The other day while watching TV, I saw the ending of an ad where the once-upon-a-time big-screen diva Madhuri Dixit was saying something about boys don’t make others cry. As I had not seen the complete ad, this little teaser intrigued me and I wanted to see the whole of it. I sat in front of the idiot box, like an idiot, waiting for the ad to reappear. It was sometime before I was able to break free from its hypnotic grasp and think. Heck! I could search for it online! God, never felt so dumb! But I guess I have many who understand the power TV has on many of the powerless zombies like us. Anyways, back to the issue at hand. So I searched online and found the ad I was looking for. It was a beautiful concept created into a thought provoking ad by Vinil Mathews.
The beauty of the ad was in its simplicity. It addressed such a basic prejudice we all are conditioned to accept as ‘normal’. Gender stereotyping. Boys are the stronger sex, hence cannot cry. We have grown up listening to that reaction so many times that unconsciously we too say it, even without realising it. In this ad Madhuri says it, so I’m hoping many more men would have at least heard her out. Boys don’t make other cry. Really? I would love to believe it myself.
Our social conditioning and gender stereotyping is so, so deeply entrenched in our psych that we look upon the men, or to be politically right the males, as the stronger sex. In India, mothers dote on their sons because they carry the family name forward, thus keeping the lineage going. Fathers adulate their sons, irrespective of their capability, talent or character, because now they, the fathers, are assured a place in heaven as they have a son to light their pyre. Sisters are made to keep in mind that it’s the brother who calls the shots, so keeping him happy has its perks. Wives, well, the lesser said the better, after all he is the ‘pati-parmeshwar’. So in short, each one in the family treats him as an irreplaceable asset, almost a Demi-God status. So what happens when you get so much attention? Well, you learn to take all this for granted; you treat everyone around you as menials, whose duty is to serve you.
Growing up on this staple diet of confused and convoluted thinking can distort ones attitude towards the other sex. The scene of the husband abusing his wife is not fake or unreal. That’s the real ugly truth. He doesn’t give a damn to what she feels. He’s right in his thinking because that’s what he’s learnt from the time he was in his mother’s lap. So the suggestion made by the ad is very correct, and required. For the men to be made more sensitive towards the others, they have to be made to feel that the others too are equally important. Be it socially, within the family, at the workplace, or anywhere. Other people, not only the women but also other men, are as human as they are. They too feel pain, hurt, denial, humiliation, anger, frustration. Once these men understand that they are not the focal point of everyone’s universe, they will better understand the others. And this can be done only, and only, if they are told about this right from the time they are born. Treating them as just another family member, another sibling, another child, will make them truly belong to the family, and not as the poster boy for the family.
#StartWithTheBoys is fantastic initiative which is the need of the hour. With the increased cases of rapes, it only brings to forth the glaring reality of our skewed stereotyping of the genders. For women to be treated as human beings and not a non-entity, it is important boys be made more gender sensitive. A tall order given that centuries of social conditioning has now become an accepted norm, especially in the Indian context. But a start has to be made, and it has started. Let’s be part of this change.