In the wake of the #metoo movement, there’s a new course for men to unlearn their traditional roles and break new ground – within the household. It’s a course that teaches men how to share household responsibilities. Harsha Raj Gatty has more.
For 34 year old Anekal Narayan, a graphic designer from Anekal, Bengaluru district, he always fell short of reply when poked fun by his wife Shilpa for doing the kitchen chores himself.
"Cleaning utensils, or cooking, my wife always made it a point to keep me away from the kitchen, she in fact forbade me for what she referred to as a 'women's role’. Although I cook better and function at kitchen better than her," he says, while adding that even his in-laws just added chorus to his wife's dated thoughts.
According to Narayan, it is not only that the men were the carriers of patriarchal thoughts of gender stereotypes but women themselves who had equally submitted to this archaic institution without any question or qualm. It was to find an answer to these questions, that several men like Nanjundaswami who have enrolled themselves to 'Reserved for Men' (RFM) course, which conducts weekend class on gender sensitisation exclusively for men.
Located at Jayanagar in Bengaluru, the 'Reserved for Men' programme run by the Baduku community college is exclusively meant for men. The pilot batch that started this month has already seen enrolment of about 15 students coming from various urban and semi-urban backgrounds. Graphic designers, social activists, farmers, businessmen are among the growing enthusiasts who have proactively enrolled themselves to know more on gender disparities and the corrective measures.
Principal of this 25-year old college, Murali Kati says that in most cases, aspects such as gender studies, laws and rights of women are mostly imparted to the females and the men remain immune to the subject. "At RFM, we try to bridge this knowledge-gap by resonating with male students on their behaviour towards women and acting as equal partners in household affairs," he adds.
The course that runs for an entire month on Saturday and Sunday is targeted for people between the age-groups of 21 and 34. Although the institute encourages anyone interested in this programme, the focus remains on absorbing men within the mentioned age bracket, since they are either at a marriageable age or in the verge of raising a family.
The students here learn about basics of cooking, caring and raising children, rights and laws for women, fathers playing the mother’s role, menstrual cycle and challenges faced by women during pregnancy, among several other topics.
"In many cases we have noticed that, quite a good number of men want to aid their wife or sister or mother in some way or by taking care of elders or children in the family of the household. But gender-bias that is deeply embedded in their 'upbringing' creates a mental block for them exploring other dimensions of their household roles," Manjunath, a faculty of the course says.
He adds that the gender-sensitization is also crucial since there are ever increasing opportunities for women across industry. "It’s ironical that both men and women are co-equal bread winners of the family, but when it comes to household responsibilities, it is the women who are held responsible for the chores. Their services are already taken for granted without pay. Further the absence of leisure will definitely take a toll on the health of women, which has a spill over effect on the entire family's well-being," he says.
At 24, agriculturist Nanjundaswamy who hails from Chennapattana says that stereotypical gender roles indirectly choke men as well. According to Nanjundaswamy men are told to give-up on creative aspirations to secure the economic wellbeing of the family. Our personal concerns are not given priority. "Of course we can’t enter the kitchen, but we are also told not to show emotions or feelings. We are supposed to simply act silent and emotionless, which is difficult given certain circumstances. The families support such thoughts due to social pressure as they feel embarrassed, if a male member express emotions," he says.
Murali Kati adds that given the significant rise in the instances of workplace sexual harassments for instance #metoo campaign, it is essential that men are given orientation on extending workplace courtesy to women, do's and don’ts in conversation or behaviour, and how to maintain personal boundaries from their female colleague, to ensure that there is a harmonious working condition for both the genders. "We even guide men on how to engage in healthy conversation with women while using technology such as internet, social media or apps" he says.
Overall, this life skill course seeks to break the patriarchal thoughts and that the society by large develops empathy to the emotional, psychological and physical needs of women. "For now, we seem to be an exclusive course, but we would consider it be a great milestone for gender studies, if it is incorporated in the academics of the students at a very young age," Murali Kati says.
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