#2. The Joy of making Music: Being Men and Women in a world that is becoming increasingly androgynous

Growing up in the 90s, I was often subjected to phrases like, ‘Women aren’t lesser than men.’ A decade later, I was entertained by advertisements that increasingly promoted gender enmity– “Why should boys have all the fun?” Despite being born and raised in a household that seldom made me feel underprivileged because of my gender, by the time I was 18, I was full of outrage. Being a female made me feel angry, made me increasingly sensitive towards the crimes being committed towards women. Certainly women were suffering so much out there at the hands of men; the battle had become domestic. Everything seemed to be against me. All the rules were devised to put me – a woman – in a figurative prison.

Not just I, my brother also grew up tormented by the same trends of gender understanding. Most of our childhood and early adolescence was spent with him being torn in the roles of sometimes being a brother and sometimes a competitive male. He silently suffered and sometimes complained with gritting teeth about how I was blooming over the privileges of being a female. Our rivalry was pointless, but very real, existential.

As siblings, we rarely took any opportunity to appreciate each other. Moreover, we were taught that siblings were supposed to be this way. What appeared to be sibling-norm on the surface only grew to become more and more toxic within us as years passed by. Only when I started attending university, I realized that it was not the norm. This toxicity was chosen and taught. At university, I saw how my classmates spoke about their siblings. How siblings cherished each other; how they participated in each others’ victories and sorrows. How they participated intimately in making siblingship meaningful. That is not how we were. That is not how he encouraged me to behave, or I, him.

That year I saved (for the first time ever) for his birthday. (Side-note: Birthdays and anniversaries are not a thing at our place.) At midnight, I hushed everyone to his room while he was still asleep, and we woke him up to a horrible looking birthday-cake which was the first thing I’d ever baked. He woke up not hugging and hooting like people do on their birthdays, but quietly. He looked at us, and then and the cake and wept for full 20 minutes while we stared at him in silence. Those 20 minutes dawned upon me like a deep realization of how I had deprived him, as a sister, of the affections that were so innate to his being.

I am certain that many people come to this point in life when the inherent worth of their siblings dawns upon them like a full moon. I also know quite well that some people are so unwilling to lay their hurt, angry selves behind that this will never be the case for them. I take today’s letter to talk about how two people, especially a man and a woman, can live a relationship the way music is made.

Recovery from feminism was a long process for me. At each step, I had to take a long pause to marvel at the interdependent beauty of masculine and feminine energies in existence. There were revelations that healed my relationships not only with people but also with myself. I began seeing the men in my life in a different light. Mostly, I stepped back from places to sometimes let and at other times demand men to become men.

I am fully aware that this anti-feminism post is already making more than half the readers unhappy. Please take a pause here and now and take a deep breath. Now listen! Anger confuses you. Anger deprives you of the actualization of the issues at the root of your problem. Take another deep breath. Not only is this an anti-feminism post, but also anti-menism. In this world, women suffer as women, and men suffer as men. A significant fraction of this suffering comes into being because we revolt against the boundaries intrinsic to our sex. Women want to walk over the boundaries of femininity and want to take over the world and do everything men can do, because they can. Men, who wouldn’t want to be anything like a woman, grow up to abhor women as a response to the subjected anger and the additional privileges women get for being women, and forget or neglect what it means to be a man.

My feminist girlfriends often argue with me over why there is a need for their male partners to open the door for them, or pull the chair for them when they are perfectly capable of doing it on their own. My menist guy friends ask why they should open the door or pull a chair for a woman who is perfectly capable of doing it on her own. After all, aren’t men and women equal?

The concept of human equality puzzles me. Human equality does not mean that humans lack any differences whatsoever. In fact, all humans are different, and unique in their making. What human equality originally means is that one is supposed to treat all humans with equal dignity because of their intrinsic worth as human beings. Whether you are a Man or a Woman, Black or White, African or Asian, your dignity is non-negotiable. Human equality erases neither the uniqueness of being nor gender differences.

The only necessity for women to act like women and for men to act like men is not only for them to peacefully co-exist but for them to be able to cherish the unique gifts that each sex has to offer. When a woman steps back from doing all the things she can do, she makes room for the man to step up and assume his roles as a man. This certainly does not mean she is incapable or less efficient or, even worse, less powerful. To encourage a man to take up his roles to serve you, not harm you, is an extremely powerful place to be, as a woman.

When a man responds to the opportunity of stepping up from a place of being just another human being with “needs” to a man who can serve, cherish, protect and lead a woman, he gets into alpha mode. It is the beginning of the making of a kind of man that is a rarity. Not the man who curbs a plantlet, but he who waters a garden. Not he who breaks, but he who mends. At this point, a man stops seeing a woman as an equal, but someone set apart in character and making. This is when he begins to cherish her for the beauty which is so exclusive to her gender.

To step up as human beings, we also need to step up as men and women. The point of relationships, and of marriages for that sake, is not the obvious benefits one reaps out of it, but also that a man and a woman together can make music out of life. No one can whistle a symphony; it takes an orchestra to play it. At some point in the making of music, the one with the violin has to step back and the one with the saxophone has to step up. It does not make either less or more important. Violin and Saxophone are not equal. They’re both unique in their making, and they both make music.

Maybe you are playing all the instruments at the same time because they can be (or the wrong instrument at the wrong time). If and as your understanding of music develops, you might stop. You might take a break from all the noise. You and your relationships might find healing. Things might become as pleasant as they were originally meant to be. Or maybe it will never be the case for you. Ways of life – taught, and chosen.

(A thank you note to all the men and women in my life who gave me the space and encouragement to wonderfully be a woman; who not only stepped up and assumed their roles, but also made me increasingly aware of my needs and potential, my powers and weaknesses, both –as a woman and as a human being.)