Men too are victims of sexism, finds survey

Aug 21, 2015, 12:19 IST | Shreya Bhandary

While there is constant discussion about the struggle for gender equality, how much of this concern is directed towards men? This is the question that 10 college students — all girls — set out to answer through a city-wide survey of both men and women.

The group of girls carried out the survey across Mumbai as part of the assessment for their BA programme at St Xavier’s. They were guided by professor Avkash Jadhav (in centre)
The group of girls carried out the survey across Mumbai as part of the assessment for their BA programme at St Xavier’s. They were guided by professor Avkash Jadhav (in centre)

What they learnt was that not only is there a lack of awareness about sexism, but several men feel targeted by it. Some men felt neglected because not enough attention was paid to their rights, while others felt they were being discriminated against, or even harassed unfairly.

Out in the open
One of the first questions the respondents were asked was a basic definition of sexism: nearly a quarter thought that it meant discrimination against women only.

There were several other indicators of unsatisfactory focus on men’s rights. Over 60 per cent of the men said they felt threatened by the numerous laws aimed at protecting women, and even more respondents — male and female — agreed that women sometimes misuse these laws.

“This survey is in no way against feminism but instead, highlights the problem of sexism and the lack of awareness surrounding the same; the fact that men also face humiliation or harassment/discrimination.

Because this is a patriarchal society with the misconception of males being superior, men are too embarrassed to talk about these problems,” said Avkash Jadhav, professor at St Xavier’s College, who guided the all-girl group of BA students working on the survey.

The girls reached out to 2,000 people across the city, with male respondents comprising more than half the sample population. What surprised the students though, was the backlash they received from women.

Backlash from women
“Many women looked at us with such disgust and didn’t understand why we were bothered about rights for men. They didn’t feel that it was a big problem, and insisted that men don’t face as many problems as women do,” said one of the students, Shivira Mukherji (19).

In fact, when asked whether it was okay to humiliate men in public, almost half the women said there was nothing wrong with it. Perhaps this is why several men said they were wary of helping women in distress, as they are often misunderstood and looked upon suspiciously by women.

Others pointed out that when they complained of being harassed by women, they are often not taken seriously by the authorities. Despite their different opinions on sexism, an overwhelming 73 per cent of both men and women agreed that there is a need for organisations to have men’s development cells, similar to the women’s development cells that have now become mandatory at colleges and other institutions.

“Our survey doesn’t look down upon feminism but only tries to highlight the problem that exists in our society but is ignored. Hopefully this survey will help in clearing the air,” said another student from the group, which will now share the survey results with the state’s women and child rights department, as well as the University Grants Commission (UGC), so as to reach out to a larger audience through them.

The questions
>> Are certain gestures such as opening doors for women or carrying things considered gentlemanly or is it implicit subtle sexism?

>> According to IPC 497, a woman, married or unmarried, cannot be convicted for adultery (extramarital sex). Would you rather have them convicted? 

>> Do you think that laws for protection of women are misused?

>> Should men feel threatened in the face of laws that aim at protection of women?

>> Is it okay for a man to hit a woman, if the woman hits the man too?

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