HEY MAN!

Photo courtesy Reuters

Hey, MAN! Yup you. Got a minute? Because I would like to talk to you. Yup, to you.

Because you whistled out a love song in my honour from your guard-post on Bauddhaloka Mawatha as I was hopping out of a tuk-tuk to get into work this morning. You were on duty. You and I are not in love. And you can’t hold a tune if your life depended on it.

And so I am curious as to why you did it. Did the tune spring out from your lips and into your pants and give you the rise that eluded you earlier this morning? Did it score you points with your chums at the post? Did it make you feel good? Strong?  Manly?

Did it make you feel like a MAN?

Are you curious about how it made me feel? Well it didn’t make me feel too good to be honest. I felt small. I felt a knot of anger hurting my insides. I felt self-conscious, and so I focussed intently on looking left, right and then left again before crossing the road.

There. Does knowing that make you feel even better? More stronger? More manly?

Does it make you feel more like a MAN?

It doesn’t always make me feel small you know. Like late December buying string hoppers for dinner from Hotel Sealord I looked across just in time to see you put your ample tongue in and out and around your mouth slapping saliva about before mouthing an unmentionable in my honour.  On that day the knot of anger uncoiled and spoke up. In fluent ‘Captain of the Sinhala debate team at school’ Sinhala I asked you a) to repeat yourself; b) whether you had similar thoughts about your sister and c) whether you’d like to speak about it with my brother who was parked outside. On that day you were the one that felt small and self-conscious. You picked up your helmet and walked out quickly, as if you were choosing to be the bigger person.

MAN that you are.

On that day, I felt good.

The thing is I don’t always fight back. It depends on the time of day and place. Who I am with. Who you are with. Sometimes the Feminist just can’t let it pass, and so I confront it and take a hit for the greater cause. Sometimes the working mother who was up at 4.30am is just too tired, and I so walk past it pretending I didn’t hear, see or feel you.

Some of you are chivalrous and kind to me. Like you, my tuk-tuk driver. You’ve driven me about for years. You’ve had near fisticuffs on one occasion in defence of my honour. And yet I sit and watch as you drive me about, how your eyes leer at every other woman wearing anything above her knees and how you swerve into them so they won’t miss the leer in your eyes. You would never do that to me. You know me. Like you would never do that to your mother, sister, wife or daughter. In fact you’d probably beat-up any man who does. But the unknown woman. She is easy isn’t she? Easy on your conscience that is.

Right MAN?

I am raising a son you know. But wait a minute, you already know that. Because last week, as I was straining my neck to find him in the swarm of little boys at the school gate, you stretched out and firmed out your hand and laid your fingers splayed across my sari-clad thigh. This, while your wife was trying valiantly to hold onto your son’s hand to keep him from running onto the open road crammed with manic school vans.

Anyway, back to my son. I am doing my best to teach him to respect women. The ones he knows and the ones he doesn’t. The ones that will speak out and the ones that will keep their heads down. In time I will teach him that there are many ways to harass, abuse and violate, and that it starts and ends when he uses his body, his voice and his mind to make someone feel less than she or he is. I will do everything in my power to raise him to be a man.

A man.

  • Nigel V. Nugawela

    Brava. Well written, D.F.

  • http://magmasoul.blogspot.com Nadi

    Awesome post!!! That says it all.. now the question is, while the mothers try to bring up their sons to be a ‘man’ – what can we do about the ones that are already grown up and have no clue about what it means to be a ‘man’?

  • Boru Namak

    *I salute you* that was a really good read, not only was it completely accurate but also really well written.

  • http://angelwithapitchfork.blogspot.com Angel

    Excellent post!

  • Malintha

    ….and they say there is no gender violence in Sri Lanka! Thanks for the article

  • sabbe laban

    D.F.

    There is a fine line between invasive behavior and the behavior to lure the female of our species, and this has been the dilemma of the modern man!

    Our ancient ancestors who were hunter-gatherers had to compete among themselves and use all the wits under their belt(sheep-skin!)to fertilize as many females as possible in order to propagate their genes;all for the survival of the species! The “fittest”, the “strongest”, the “nastiest”, and the most “manly” individual won the day and won the mate!

    We,the male of our species are not totally bereft of our cave-man ancestor who lives in us and raises his ugly(sometimes charming!) on and off, when our basic needs like food and sex drive demands their satisfaction!

    The soldier who whistled at you was simply following his biological needs directed by that hunter-gathererer who weilds a gun in place of a wooden spear! He was merely trying to lure you thinking you were a potential mate.(maybe such modern-day hunter gatherers should know by now, that there are some man-haters among their “potential mates” who carry knives in their hand bags!)Haven’t you heard birds singing love songs to attract their mate?

    Your trusted three-wheeler driver must be one such modern day hunter-gatherer! The attractiveness of the female body plays a major part in the natural selection! He was attracted to the short-clad women because he saw a potential mate in them and tried to get their attention by veering on to them and honking at them! The female of our species too exposes herself as a result of this basic need i.e.to be selected by a potential hunter(though you may cover it up by saying it’s your choice!)

    And that Cro-Magnan at the string hopper joint was merely making a suggestive gesture at a potential mate to “advertise” his capabilities(unfortunately to come against somebody who was on the wrong end of the spectrum!)

    Our genetic make up still favours a polygamous relationship rather than a monogamous one-which is a later development. The purpose of this is to maximize the chance of survival of our genes! That’s why that hunter-gather at the school gate groped you!

    You may ask whether this kind of cave-man behavior is needed any more in a civilized society;in a civilized society,no! Because a “civilized society” doesn’t respect the basic nature of Homo sapians that is basically hunter-gatherer! Though we impose rules, can we escape the Cro-Magnan who lives in us and tries to raise his head full of beaded hair?

    • http://makuluwo.wordpress.com Shifani

      @sabbe laban – Please don’t make excuses for neanderthal behaviour on the grounds of biology. Unlike animals, we humans actually have the rationality and capacity to restrain our ‘animal urges’ for the sake of making our society a secure place for everyone in it. The survival of the fittest in a civilized society is entirely metaphorical, it doesn’t mean it’s natural for me to go rip someone’s head off just because he makes me angry and it certainly doesn’t mean a man can sexually harass a woman in any form just because his ‘mating instincts are kicking in.’

      • sabbe laban

        Shifani

        Unfortunately you haven’t grasped the main idea of my above post, it seems! I was not making excuses for sexual harassment of women, rather I was telling why it happens(and why sexual harassment of men doesn’t happen!-on a lighter vein harassment of men too maybe taking place inside their homes all the time!)

        To curtail the cro-magnan in the male of our species, very strict laws are set down in the West. The incidents like the ones mentioned by D.F. especially the school gate incident, would have triggered off a nation-wide police alert in a Western country, in oder to arrest the culprit! Due to the more developed infra-structure in the West aided by the women’s awareness of their rights has managed to curb sexual harassment that happens in public places to a great degree.

        But, this has not been successful in eliminating sexual harassment that happens at the work places in the West. There is an ugly side of certain places like the Police and the Armed Forces in the West where rampant sexual harassment takes place. On and off revelations of these by the victims tell us the grisly details of how the people who are supposed to protect the rights of women have been systematically abusing them.

        We don’t have to impose all these laws, if we human beings have totally grown out(or evolved out)of our animal instincts, do we? In spite of all the laws, there are rapists, molesters, and gropers in the West! The difference is that they would be kept away from the society sooner than later! When they do come out of the jail after serving their sentences the police would keep a tag on them to see whether they would repeat their behavior. That’s why I said that a “civilized society” doesn’t care for the basic nature of the Homo sapians!

        In Sri Lanka, another reason for harassment of women in public places is its cultural hypocrisy in dealing with matters related to sex and reproduction! There are very little out-lets for this ‘basic instinct’ for both men and women, that even discussing such tipics is almost taboo in the Sri Lankan society! This has turned quite a number of its inhabitants into perverts, and these perverts are like caged chimps who seek an out-let for thier long supressed desires!

        On the other hand how do women cope with their hunter-gatherer instincts? I think out of frustration at least some of them seem to be enjoying the vulgar jokes and invasion into privacy by the male colleagues at the work places and they don’t seem to mind enjoying a “hot moment of perversion” in a crowded bus or a train!

    • Wallflower

      I wonder whether anyone remembers this sort of behavior being prevalent from the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s when we had gentlemen and ladies governing this country. Let us face the fact that this country is rotting , and rotting to the very core. The only way out is for those who care for this country to get themselves together, and form a political party with the sole intention of resurrecting it from the morass to which it has fallen. Those in this party should think not of the party or his personal interest but should think of the country, do what you can for the country, maybe for a year or two and step aside so that another can step in for maybe six months, do what he can and step aside. There are marvelous men and women in this country who can do wonders, but most unfortunately they are not afforded an opportunity. When that happens, you my dear DF will not have to spend your valuable time trying to convey to us something that we can do almost nothing about, and spend your time on something more constructive elsewhere.

  • http://indunanayakkara.com Indu

    I want to write this really really long post in reply to your awesomely written tiny little masterpiece but the work that I have to finish before 5pm has tied my hands! So I’ll just say…

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    …For speaking your mind. For speaking the mind of every single woman out there, from the 10 year old little girl (my first memory of verbal harassment from an unknown man in a bus. ha!) to the 80 year old grandma (whose story of harassment from an unknown man I heard recently). We maybe a housewife, a homeless, a CEO or a princess. Yet there are MEN who don’t even know our lives, our struggles or our victories that just want to feel like a Man, by belittling a woman. Sad indeed. Lets hope the generation that we raise will grow up to be real Men.

  • Hayah

    Absolutely loved this post!! It captures the essence of the issue and the so many key questions around masculinity.

  • myil selvan

    Thanks for the article. Like the way you phrased your article. What do they call it – written in the First Person?

    Now people probably will have more incites into what the women in the Northeast went through at the hands of the GoSL forces.

  • BB

    Bravo!!!! Thanks for this

  • Chavie

    This was brilliant! Thank you for writing this. :)

  • Outspoken

    Two thumbs up!
    Respect for speaking out on the issue and writing with such eloquence.