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Becoming a better man: A conversation with Dr. Ritu Chauhan

Becoming a better man: A conversation with Dr. Ritu Chauhan

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Earlier this week, I was shaken to see the events of what was called on social media as “Bois Locker Room” unfold. I was rocked with a mix of feelings: apalled that 15-16 year-olds were objectifying and degrading women, overwhelmed by the burst of reactions online and saddened that this led to the suicide of a teenager involved. But most importantly, this left me introspecting how this was a much deeper systemic issue than just a group chat on Instagram. This is a deep rooted problem that exists not only in our chat rooms but also in our day to day lives and our treatment of women.

To figure out how to be a better man, I thought it would be apt to have a deeper conversation with an expert in this domain who has seen the many sides of the challenge.

I want to emphasize that my conversation with Dr Ritu Chauhan is not a judgement of the “Bois Locker Room” incident because that’s for the appropriate law to pass a legal judgement. This conversation with Dr Chauhan is inspired by the event in question which brought to light some deep -rooted systemic problems in our society which needed to be tackled for us to effectively address the question: How we can be better men?

Here are some topics we’ll be covering:

  • How are we shaped by our gender growing up and why this makes a difference?

  • Why the digital age makes parenting more difficult?

  • What is the role of family in shaping a boy and inculcating respect & empathy?

  • How should men react in scenarios where peers are being disrespectful?

How are we shaped by our gender growing up and why this makes a difference?

 As we grow up in society, from a young age, most households will inculcate an idea of what it means to be a male or a female. To define a male or a female, a lot of times we’re taught what a male shouldn’t do, and what a female shouldn’t do. What unfortunately happens in this situation is that we’ve grown up with an ideal of what a male or female should be. Usually our society associates power, machismo & strength with men and compassion, care & vulnerability with women. Such descriptions abound in literature and in the everyday language we use. As one grows up observing non-verbal cues such as men lifting heavy things around the house, women cooking, you grow up feeling like you need to be a certain way to fit in your community. And when we talk about respecting other genders, we must learn to respect ourselves first and then accept the other gender as an equal. Unfortunately, when we treat the other gender as different, we may lose our empathy towards them.

In this digital age, how does a parent ensure that their child is not learning the wrong things on the internet or in their surroundings?

 This is a very interesting question. There are two important aspects to this.

1. 20 years ago, a person’s life was largely intertwined within his extended family & community. We went to the neighbourhood school, our family knew our classmates’ families and there was no digital medium to communicate. So there was more control over a child’s life which has reduced significantly with the passage of time. Internet is the biggest culprit. Today, with the ubiquity of social media, a child can embody varied personas with his family at home and with his friends outside. A lot of times, as a parent you won’t be able to tell what other persona your kid dons outside the home until & unless you have open-door conversations with him/her. These frank conversations should be about about sexual education or your child’s crush and should let them embrace these new feelings in a positive way. If we don’t do this, as children grow up into their teenage years, they hide all of these “taboo” topics from their parents and get educated through unreliable means – either through pop culture or peers their own age.

2. As children grow up, they primarily learn from their surroundings and behaviours around them. If they see grown-ups at home treating their house help or a call centre executive rudely, they absorb these behavioural traits. Children learn through practice, not through preaching. Therefore, it’s important to carry yourself honourably as a parent in front of a child.

Why does this locker room culture exist today?

Firstly, many people are not taught how to communicate and understand the other gender. Popular movies propagate that if a woman dresses or talks a certain way, then they are asking for it. These are obviously twisted & highly misleading assumptions. Consent can only be based on verbal communication and must never be assumed.

Secondly, existence of group culture wherein one or two misguided influential ‘leaders’ misdirect an entire group is a big contributing factor. Peer pressure plays a huge role in shaping wrong mindsets.

 How do we fight this peer pressure and still ensure we fit in society?

The best way to do it is by first becoming confident of ourselves and who we are. One must learn to listen to our own inner voice and trust our own thoughts. Once you do that, you will have the power to sway opinions & behaviours in a group. In this way, you can stick to your morals as well as build a group of friends who concur.

 How do we systematically break this locker room culture?

This is a big task & will take a lot of time and education. Most importantly, we need to build  more awareness and education around sex. If we can openly talk about food, water and other basic needs, why are we so hesitant to talk about sex? Once that taboo is broken, the misinformation around these topics will reduce and people will have more open conversations. Also, culturally we are seeing more women and men socialising because they’re working in the same company etc. This is a positive shift in creating more empathy towards the other gender. I’m hopeful that we are headed in the right direction, despite a lot of popular cultural misinformation guiding the digital world.

As we struggle with gender problems, parenting and relationships, it becomes important to have the option to talk to someone if needed. We’re happy and proud to bring to you Mind Matters, our initiative to give you FREE 1-on-1 mental health counselling.

Book an available slot today: bit.ly/ManMattersMind

 

*Dr. Ritu Chauhan is a clinical psychologist with 20 years of experience as a psychotherapist and counsellor with the Indian Armed Forces and other private institutions. She has been awarded and honoured at ReAttach Therapy International Conference organized by ReAttach Therapy Institute Eindhoven, Netherlands for “A multiple case study on the effectiveness of ReAttach Therapy” ReAttach Conference 2017, Eindhoven, Netherlands. 

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Man Matters
/’mat-ters // of // man’/
(verb.) A movement to make men feel good about themselves,
because it matters – to us & to them.

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