Hi. Have we met before? In the metro maybe? When it was damn crowded and you fumbled and pressed against me, and I tried to push the crowd back? Or walking down the mall? When you were window-shopping that beautiful, backless dress that I then thought would suit my girlfriend too? Or when you were standing in the local bus, uncomfortable and oh so terrified, and I offered you my seat? Or when the brakes of the bus made you lose your balance, and I helped you up?
I’m that man. That man whom you yelled at for misbehaving in the crowded metro. That man whom you gave those hostile looks when he was trying to admire the dress he wanted to buy for his girlfriend. That man whom you called a pervert for being considerate enough to acknowledge your discomfort and offer you a seat. That man whom you slapped and insulted in front of the whole crowd just because he tried to help you up when you foundered in the bus? That man whom you would look at, and conclude as being a molester, not knowing that he could be a father of two children who must be waiting for their daddy to return home and tell them stories about superheroes.
That man, who could be a hero.
I was a cop that time when I was trying to tell you, how it was your fault when your car hit another man’s car. Who tried to be fair and asked you to pay the fine, and you were thoughtless enough to tag him as degenerate and insensitive.
You didn’t see how I hid that tear that dwelled up in my eyes when you accused me of misconduct and intrusion of your personal space when I was only trying to help you or point your mistake out for you. Some piece of me broke away that day. That piece which was a part of a man who cares for women. I felt as if I’m at fault. I felt guilty of trying to help you.
It has become so easy for you to brand men as being characterless, it’s almost natural. To you, no man can be trusted. It’s true you’re the suffering lot, but it doesn’t make it any less true that not every man walking down the street or traveling in a bus or working with women in offices is a rapist or a pervert.
I’m just terrified.
You confuse my decency with a sullied emotion. You ask your little girl to not go to the park because of a man who stares at kids for hours. You don’t think how lonely the man might be feeling because he doesn’t have kids of his own. And yet the man has to show how strong he is, how he doesn’t shed a tear when you soil his image with your pre-conceived notions of him.
You don’t see my pain, my restlessness. I want to help you, I want to respect you, I want to be chivalrous. But something stops me now. It’s a perpetual conundrum.
Everything about your judgement baffles me. You want men to understand feminisim, and yet you don’t believe me when I tell you I’m a feminist. Why is that so hard? Now, isn’t that sexist of you?
I’m a father, a son, a husband, a brother, a boyfriend, a colleague, a citizen. And I’m not a pervert. I’m a downright feminist. I want to help the women of this country get what they deserve. I want women to be respected, and valued, and not be objectified. I want women to feel safe.
I’m not a rapist.
I’m a man who cares.
Artwork: @sreejithpa (Sreejith P A)