Talk to the boys

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It seems like we are surrounded by men who stop at nothing when it comes to satiating their sexual appetite. But who are these men? Did they land here from another planet? asks Sudha Subramanian.

When I was growing up, my mom told me to ignore ‘remarks’ by men. I don’t blame her. Perhaps, every parent of a girl does the same thing. Today, when I am a mother, I wonder what I should tell my child. You see, my child is a boy. I am sure most parents don’t feel the need to talk to boys. After all, it is the girl who has the problem.

Nobody is sure if there is an increase in the number of children/women being violated or is it just that these crimes are now getting reported. According to a World Health Organisation report, sexual violence against women is a global health problem that affects more than one third of the women across the globe. That is a staggering number.
Every third woman can recount
Incidents of being teased, called names, and sometimes even groped. She has tried to avoid taking the bus because that man who gave her a hard time was in there. She ignored that man who whistled and blew kisses at her.

 

 

Also, the guy at the vegetable shop, who tried to touch her, and that creep in the crowded bus, who pinched her bottom – she moved on, ignoring the humiliation, gulping her pride. Because what else could she do?

Children, teenagers, women – nobody is safe. It seems like we are surrounded by men who stop at nothing when it comes to satiating their sexual appetite. But who are these men? Did they land here from another planet? Unfortunately, they are one of us – from our society.

The most heinous of crimes is committed by a trusted person – a family member, a teacher. But, how can we stop this? We ask women to dress modestly, and even pass reforms to that extent. We tell them to be careful, ignore lewd remarks, and avoid the ‘bad touch’.

 

But do we tell our boys not to touch a girl, not to call her names, not to disrespect her? As much as we would like to believe that these ‘bad things’ are done by other people and not our boys, it’s about time we take some responsibility.

Let us start by talking to our sons. But what should we tell them? Here’s something worth considering:

Kids need to be told about the good and the bad touch. While most girls have been hearing this, it’s time to include the boys. Why? Because little boys are in danger too. They have to know this. Also, we have to tell the child in so many words that it’s wrong to touch someone in-appropriately. The talk is not going to be easy, but it has to be done. So, do it now.

When was the last time you heard a mother tell her son that it really hurts when men call women names? Do mothers speak to sons about their own bitter experiences? Please share your  experiences with your children; they will learn better. We teach children not to steal, not to lie, but we fall short of telling our boys that, ‘name calling’ and ‘teasing’ girls is not acceptable.

Bollywood – and even regional cinema – makes us believe that men are superior species blessed with the prerogative to enjoy women. The popular media is full of sexual innuendos. They make boys
believe that girls are just meant to have fun with. Girls are always depicted as ‘objects of desire’.

Such notions are not good fodder, even for fiction. Boys need to learn to treat girls as fellow human beings, and not some objects of sexual appeal. As parents, we need to teach kids to respect each other. We need to tell them that in real life men don’t score when they manage to pin down a woman.

Next time, there is an untoward incident, check if you are about to blame the girl – for her dressing style, for being out late at night, for not being careful enough. We lead by example.

We have allowed too many generations to make us believe that it is always a woman’s mistake if she is violated in any way. It’s important to tell our sons that the blame lies with the man; what he did was
unpardonable – irrespective of what the girl was wearing, what time of the day/night she was out, or whatever other excuse the society is using to blame the victim.

Let us tell our boys that girls are individuals just like them. There is nothing like ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘men will be men’. If we believe in these sexist notions, we are essentially saying that men will continue to keep ogling at women, because they just can’t help it!

We are telling women that it’s alright if the man in the lift keeps staring at her. You see, he is just being a man; what can one do! It is about time we get out of this delusion. It is just feeding the male ego.

Well, here is a wake-up call: Men will have to stop being men. They can start by being more human. It is bad manners to stare. Period.

(The above post appeared in Deccan Herald on 9th August 2014.  You can find the published version –   http://www.deccanherlad.com/content/424309/talk-boys.html )

 

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