The journey of growth from a boy to a tall guy than eventually coming around to becoming a man is filled with the pressure to ‘perform’ all the time. Being born into this sex, there is a sense of leadership that everyone instantly expects you to live upto whether in your family, peer group or at work.
Many men see women as having it relatively easy. They just have to conform while we have to perform. It’s quite like walking on a thin rope with your masculinity in the line, always. Because before they know that they’re going off balance, someone will either question in concern or condescension if you “have the balls” or that you probably need to “grow a pair” lest you want to be called a “pussy” ever in your life.
If you are anything like me, you go into questioning the small (many consider ‘silly’) little details of rhetorical statements like these. I, myself, as a woman and an ambivalent feminist have been employing these phrases and I really can’t be blamed coz of their widespread usage in every other language that I come to encounter or hear.
Having the balls or a pair metaphorically means much more than the biological possession of the genitilia. It connotes possessing guts, strength, courage, machismo – all positive affirmatives of masculinity and individuality.
“Being a pussy” by means of attaching a harmless and demure animal like a kitten to the female genitilia connotes cowardice and weakness that one associates with being a hapless damsel in distress.
But why such gross underestimation of the ‘vagina’ and superfluous worship of the ‘penis’? Despite being one of nature’s most interesting designs, the female vagina has been so short credited of all its beauty. The vagina protects itself from dust and dirt and is a self cleansing organ. The Penis? Nope! There are 8000 nerve endings in the clitoris, dedicated exclusively to female pleasure. The penis only has 4000. This is quite an ironical fact considering many women live their lives never finding their G spot!
Even one of the most eminent figures in Psychology, Sigmund Freud attached way too much importance to the penis in his theories accusing girls of experiencing something called “penis envy” in their psycho-sexual development. Feminist psychoanalyst, Karen Horney counter balanced Freud with her interpretative theory of men experiencing what she called the “womb envy”. The famous urban legend of ‘Vagina Dentata’ (literally means, vagina with teeth) also probably emerged as a feminist backlash to all the violence meted out by men against women like it was their birthright.
Many theorists explain the greater participation of men in physical violence by the anatomy of the penis as an overt form that looks to penetrate and conquer whereas the vagina must secure itself from intruders entering with women, thus, having a greater endurance and tolerance level. It explains how women not just conceal by clothing but hide away in their posture sitting cross legged as though anything wider would mean an open invitation of sorts.
All these theories and the many references in pop culture are very convincing to lead many of us to believe them to be universally or scientifically true while they are just clever ways to perpetuate gender conforming beliefs. If you examine the politics in the practice of genital modification across cultures and religions, it has such a harmful impression on both genders.
While circumcision of the penis, practiced amongst Muslims and Jews, has many health advantages to it, female genital moderation is purely by cultural custom meant to reduce a woman’s sex drive and abstain them from ‘pleasure’ during intercourse. Nor is male circumcision without controversy where the claims of the reduced chances of sexually transmitted diseases (in heterosexual intercourse) and penile cancer or enhanced penile hygiene have inconclusively mixed evidence. Not to of course forget the issue of ‘consent’ in it where many are circumcised at infancy or even if at adolescence, without giving them the space to question or challenge the authority of an age old custom. Further to this, female genital mutilation (read more about FGM here) is also a form of violence perpetuated in many politically unstable countries and male circumcision is perfectly legal in every culture and country. How can men be expected to break any cultural moulds or cycles of violence when they go through rituals just as strictly without consent or challenge?
There is a lot of fuss around our genitals defining much of our lives or even whether we live, when they don’t determine our sexual orientation, social identity, food, our drive to succeed.
It is over this fuss that babies are brutally killed. It is over this fuss that many don’t find a place in the society and are shunned to live in shady sidelines. It is over this fuss that some of us can’t choose to go out for business or pleasure at certain hours or to certain places.
It is the fuss over our genitals that divide the sexes into feeling privileged and deprived in their own places, dividing them instead of uniting them to work together.
This Blog is Halabol's entry to the Men Say No Blogathon, encouraging men to take up action against the violence faced by women.