S.A.M.

4 09 2009


Misandry (pronounced /mɪ. sændri/) is hatred (or contempt) of men or boys. It is parallel to misogyny, the hatred of women. Misandry (μισανδρία) comes from Greek misos (μσος, “hatred”) and anēr, andros (νήρ, νδρός; “man”). Misandry is also comparable with misanthropy which is the hatred of humanity in general.

Goodness.

That’s not me. While I do have strong feelings about the injustice of gendered oppression, I certainly don’t hate all men. I don’t mind civilized, amusing men. I have liked and occasionally loved them. I come from a large family where I grew up alongside many brothers. I’ve been married to a man for a while, (who was by the way, not a typical sri lankan male) and I count numerous men among my friends as well. So I think I have plenty of acquaintance with the South Asian Man. I shall call him SAM for convenience here. SAM comes from many places. He often has only his flaws in common with other SAM’s because SAM’s flaws cross most demographics including social status and income group. You don’t have to be poor and disadvantaged to be a typical SAM. Oh no.

“…women have always been told that they are unhappy or faring badly in life because they are stupid, weak, mad, hysterical, having a period, pregnant, frigid, over-sexed, asking for it etc. The personal is political proposes that women are in bad situations because they experience gendered oppression and massive structural inequalities.”

Carol Hanisch ‘The Personal is Political’

For a great part of my life I never questioned the unstated but very apparent dominance and power that SAM held over me and all other women I knew, including my mother, sisters and friends. In later years though, I began to observe and criticize SAM and his rather boringly predictable patterns of behaviour much more harshly. What I have concluded sadly, (and I think many sri lankan women would agree) is that most sri lankan men are over-indulged from childhood by their mothers, aunts and other women folk, and so grow up to be fearful, self-absorbed, sexist bullies. (Especially the eldest sons. I call that the loku putha effect). SAM is not necessarily physically abusive, but certainly given to expect automatic deference from and preference over any woman in everything except perhaps deciding what colour the bridesmaid’s dresses will be. And I have heard that an even more obnoxious version of SAM exists in large numbers in many parts of india too. But that’s another story for someone else to describe.

Having said which, I’m sure there are a few marvelous exceptions to the rule lurking around this region….adult, intelligent men possessed of confidence and humour. I just haven’t met too many of them.

Here’s the most common incarnation of SAM. Whenever I drive around my city, I see a disproportionate number of men. Standing, staring, smoking, chatting, scratching, (aggressively) driving and often simply propping up a wall. A great number of men and boys in Colombo seem to have nothing better to do than wait for any woman below the age of fifty to walk by to seize the opportunity to say something rude or suggestive on a varying scale of offensiveness. Or if they’re really lazy, you get The Stare. This usually comes from the older ones, aged over 30, who generally can’t be bothered thinking of something offensive to say, but are quite content to simply gape at any woman for the entire time it takes her to walk towards, past and away from him. It is quite an unnerving experience to be constantly observed (and, one suspects, mentally stripped) in this manner, and explains why most sri lankan women tend to walk quickly, with their heads down, never making eye contact with anyone else on the street. We are forced to scuttle from place to place because there are so many men simply standing around, apparently just waiting for us to show up.

This also explains why there are always more men than women on most streets. Women only step out to walk on the road if they have to. Except for the groups of teenaged girls one occasionally sees giggling and flirting with their boyfriends, I would think that few women actually step outside to walk anywhere for pleasure.

This is just one example. The domination of men over women occurs at every level of society in every transaction, often in ways so subtle or so ingrained in ‘tradition’ and ‘cultural norms’, that one is hardly aware of them – until one starts observing, listening, becoming aware….and finally realizing just how insidious the problem is. SAM is everywhere, deciding our lives in every sphere from personal to political. As employee, mother, wife and girlfriend, we are constantly condescended to, patronized, tolerated, ignored or abused. Power is constantly being taken away from us and I suspect it has now become easier for many women to embrace this position, to enjoy the freedom from responsibility that comes with powerlessness, substituting instead a sort of cunning that operates behind men’s backs, involving deception, patience and resignation.

There are many sub-texts to this story. Women contribute their own share of inverted sexism or self-policing to the problem, to the point that a young woman in a short skirt walking on the street alone at any time after nightfall would probably be viewed by other women (as well as men), as causing trouble or asking for it. The female victim is often blamed by other women. So where does the problem start? With the mothers who give preference to their sons over their daughters from birth onwards, privileging them in countless ways and setting their boys’ feet firmly on the road to becoming unpleasant individuals…eventually sending them on to marry some long-suffering wife, who will then have his son and start the SAM cycle all over again; or the men themselves, who never seem to want or be able to break the habits of childhood, overcome their insecurities and find a more enlightened way to live? Not suprising I suppose, in an environment that offers men absolute power to rule over their own worlds, however small or domesticated those worlds may be.

As for me, I feel so much sympathy for every woman who is forced by circumstance to undergo injustice, discrimination and intrusions into her privacy every day. I’m one of the fortunate privileged ones. Although I too had to suffer the harassments that accompanied using public transport and going places by foot in Colombo when I was younger, today I own a car. I rarely have to deal with street ragging, flashers or stares anymore. But I’m very aware that I have been forced into an unnatural isolation. Why shouldn’t I walk on the street as confidently and as carefree as a man?

SAM is great for carrying heavy things up stairs or cutting the grass. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s about it.

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6 responses

4 09 2009
vak

Oh and I also wanted to say that it is interesting that hatred of men has become synonimous with hatred towards all of humankind! Another invisiblisation of women – obviusly we are not part of humankind. We are the Other! How come mysoginy is not synonimous with hatred of humanity??

4 09 2009
vatura

I on the other hand, wonder why so many women put up with this massive bullshit. is it purely a matter of income and/or tradition that keeps our hands tied?

4 09 2009
vak

I loved reading this. It captures everything I feel about SAM. And the best thing is, I am not a man-hater either! I mean I can name a number of men I simply adore because they are so gentle and thoughtful and non-SAM. The wonder is how did they manage to slip through the SAMwich machine?

4 09 2009
tortilla

Let’s start the revolution. It’s about moving beyond heteronormativity – straight, passive, married with kids. How boring. The State loves this narrow view of heterosexuality. It works fine for folks in power to have women as passive, contained subjects, who procreate to make more compliant citizens!

Lauren Berlant, an professor of English, has this to say about heterosexuality in the US context. But I hope it can be applied outside too:

“I do not mean to be coming out against it [heterosexuality]. I simply do not see why the nation
has to have an official sexuality, especially one that authorizes
the norm of violent gentility; that narrows the field of legitimate political action; that
supports the amputation of personal complexity into categories of simple
identity; that uses cruel and mundane strategies to promote shame for non-
normative populations and to deny them state, federal, and juridical supports
because they are deemed morally incompetent to their own citizenship. This
is the heterosexuality”
(The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship 1997:19)

Here is a link to her website (oh, she’s pretty cute too):

http://english.uchicago.edu/graduate/amer/berlant.html

29 09 2009
who else but me

and did you notice that the moment you come across as a feminist thinker, you are immediately assumed to hate men. it’s ridiculous! it’s almost as though they’re best defense is a vehement offense. 🙂

10 12 2012
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[…] 04.09.2009 (Vatura from https://aappathachchiya.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/s-a-m/) […]

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