitting clothes. Puberty didn’t curtail what little freedom you had, and didn’t make you more of a prisoner in the home. In fact, puberty made a MAN out of you, and gave you more voice in the home, more power to make your own decisions, and to participate in those of the family. It didn’t seem like the beginning of the end, as a signal for the end of your life and the beginning of life as a lowly spouse/son-in-law.
·         You were not, henceforth, excluded from the kitchen and prevented from worshipping, for a particular few days every month.
·         Temples, like the Ayappa temple at sabarimalai do not exclude you from even entering their premises for 40 yrs of your life.
·         Your mother did not keep track of your physical processes, counting days and asking pointed questions if you were ever even a day late
·         If you have a bad day or are in a bad mood, people don’t automatically say “men are so moody, who knows what they will say/do”. They also don’t automatically assume that all irritation, anger, and negative reaction to their asinine behavior that you show or experience is because of “that time of the month”.
·         Your ability to make important decisions and your capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
·         You were not expected/trained to “hold it” in to an unhealthy limit, no matter how badly you needed to go to the bathroom. This unhealthy practice, leading to severe health problems in many cases, was never forced on you. There are adequate public toilets for your use. If there isn’t one, you are encouraged to just stand up anywhere.
·         There are enough toilets for your gender in schools, so that you do not have to drop out of school when you hit puberty.
·         No one leers at you and makes nasty lascivious jokes loud enough to make sure you hear, when you go to a store for pads/contraception. Buying contraception does not automatically make you available for the men behind the counter to fantasize about and leer at (since it proves that you are sexually active)
·         You have never had to do a gauri vrat, or a series of 16 somvars, fasting and worshiping specific gods/goddesses to get a good spouse in the future.
·         You were not married off to an old woman in your childhood “for your own protection”.
·         Getting and staying married is not the most important priority society assigns to you.
·         You are not expected to forget 20+ yrs of upbringing, lifestyle, beliefs, freedoms, tastes, and completely change your personality to become someone else.
·         Your parents have never been relegated to second class citizens in your life. You are not expected to forget about your own home, family, parents, siblings, and serve those of your spouse, even if it hurts or harms your people. You are not supposed to love someone else’s parents more than you love your own. You are not restricted from helping or taking care of your own parents unless your spouse/in laws allow you to do so.
·         You will never be expected to change your surname, and sometimes even your first name upon marriage. If you don’t, you will not be questioned by family, friends, and mystified strangers why you don’t change your name.
·         Your in-laws don’t dictate how you dress, what you eat, and whether you can go out to work.
·         You are not required to publicly advertise your marital status, marking you as someone’s property, with sindoor, mangalsutra, shakha, pola, noa, thali, etc.
·         No one else can dictate or control your body. No one else gets to decide when you conceive, what sort of protection you use, if any, and whether or not you have an abortion. Such decisions are made for you, BY you. Not by your spouse or in-laws.
·         If you decide not to have children, your masculinity, and your humanity will not be questioned.
·         If you have children, you will not be expected to provide primary care for them, and your masculinity and humanity will not be called into question if you choose not to care for them.
·         If you do provide primary care for your kids, you will be held up as an example of extraordinary parenting – even if you are only marginally competent. Regular, boring and repetitive jobs such as changing diapers and feeding will be considered your partner’s.
·         If you have children and also choose to have a career, no one will think that you are selfish for not staying at home to take care of your kids.
·         If you are straight and decide to have children with your partner, you can assume this decision will not affect your career in any way whatsoever. If career sacrifices are needed to raise the kids, chances are much higher that the career sacrificed will be that of your spouse.
·         Household chores, by default, will not be considered only your domain, especially the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks, they will be relegated to your spouse.
·         In a household where both partners work full-time, you are not the partner who is expected to cook and clean when they get home after a full day’s work, even if your job is more demanding than that of your spouse.
·         After work, you will not be expected to go straight home to look after your spouse, kids and in-laws. You can go to your friends’ houses, to parties, to clubs, or simply to hang out and relax, without being branded a selfish person, and a bad spouse, or a bad parent or a bad son in law.
·         If you and your partner have to live separately for some reason, like different places of work, it is assumed and considered normal that the kids will stay with their mother, regardless of her workload, available free time, etc.
·         If you go to a doctor specializing in “your” complaints, even as a 40 year old, they do not ask for your wife. They consider you capable of making your own decisions.
·         You can adopt a child. Within a marriage, you cannot be prevented from choosing adoption as an option by either your spouse or your in laws. The law also recognizes your right to adopt. While your partner can only “give consent”, she cannot apply for adoption.
·         If you are straight, you are not very likely to be emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by your partner. Nor will you be told, by your family, by cops, by courts, and by society in general to continue living in an abusive household for the sake of your children.
·         Marital rape is not an issue for you. You can express desire without being called a whore, and can say no to sex without being called frigid or being forced or beaten into submission.
·         Domestic violence is not a huge likelihood in your life. Unlike 70% of Indian women, your spouse will not regularly degrade, insult, and beat you. Neither will people assume that this is normal/ok/justified/deserved behavior on their part.
·         You don’t have to pretend to be dumb to stroke your wife’s/girlfriend’s ego. You can show that you are smarter.
·         If you earn more than your wife, or are promoted to a bigger post than hers she will be proud. This will not lead to ego hassles, domestic trouble, or divorce.
·         When your friends ask you why you won’t do something, your answer is never going to be, “Because my in-laws/husband won’t allow me to do it.”
·         You have far more choices even in choosing your spouse in an arranged marriage.
·         Losing your spouse to divorce or death is not the end of your entire world and your way of life. You are not expected to change all lifestyle upon the death of your spouse (giving up colored clothes, eating insipid, vegetarian, non exciting food, etc), and you will not be stigmatized for divorce.
·         If you are a widower or divorcée with kids, you don’t have to give up all hopes of companionship/ love/ remarriage. In fact, chances are that you will be remarried before the year is out.
·         Sexual harassment is not a constant reality of your life.
·         You can walk aimlessly around without having to plan your route and avoid certain streets/areas, at certain times of day/night. Nor do you have to ask people to accompany you even in broad daylight, if you have to go to certain places.
·         You can be certain that no woman will suddenly walk up to you and try to fondle/ pinch your privates on the street. Faceless entities will not constantly grope you in buses, trains, and everywhere else.
·         When you pick your outfit for the day (assuming your mom isn’t the one doing it), you don’t have have to run over your mental list of to-do’s for the day and wonder if it involves being around a certain kind of men or in a certain kind of area or returning back to home at a certain time of day, and then wonder if your outfit is appropriate considering all those factors.
·         You can dress how you want, without your character being questioned, and without your dress sense, or outfit being used as a defense for your rapist.
·         You do not live your life in the constant fear/expectation of rape. You do not have to constantly mistrust anyone and everyone of the opposite gender. If you are walking alone down the road, and someone of the opposite gender just happens to be on the same route, you need not automatically feel anxious/ threatened.
·         If you do get raped, you will not be expected to kill yourself or become a “zinda laash” whose life is as good as over.
·         No one will make assumptions about your sexual availability based on whether you drink or smoke or party or on the basis of the gender of your friends.
·         A total stranger upon seeing/hearing that you smoke, drink, or have friends who are primarily not of your gender, will not accuse you of being a blot on the name of Indian-ness. Neither will they insult you for it.
.    A total stranger, seeing you minding your own business and quietly smoking in a corner, will not walk up to you and ask"do you want to talk? are you depressed? why are you smoking? can i help you?"
.    Strangers will not follow you back home from the neighbourhood cigarette shop, because they "know" that women who smoke are loose, so you must be easy game.
·         All the movies you ever watch will not portray characters of your gender –smoking/ drinking as evil, loose and bad.
·         Other movies will not show a youngster of your gender who parties, drinks, smokes, and stays out late, being “rescued” when the partner of their committed relationship asks for sex, drilling it into you that this is not something that a “bharatiya mard” will ever accept
·         You don’t have to be categorized into just two categories in your entire life – father/brother or slut/whore/loose (in fact there is no equivalent word for slut for men, and slut shaming does not have a male equivalent.
·         You can have multiple relationships (monogamous or otherwise) before marriage and not be labeled a slut or have your character questioned and your reputation tarnished.
·         Ghar/samaaj/community does not locate its izzat solely on your body. You can have a girlfriend without fear of bringing dishonor to the family name, and you can even have relationships outside marriage without fearing a disproportionate backlash. You will never be killed by your father/brother for being raped.
·         You can have sex with your girlfriend without ruining your chances for marriage in the arranged marriage market (should you be interested).
·         You will never be caned in front of the entire school for daring to like a girl, or weaving a few fantasies around her. (Said fantasies shared only with your friends, and you having never even spoken to this girl).
·         A decision to hire you won’t be based on whether or not the employer assumes you will be having children in the near future
·         For a position, when faced with a candidate of the opposite gender, you have a better chance of being hired. This will become more and more apparent the higher up you go. Ifyou do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement of the result has any subjective angle, chances are people will think that you did a better job.
·         Shopkeepers, bank employees, CAs will not talk to you in a dumbed down language of “baby sentences” . They will not automatically assume that you don’t know and can’t comprehend basic math, economics, etc
·         People don’t get uncomfortable, and seem unsure about how to handle it when – in social situations – you join in to discussions on politics, current affairs, finances/ economics and more.  
·         Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media are filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal sexually only to you.
·         Pins to palaces, cars to concrete sellers don’t use half naked people of your gender to sell anything and everything.
·         Ads don’t constantly brainwash you to stay young, unlined, smooth skinned, no grey hair, to “keep your woman”, or to “keep the love young”.
·         You are more likely to be given a loan as sole applicant
·         When people hear that you run a business, they don’t automatically assume that it is a boutique, or a family business started by your father that you are now running, or that your partner/spouse "helps" you in it.
·         You can be careless about your appearance without worrying about being criticized at work or in social situations. Total strangers will not comment on your waxing etiquette. You are not expected to spend insane amounts of money on specific kinds of grooming, style, and appearance to fit in, even though you make less money than the opposite gender.
·         If you rise to prominence in an organization/role, no one will assume it is because you slept your way to the top.
·         Your clothing is less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing and tend to fit better without tailoring. So you can always find something readymade that looks good, and costs less.
·         You can go to a car dealership or mechanic and assume you’ll get a fair deal and not be taken advantage of, even if you don’t know anything about cars.
·         Expressions and conventional language reflects your gender in positions of authority, (e.g., “all men are created equal”, chairman, etc) and reflects the opposite gender badly (e.g., hysteria, “don’t be such a girl”, etc). Most curse words are not insults/comments on your gender/gender roles/body parts. (in India, most swear words you can think of are likely to be an insult to a female family member, or a part of the female anatomy).
·         Every major religion in the world is led by individuals of your gender. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male. You can practice religion without subjugating yourself or thinking of yourself as less because of your gender because most major religions state that a man should be the head of a household, while his wife and children should be subservient to him. While most of them also preach that women are born impure, evil, and so on.
·         You have the automatic social right to have your kids brought up in your religion, even if your spouse professes a different one.
·         You can be loud without being called a shrew, and be aggressive without being called a bitch.
·         You can ask for, and get, legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest case. 
·         Violence that affects you is labeled “crime” and is a general social concern. Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.
·         When you go to the cops to register a complaint about such violence, you can at least get a complaint registered. You don’t have to fear that they wont register, or that they will perpetrate the same violence on you.
·         You can eat as much as you like, in public, without attracting comment.
·         Complete strangers generally do not walk up to you on the street and comment on your weight, looks, appearance, complexion, clothes. Nor do they stand by the side of the road and pass lewd comments
·         Total strangers do not assume the right to say things like “you are pretty/goodlooking /hot/attractive. How come you are not married?” as if looks is all you are good forand marriage all you should aspire towards.
·         You can be careless with your money and not have people blame it on your gender.
·         You can be a careless driver and not have people blame it on your gender.
·         You can be confident that your coworkers won’t assume you were hired because of your gender.
·         Your gender does not make it less likely for you to get promoted.
·         You can expect to be paid equitably for the work you do, and not paid less because of your gender.
·         If you are unable to succeed in your career, that won’t be seen as evidence that your gender should not be in the workplace

And last … and definitely the most important, you have the privilege of being unaware of male privilege. You take all of these things for granted, while half of humanity has to fight very hard to get even a few of these basics.


  1. A nice list of male privileges ,which even we females don't notice at all in our everyday life. Last two lines are the summery of the whole blogg, and wonderful. Hats off to you Jia for noticing and pointing out these minute details.......heart felt thanks from a woman for your blog

  2. India is one of the few places in the world where male privilege is celebrated everyday, and men don't realize what kind of a trauma it is to be at the receiving end of this privilege they have! Thank you for the visit :)

  3. WOW! what a list and I am sure we can find so many more privileges.
    Loved it!

    1. Thnx Towards Harmony, glad you liked it. do let me know if you can find more. would love to add to the list.

  4. Thedarzi Group, please feel free to share :) glad you liked it