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Opinion I Yes Mr Bhagwat, men are capable

  • Indian women need men who are equal partners and not hunters
  • RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said that women are multitaskers, but men can just be hunters

A small percentage of Indian women are part of the workforce since the burden of running the household rests on them
A small percentage of Indian women are part of the workforce since the burden of running the household rests on them

Is your man a hunter? Does he have the genes of his Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors? Is that his harpoon (spear, not gaming mouse) in the corner? What? You are vegetarian? You don’t eat game? Hmm. Can your man at least forage for edible plants? Can he tell his wild amaranth from purslane? Does he venture into the city and bring you back some common mallow growing near one of Delhi’s historic ruins? Or is it too much to expect him to contribute any diversity, even if just to your dinner plate? Yes reader, I’m a fan of Down To Earth publications.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat actually thought he was making a speech about women’s empowerment when he said earlier this week that nature has handed men the skills to hunt and labour but not the ability to juggle home and work.

The 69-year-old pracharak was at an event in Delhi to release a report titled Status Of Women In India when he did what he does best: let men off the hook.

He started by saying that men couldn’t take decisions for women (“women are capable of decision-making" apparently) and shouldn’t think they know better. But then he invoked his gender’s natural proclivity to hunt (cue: roar) and essentially not do much else.

Women are multitaskers, he said. And effectively freed yet another generation of Indian men from basic daily responsibilities with his next statement: “Men are not capable of doing such things." Indian men already spend minimal time (19 minutes a day) doing household chores, among the lowest in the world, according to an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development survey released in 2014.

Thank you Mr Bhagwat, for validating, yet again, the millions of families that blatantly discriminate in their upbringing of their daughters and sons. “My little raja, no menial tasks for you. You will be served hot chapatis at the table for as long as you live, my son."

I am sure the working women on the Virar fast are thinking pleasant thoughts about Bhagwat as they chop their dinner vegetables into tiny pieces en route from office to home on Mumbai’s toughest public commute route. The domestic worker with the drunkard husband who turns hunter once a month on her payday is definitely sending Bhagwat her blessings.

Bhagwat is wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to start. But I will give it a shot, only for the sake of Indian men, of course.

Official jobs data for 2017-18 has shown that at 6.1%, the country’s unemployment rate is the highest in 45 years. With layoffs, downsizing and bad news about the economy dominating business headlines, families need to pull together. No person can afford to be with a man who looks at her helplessly in this difficult time and says, “Baby, I am not capable of doing more than this one thing."

Bhagwat should stop wasting time showing Indian women their place. Women multitask because they have no option. In a country where only about 26% of working-age women are employed (lower than Sri Lanka and Bangladesh), largely because the burden of child rearing, elder care and managing the household rests solely with them, men need to pull their weight outside the workplace.

As someone to whom millions of Indian men listen intently, it’s Bhagwat’s patriotic duty to boost their self-esteem and help them realize that they are capable of more than just hunting and labouring. The RSS chief should carry a “Yes We Can" placard at all times instead of reaffirming men’s inadequacies about their plummeting value in a modern society.

It’s too much for us to hope that Bhagwat even understands how outdated his definition of the family is. We know he has mocked the reality of Indian women often enough. According to him, rapes happen only in “India not Bharat" i.e. urban India and not in rural India.

Bhagwat had said at a 2013 rally in Indore that Indian women should “restrict themselves to doing household chores". He added that women are bound by a contract to look after their husbands. “Till the time the wife follows the contract, the husband stays with her, if the wife violates the contract, he can disown her," he said.

In a country where we don’t even recognize the offence of marital rape, Bhagwat argues that husbands keep their wives safe. One in three Indian women experiences spousal violence but I shudder to think what response Bhagwat might come up with for this data point. And while on the subject of violence, Bhagwat might also do well to consider that the word “hunter" conjures up an unpleasant image for many women.

Bhagwat needs new lingo for a new world. From the 11-year-old Haridwar girl who joined teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg at the UN, to the 36-year-old six-time world boxing champion who will rest only after she wins a gold medal for the country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Indian women have kept pace with the changing times despite all the obstacles this country places in their path to success.

The faster Bhagwat and his ilk realize that on this journey upward and outward Indian women don’t need hunters but equal partners, the quicker we can all get on with the business of life.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.


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