Progressive desi man, first things first: let's celebrate you. It wasn’t easy for you to have turned out how you did. In fact, it was nearly impossible.
Every aspect of your upbringing was stacked to make you an asshole.
The movies told you to objectify and harass women, your politicians taught you that trivialising assault is chill, and your role-models showed you that being paid more than women who do the same work as you is obz totes coolz bro.
Men’s magazines taught you how to manipulate the world to suck your dick and women’s magazines taught you there are 55 Creative Ways To Suck Your Dick Really, Really Well. Heck, even ads for ice-cream and mango juice seem, often, to revolve around your dick being sucked. Beautiful thing, patriarchy.
Your dad probably demonstrated to you that you don’t need to lift a finger around the house. Your doting mother insisted that her Esteemed Royal Highness Sri Sri Raja Beta™ is entitled to every known delight, centrally a sexy and accomplished wife who will take over the doting and finger-lifting duties upon ma’s own tragic departure, RIP.
Pop music taught you that it’s romantic to stalk girls and every-breath-they-take-every-move-they-make, while rap music taught you that bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.
Every hoarding and print ad taught you that women’s bodies – which are only worth acknowledging if thin, fair, and hairless – exist for your consumption.
Literally every possible formative influence placed you at the centre of a universe that exists for your dicksuckery.
And yet, here you are.
Respectful. Kind. Sensitive.
Defiant to the conditioning of samaaj and sanskaar, you are rankled by your own privilege. You are horrified by injustices and violence against women and queer folk. You want equality. You say it often.
Despite the pressures on you to be a Strong Stoic Manly Man, you express your emotions openly and are attuned to those of others. You are domestic. You are feminist. You are progressive. You want a better world for everyone.
I mean this sincerely: you, the woke desi boy, are a wonder of the world.
I don’t know how you came to be this way. Liberal parents? A progressive education? A feminist girlfriend or boyfriend? A love for reading? Or just serendipitous stumbling upon the many inclusive corners of the internet?
Whatever it was, it was a deviation from the standard course your upbringing could’ve taken, and thank fucking god for it. Thank god you exist.
See, here’s the thing: I need you.
Yes, this is contrary to my #DontNeedNoMan personal brand and it’s difficult for me to type the words, but there it is. I need you!
Because while you're fantastic, there still exists a vast section of the male Indian populace that believes women are punchlines and punching bags, rather than human beings. I don’t believe these men to be malicious – they were raised to believe what they believe.
And I also don’t believe these men to be beyond education. We can, with the right questions and conversations, change their world-views. But it will take our combined efforts, yours and mine.
Because sexism is a grand self-defeating comedy, and the way these dudes are wired precludes them from taking a woman’s protests and questions seriously. Yours, on the other hand, stand a chance of getting through.
So my mission to you, woke desi boy, is this: spread your radical wokeness.
Not just on Twitter and Facebook and in rarified intellectual circles of other #wokebaes, but everywhere. Every day. In normal spaces and contexts, I need you to push back on the oppressive behaviours built into male normalcy.
In meetings, when an uncle-type corporate senior refers to your 26-year-old female colleague as “sweetie,” speak up for her right to be treated professionally. She can’t always do it herself. For one thing, she’s got too much work to be calling out every single instance of workplace harassment she'll face in her career.
For another, she’s scared of coming across as “difficult” or “unlikable” or a “feminazi” (ugh, fuck you Mira Rajput, for legitimising that fear). She's afraid speaking up will result in her losing her job or being mysteriously transferred. And anyway, even if she does speak up, she’ll be dismissed as “feisty” anyway.
In WhatsApp groups, when your less-woke brethren forward jokes about women being “gold-diggers” and ditzes, nudge those bros toward examining the sexist assumptions that are making them laugh.
Women will continue to do so (as we already do), but we’ll also continue to be laughed off as the “feminist type” who “can’t take a joke”.
You, on the other hand, are respected by virtue of havin' dat D. And for you to see the jokes, be aware they’re problematic, and stay quiet is an enactment of the same privilege that makes you queasy.
On playgrounds and FIFA couches, when you get called a “girl” for your lack of skill or athleticism, gently point out that many girls are more skilled and athletic than whichever friend is levying the judgment. Gently ask what makes “girl” an insult. And if gentleness doesn’t do the trick, request that this bro show you a Produnova then and there.
When your friends refer to a sexually active woman as a “slut” or “easy” or “fast”, remind them that they, too, aspire to be as sexually active as she is, and are possibly lodging labels because of their own sad inability to get some.
Teach them the phrase “double standard” and what it means. Quiz them after.
When your overweight dude-pal refers to a within-healthy-BMI-but-not-size-zero girl as a “fat chick”, maybe tilt your head to one side and ask him if he’s considered the cultural influences that have shaped his notions of the ideal female form.
When your hyper-macho friend refers to another dude as “soooo gayyy, yaaaar” for expressing an emotion, ask him why he feels uncomfortable with male displays of vulnerability, and what made him equate sensitivity with a love for dick.
Remind him that most women would actually love a sensitive and emotionally available boyf. Ask him if, maybe, he grew up feeling oppressed by an expectation of male stoicism and if he’s, maybe, lashing out because of it.
I guess what I’m saying is: identify the spaces and circumstances in which, despite a female presence, a male voice will be more effectively heard. In those spaces, raise yours. Be an ally by breaking your silence.
Ask the questions and raise the concerns that would fall on deaf ears if a woman did it. We’ll keep doing it ourselves too, of course. But it’s likely we’ll be asked to leave, and laughed about once we do.
But you have an opportunity. Use your own privilege to vanquish it.
The tweets help, and the outrage-shares do too. And your allyship is sweet, even when you show it to us in quieter moments.
But all in all, your wokeness means nothing if you aren't using it to wake other people up when you see them fast asleep.
Rega Jha is the Editor-in-Chief of BuzzFeed India and is based in Mumbai.
Contact Rega Jha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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