I should edit this title to “men around the world.”
For the past couple of years, I have been wondering how the rise of more women to positions of power would impact their relationships with men and men’s relationships with themselves and with one another.
Today, we had the pleasure of listening to an Indian woman professor of social work speak on the transitions happening in India. She spoke about agricultural and economic development in the past several years and that although the growth of India as a world superpower (she compared the country’s development to the growth of China), the country is lacking in “human development.” While the economy is growing, there is no clear vision of developing more humane conditions. Access to clean water is still a coveted luxury and the poverty rates are enormous. The gap between the rich and poor is tremendous – she shared that “some of the “richest people in the world are Indian.” As such, growth in infrastructure is mostly privatized. I can see it around me – as we bus through the neighborhoods, there is construction everywhere as Chennai embarks on a several year long project to build a metro but a two year old boy, dirty and without pants is climbing on a planter by a major street, alone. An adult male sits 10 yards away, oblivious and stoic.
However, the government isn’t idle. The government is focused on rectifying poverty but from a reactive stance rather than preventative. The government funds education and provides all people with free education, leading to better earning opportunities for all castes and women.
Yet over 30% of Indian women are malnutritioned (and explained that while an Indian wife/mother can easily spend 4 hours cooking per day, she eats last and finishes whatever is leftover after everyone in her family eats) and rate of DV is high. However earning power has also led to higher divorce rates as women are able to be self sufficient and leave a marriage, but face potential of being ostracized. Still many young women finish their degrees, go on to graduate programs, only to drop out once married.
I spoke at length with two male graduate students in social work about gender roles in Indian culture. The men were sharing that traditionally, Indian men are at the “top” and that women play a supporting role. Men don’t allow their wives to have male friends and wives are expected to take care of everything in the house. This hasn’t changed even now with more women working. They spoke about “ego clash” which is described as power struggle. “Ego clashes cause problems” and can lead to DV.
For me, this was reminiscent of my experience in S. Korea two years ago and is probably very familiar to women in the US circa 1980s to present. Education has been integral in women’s empowerment/women’s lib as their earning power increases and along with that: choice. The freedom to choose who what when where why and how.
Now going back to the title of this article- what happens to our men? In the US more men are seen becoming “house husbands” and more couples are playing with gender roles… People are trying to find this groove and rhythm. However in developing nations with conservative values and traditions favoring the patriarch it appears that loss of power or control can often lead to violence. Programs around the world need to be developed to ease countries into transition so that we can decrease harmful reactive patterns globally, i.e. women’s lib and DV, rapid economic growth and suicide.
Although Freudian psychoanalysis may not hold the answers we need it is apparent that economy, education and mental health need to form alliances. Let’s see what can be done.