BENGALURU: At a time when feminism is getting sharper, and equality and gender issues are gaining prominence, five men took to stage in the city over the weekend to discuss the issue of masculinity in a changing world. The November and fifth edition of ‘Salon with Shree’ brought together actor Chetan Ahimsa (of Aa Dinagalu fame), Bharatanatyam dancer Charles Ma, Atta Galatta co-founder Subodh Sankar, stand-up artiste Sanjay Rajoura, and software engineer Aditya Tiwari, who is India’s youngest single adoptive father to a boy with Down’s Syndrome, who discussed ‘Re-imagining masculinity in an age of feminism’.
At the event, an initiative of Whitefield Literary Society, VR Bengaluru, which was hosted by novelist Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, the men acknowledged the privileges they enjoy simply owing to their gender. “Masculinity is a characteristic attributed to you by virtue of your birth gender. It is not a badge of honour. I prefer to earn the badges I wear by virtue of my deeds and achievements,” said Sankar.
Agreed Rajoura, who felt a male feminist is a myth. “There is too much privilege for men to get rid of,” he said.
On the other hand, Tiwari said, “Men are ignored and discouraged in society, especially on topics like parenting, and there is a lot of resistance and humiliation when it comes to adopting a child as a single parent. Parenting should not be dependent on one’s gender, against the popular belief that only women are good for parenting.”
Ma, a shy and quiet child who went on to become a classical dancer, said, “I found that I needed to assert a masculine identity that has to fit into everyday life, into the image of a man that society wants. This is hopefully a platform to break stereotypes.”
The idea behind the initiative, Kundu said, is to combine the month of men, the ‘Movember’ initiative, and weave it into their discussion. “I have always wondered why there are such few men speaking up on depression, given the high suicide rates amongst Indian men. Why do gay men seldom discuss homophobia or the incidence of child sex abuse within families? Or the body issues men too grapple with?,” she said, adding that the aim is to bring to the fore the topic of toxic masculinity with an engaging discussion around such issues. “As feminism gets sharper, maybe it’s time it became more inclusive. And perhaps by drawing from our strength, we can inspire men,” she said.