Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Command & Control Issues

I was thinking of the happenings in Mangalore recently when a group of seemingly self-righteous men marched in and attacked a group of young women in a pub. The men were activists of the self-styled Sri Ram Sene and the attacks were ostensibly carried out to protect Indian culture and uphold the purity of Indian womanhood.

My grand uncle Keshavan, if family folklore is to be believed, was some kind of sexual athlete whose abiding pastime as a man, until he reached old age, was to bed women. He married couple of times, conducted a few well-publicised liaisons and had innumerable one-night stands in places as distant as Devikulam in the high- ranges of South Kerala to Chemancherry in the North of Kerala.

For a person who sought pleasure and perhaps a degree of solace in the arms of various women, grand uncle Keshavan reserved his more acerbic and caustic comments for the fair sex. While discussing women, he was extremely dismissive and one could always detect an undertone of barely-disguised contempt. In modern day parlance, he would have been doubtlessly nailed as a male chauvinist.

We, his grand nephews, used to analyse this apparent paradox: Here was a man who, if we were to believe the escapades related in hushed tones by the assorted aunts in the family gathered around the ancient grindstone on hot April evenings, went after anything that remotely resembled the female form. The same man also happened to be a copper-plated misogynist who made sneering and cynical remarks about members of the opposite sex that infuriated the said aunts considerably.

The adolescent grand nephews discussing the problem reached a facile, but perhaps erroneous, explanation. We surmised how could he have any respect for them, if obviously he had in his youth found out that women were such easy prey. If the aunts’ accounts were correct, he did not have to really try hard for his various conquests: women came to him like the proverbial moths attracted to the flame. No wonder the man had such a poor opinion about women.

Now we know better. Modern psychology asserts that misogyny, hatred, dislike or mistrust of women, stem from unresolved conflicts between man’s intense need for and dependence on women and their equally intense fear of that dependence. A misogynist feels that his masculinity depends on dominating women. Essentially insecure and racked by deep-rooted anxieties, he feels powerful by subjugating women and tries to control them by destroying their self-confidence. Any encounter with a woman is a battle to be won. He can never say, “OK. Have it your way,” with any modicum of grace to any woman.

Suddenly the paradox does not seem to be a paradox at all and I am able to see the incident in Mangalore in a new light. No, I am not suggesting that Mr. Muthalik and his followers are misogynists and that is why all this happened. Nor am I forgetting the fact that the incident had strong political underpinnings, as it gives fringe political groups such as the Sri Ram Sene an ideal plank to push themselves into the national limelight.

But if we go beyond all these obvious compulsions and explore deeper, I feel we find deep and abiding male anxieties at play, issues of command and control.

What do you think?

Photo Courtesy:


mohit said...

totally agree.
putting it in 'easier' terms... the faggots who're too low to ever be looked upon by a seemingly well educated n broad minded woman, decided to reverse modernity in hopes of going back to the 'pati parmeshwar' era.

oh yeah, the publicity's a perk too.

ursjina said...

Interesting observation
Human mind has so many puzzles unsolved and I guess it varies from person to person.
Somehow I feel most part of our society,men and women included has a fear for all kinds of equality.
We secretly like the way things are..
So that we dont have to deal with a difference.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

absolutely - i had arrived at a similiarish hypothesis. essentially that brute force subjugating woman is almost an attempt to subjugate the primal beast within. I cant have them, so i need to not see them.

Your grand uncle sounds like some of the more colorful of my ancestors who apparently used to bed all the village belles. We spent a lot of time peering at the village folks trying to trace some distinctive features to validate/refute these myths every time we went there for ganesh chaturti.

Ravi said...

Finally, a story of my favorite grand uncle. A person who coddled and loved me immensely and in whose presence, I was transformed to a magical world of story telling and endless glasses of soda sherbet during my summer vacations when I traveled to Kerala. I have heard many a story of what happened when he passed away, however I cannot verify the stories and how true they are :-).

Now here is my view on this whole Mangalore issue. When a person of his own desire decides to practice religion and renounce worldly pleasures it is OK, but when they interfere in other people's matters what can be done ? Further more, what makes this a comical situation is the fact that the unabashed Sri Ram Sena chief goes out and says that women his people hit on his orders were his sisters. Where does the Hindu religion say that sisters can be beaten ? Instead they are given the position of god. Even the greatest of gods in Hindu religion have not dared to disrespect women, and if they did so they had to suffer the curse that followed.

Hinduism is a creators religion and not of the destroyers and that is why Lord Vishnu, the creator enjoys such a high position.It is necessary for the general good of society in India as a whole, that strict action without any mercy be taken against such individuals so that the next time any organization for political mileage tries to play with the freedom of people, they will think twice.

Maddy said...

This was a beautiful bit of writing - I enjoyed reading it and I think you are absolutely right. You can see this to be especially true if you observe the rich Arabs in the ME.

However one must admit that in modern society, with the balance as it is and noting that one could observe that there is a stronger sex and a weaker one (purely looking at the demands of day to day life & work, and earning power)and for that one and only reason, men would try to take advantage of their position - at various times in their life cycle.

Maybe i am wrong in the observation. As for me, everybody has a place in life and there is absolutely no reason to abuse the power of any position if in case it is high..

Ravi said...

One more comment about our dear grand uncle-what would you do if you were in his position? If women threw themselves at him, I cannot fault the man or his perception of women and probably would have his same views. Women in the modern age have the same rights as men for the most part. All things being even, trust me women take advantage of men in all aspects and much more. Take them on a date and then all of a sudden the MAN HAS TO PAY THE BILL -if not he is branded.

Ever been on a date and seen a woman reach for her purse? Nope! Probably does happen, however my friends who are unmarried and date, say they have as yet to meet such a woman.

padmaja said...

What happened in Mangalore was atrocious. But sadly here, religion is totally misused by politicians. And here, women becoming independent is making these bigots very insecure... All these put together, they totally lost track of what Hinduism really stands for...

Rada said...

@ Mohit: Yes, whatever be the other underlying motives, the publicity was definitely foremost in their mind.

@ Ursjina: That is a very balanced comment. I agree, anything that disturbs the status-quo, makes us insecure, I guess!

@ Cynic: Every joint family I have come across can boast of a personality like grand uncle Keshavan! Makes the recounting of family history, so much more fun, don't you think?

@ Ravi: I think we can all agree that religion had nothing to with it. Since parliament elections are round the corner, we can expect more such stunts!

@ Maddy: Thank you. Interesting point. Leads us to the question: which is the real weaker sex? :-) The answer is not that obvious!

@ Ravi: "All things being even trust me women take advantage of men in all aspects and much more..."
Ravi, allow me to keep a diplomatic silence on that statement! Hahaha!

@ Padmaja: What happened in Mangalore - Was it about Religion or Politics & Power? I am apt to think it is P & P.

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.