The nights I come back home late, I clutch my pepper spray tightly. I’m on my guard, and ready to attack if needed. At times, it’s not my pepper spray, but my car keys, strategically placed in between my fingers, because patriarchy.
Uncles laugh jovially as they send idiotic, sexist jokes on the family WhatsApp groups, at the expense of their wives, because patriarchy.
Feminism, the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, is perceived as an insult, and those that identify as feminists are hunted down like the witches from Salem, because patriarchy.
A group of 16 year old boys have the audacity to create an Instagram chat degrading underage girls, morphing their pictures and discussing fantasies on how to rape them, because patriarchy.
The normal, ‘good guy’ gets agitated and argues “NOT ALL MEN”, because patriar— err. Wait. No. I mean, because Cognitive Dissonance.
What is Cognitive Dissonance?
Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs and behaviours, for example believing that smoking causes cancer, and then smoking a couple of cigarettes a day. This in turn creates a sense of psychological discomfort. This disharmony puts us in a tight spot, and all we want to do is desperately escape it. In the case of the smoker, he’ll justify it by telling us how he has reduced his smoking from 5 cigarettes to 1, or point out that he leads a very healthy lifestyle otherwise. At the end of the day, the truth is that smoking causes cancer.
I remember, in school, many of my male counterparts would snicker about a girl who was a little more developed in the chest area than the rest of the girls. One more girl was mercilessly teased and talked about because she had more body hair than the rest of the girls. All these boys, now men, firmly believed at that age, and still do believe that women should be respected. The behaviour portrayed, however, seems quite contradictory.
But that was in school, Sneha! Everyone is immature at that age, and hehehe teenage hormones were raging. You say hormones, I say cognitive dissonance.
Almost every typical ‘good guy’ out there has been a part of a conversation that revolved around minutely scrutinising a particular female’s body part, or has heard some kind of sexist joke or comment made in boyish banter. He may not have been an active member in this, but he remained absolutely silent. He dissociated himself from that narrative, hence he cries in protest, “not all men”.
Sorry boys, but ‘not all men’ is nothing more than a comforting lie you’ve told yourself rather than acknowledging the bitter truth. A way to explain away your cognitive dissonance. What you need to understand is that staying mum and letting such behaviour slide actually makes you an accomplice. Your behaviour contradicts your belief system, and by creating a division between you and them, this helps you alleviate your discomfort.
Trust me, I’m not ‘male bashing’ as most like to call it. I’m really trying my best to have a mature, open and honest conversation about something that is swept under the rug far too many times. ‘Not all men’ is most definitely a myth at the moment, but it does have the potential to be a reality if you actively choose so.
For now, there are some healthier and morally sound ways to deal with your cognitive dissonance.
- Speak up. Whether it’s your best friend or father. If there’s even an ounce of misogyny in their behaviour, hold them accountable.
- Listen. Keep your mind open and really hear why most females are beyond frustrated regarding this issue. Be empathetic. The moment you put yourselves in our shoes, clarity will follow.
- Introspect. Take a moment to reflect on your own behaviour. We always have room to grow as individuals.
The way I see it, patriarchy is a man made, social construct. The beauty of this is that, the way it was made by man, that same way it can also be destroyed by man himself, by a single choice.
So, men, on the behalf of every female out there, I urge you with all my heart to make that choice. Please.
Until next time,
Note: In this article I am not undermining the male victims that are very much a part of the bigger issue, nor am I ignoring that there is toxic femininity along with toxic masculinity. I understand this and agree with this. In this article, my objective was to talk solely about the concept of ‘not all men’. They are independent topics on their own that deserve their own limelight.