Effect of women empowerment on male psyche
by Aastha Sethi
The American author Danielle Steel in her book ‘Big Girl’ says “Men don’t like smart women.” This line sums up male psychology in a way entire books could not. The simple fact that men get insecure when they feel a woman is better than them is universal cutting across all cultures. The protagonist in the movie is a smart, independent woman and her mother tells her to become more “feminine”. Well she gets her love in the clichéd end but the real situation is not that simple. There have been marriages that have broken down because of the simple reason that the wife is more successful, sexual harassment in workplaces because the female colleague performs better and many more. Women have become liberated but has the society liberated too?
There is no denying the fact that women have made a mark in most of the fields and are no more restricted to their home and the hearth. But are modern Indian men ready to take on women as their competitors? What is the effect of the growing female influence and presence on the male psyche? Crime statistics of many countries of the world report that though the social status of women has definitely improved but the crimes against women are steadily on the rise. The trend analysis shows that in the past 7 years the percentage of crimes against women has increased from 8.6% to 17% of the total crimes in our country. Is this just a random phenomenon? Have the crimes risen arbitrarily without any basis? And if not, what is the basis? Why is it that there are increasing cases of rapes, molestation, domestic violence, sexual harassment in workplaces, female foeticides and infanticides etc. despite strong laws and also increased awareness among women? To answer these questions we need to understand the formation of the male psyche and the evolving of the concept of ‘male psyche’ down the ages.
- The Code of Manu, an authoritative Indian collection of rules of life compiled in 200 BC, enjoins: In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent.
- In traditional societies women are treated in many ways like property.
- Speaking of male violence directed against women, the most systematic historical example were the witch hunts of the middle Ages. The witch hunts can only be understood in the context of medieval theology, which was characterized by deep hostility towards women.
- It is estimated that between the 13th and the 18th centuries, between one and nine million women were tortured and burnt at the stake, an act for which the Christian church is criticized till date. There are in fact allegations against the church with very controversial statements being released like how the Bible itself was a tool to bring down the whole concept of female divinity and goddess worship with female doctors and religious figures being burnt at the stake as witches.
By the study of male psyche down the ages it is evident how any assertion of rights by women could be systematically countered by religious and social arguments which remained for centuries till a revolution occurred in the mid-seventeenth century towards the end of Renaissance.
This change escalated around the 20th and 21st centuries and threatened the very existence of male dominance. Especially in our society there were protests against dowry, stress on women’s education, reservation for women in ground level politics and government attention brought about a rapid change in society. However given the diversity of our nation it was not a change at the ground level. It was and to some extent still is a superficial change. The speed of the change never actually penetrated the male psyche leading to this imbalance.
There are still many stereotypes pertaining to women which are fed into our minds since childhood. A child whether a male or female observes his/her surroundings and these stereotypes somehow get ingrained in the psyche. There are many such beliefs in our society and all over the world in general about how boys aren’t supposed to cry, how men have to necessarily provide for the family and a woman may do it if she wishes to, about how women should dress, what defines feminity, what kind of women would be an object of desire etc.
As women break free of these stereotypes and still succeed, it threatens the very basis of the entire social order. There are men who still resent these attempts to change patriarchal norms and though the scenario has definitely improved there still exist societies and entire countries who subjugate women and can’t bear their liberation.
There are instances like the Guwahati molestation case or the Mangalore pub case where psychologists have remarked how there are men in our society who can’t stand the independence of women. When a woman seems to appear stronger and better placed or empowered in action, speech, thoughts or dressing, she has to face the patriarchal society.
Now we cannot change the scenario overnight but its not impossible considering the fact that there have been male social reformers and activists. The society actually fosters certain insecurities among men through the stereotypes and mental conditioning which can be countered. A paper written by psychologist Sally M. Hage from the University of Wisconsin on the topic “Role of Counseling Psychology in Preventing Male Violence Against Women” states how counseling can effectively counter the problem of sexual and physical violence which basically has its roots in insecurity, jealousy and the male ego.
Increasing male sensitivity since early childhood in which home environment and school can play a major role. There is a need to break free of stereotypes related to women which can be done through cultural sensitizing which can become a part of the curriculum. Religious institutions play a vital role in society and even they can be effectively used for bringing about gender equality. In our country where laws against rape and molestation are still vague and easily bailable there is a need to bring stronger laws in place. An article in the Times of India dated July 29,2012 states how the loopholes in the existing laws for women don’t act as an effective deterrent, this paired with the psychological aspects discussed above doesn’t help in reducing this heinous crimes against women.
The world has been struggling to bring gender equality and till this change is actually fostered and encouraged at a very basic level right since childhood it will remain a mere eyewash.