By Sonali Sudarshan
Enough has been said in India’s watershed moments of #MeToo. In many ways, for many women who have quietly managed to handle so many patriarchal and sexist moments across our professional lives, it feels like a moment of vindication. Many offices have had women applauding in quiet glee, and Facebook and Twitter have seen a not-so-quiet glee as well.
However, my column this month addresses an even more fundamental problem among Indian men: besides the fact that they are the main reason for #MeToo, there is something else that seriously boggles my mind.
Why do Indian men think of themselves as objects of desire in the first place? While Indian women have gone on to win global beauty pageant titles, and accolades for their glamour and appeal, I can’t for the life of me recall even one Indian man doing the same.
If I pitted 10 Indian men against 10 Indian women, one would be lucky to find one presentable, well-groomed Indian man among them. And I am not even going to get into things like personal hygiene, grammar, table manners and general intelligence.
The fact is that most Indian men can at no point be seen as objects of desire. Then why do most of them assume that they are?
This is a question that boggles my mind as I have read the countless horrific encounters many Indian women have had with such weirdos. Yes, once upon a time, Indian men were a good catch, mostly because there were fewer jobs for Indian women. They needed the financial support and marriage was usually the only escape from the maternal home and society’s taunts.
Now all that is changing, so are Indian men still a good catch? Would an average, well-educated, fairly presentable Indian woman not want a man with a similar profile? Would she not baulk at an unmaintained body and unseemly bodily sounds in bed? Would she not cringe every time he laughed like a hyena at a social gathering, where her friends were present?
How does a 65-year-old editor of a newspaper justify asking a 25-year-old girl out for a drink? Has he looked in the mirror lately? Or is he so blind in his self-assessment that he does not realize that maybe he is now pitching out of his league?
Does the 50-something fat uncle at the Diwali card party who leers at the 30-something lady realize that she may be unable to see his Casanova image underneath his paunch and badly dyed hair? Does his own wife feel any desire for him anymore or is she there because leaving him is too much of a bother?
Are only women the ones who are constantly self-critical? We bring our daughters up to make themselves pleasant and amiable to members of the opposite sex but we never try to understand that women need some stimulation for desire too. Female desire has been swept under the table by patriarchy, but if a man is not going to bring social recognition and financial support to the table (and frankly why should he anyway), then he has to start bringing something else.
Did any of those men pawing and molesting and sneaking up to their female colleagues, friends and associates wonder, “Hang on… does she even like me?” And, I’m wondering, if this little question had actually sprung up in the minds of these self-entitled, so-called lofty beings, would they still have carried on their nefarious intentions?
Desire and attraction are very grey areas, and most of us women understand the nuances of the same. Our whole being is strummed to tune into the other person and try to become what he likes. It’s only age and confidence that allow you to take a call on what you may also like.
Maybe it’s high time that men realized women are as much ruled by ‘desire’ as men are, and not unwitting objects of unwanted attention from undesirable creatures.
Then, Indian men, maybe #YouToo will finally realize what we have silently suffered for so many years.
Sonali Sudarshan is a public-relations professional who also likes to dabble in writing as she has an opinion on everything.
First published in the Winter 2018 issue of eShe magazine.