Masculinity is the real crisis, so tackling it is one of the keys to ending gender based violence and discrimination, said eminent journalists and experts at the two day National Civil Society Workshop on Masculinities and Gender Justice organised by the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ) at the Sanskriti Kendra in Delhi on May 26-27.
Masculinity, loosely translated as mardangi in Hindi, is the least used term both in our society and media when we talk about gender based discrimination and violence. The gender status quo in the country is still largely discriminatory and violent. And this status quo has not only compromised the dignity and rights of women but also LGBTQIA and other minorities. The workshop raised pertinent questions on issues of men, masculinities and gender in the effort to bring about gender justice with particular emphasis on involving men and making them accountable for changing discriminatory gender social norms and examining the role the media plays in it.
Eminent journalist and Padmashree awardee Mrinal Pande gave an overview of the changing face of journalism in India and raised some key issues. She spoke especially about the “lack of facts and data” and “editorial policy” further accentuated by “media biases” thereby failing to deliver “fair journalism” in an already gender-biased male dominated structure that requires fundamental restructuring. Veteran journalist and recipient of the Chameli Devi Award and FAO UN Award Usha Rai recounted her early years of struggling as a woman journalist, “I revelled as well as cried over being the only female in the wonderful team of male reporters. The great editor Girihal Jain told me a newspaper was no place for a woman but I hung on picking up the crumbs that fell off the daily assignment roster, flower shows, fashion shows.”
Sonali Khan, Country Director and Vice President of Breakthrough India shared her experience of working in the digital media to create “safe spaces” for women. Not just our society, even the virtual world is infested with sexism and patriarchy at so many levels, she pointed out. She strongly emphasised the need for a change in the patriarchal and sexist mindset of people and the role digital media plays in this. On a more grass-root level Rijwan Parwez, Coordinator Girls Count, pointed out that India’s startling gap in sex ratio reflects a deeply patriarchal and sexist attitude towards the female sex. Though a gradual improvement in sex ratio has appeared, probably owing to government schemes and campaigns, a change in the patriarchal mindset of the people with respect to son-preference is yet to take place. Violence against women and girls continues to rise over the years.
Satish Singh, Additional Director CHSJ and senior journalist and researcher Nasiruddin conducted various sessions deconstructing “masculinities” in religion, culture and popular media; they examined the institutionalisation of hegemonic masculinity and hence the inciting of gendered-violence in our society. They examined media narratives in recent years which have promoted skewed social norms and normalised violence; they pointed out how there is a kind of hyper-masculine violence which is a much more volatile and regressive masculinity than what our society has witnessed in a long time. Rituparna Borah, Executive Director Nazariya, illuminated the intersections of masculinity, gender and sexuality. She pointed out the centrality of “consent” in gender relations and that the lack or ambiguity of it is the root of gender violence, leave alone any dignity or fundamental rights to people with alternate sexualities and identities. The workshop was also attended by journalists and experts from different corners of the country including Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand besides Delhi where CHSJ conducts community monitoring and capacity building works.
A sensitive media and active engagement with civil society and other stakeholders is the key to gender justice in our society. The workshop also stressed on the accountability of men in this thereby calling for active involvement of men and boys.