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Some men have regressive attitudes towards women, but these can be changed

December 22, 2006

Some great news about boys and men. A survey and intervention programme actually transformed the regressive attittudes that some men have towards women – all in the space of a year and a half! Contrary to what some women believe… a leopard can change his spots.

First – the synopsis of the research. The NGO’s CORO and Population Council conducted a research and an intervention program called Yaari Dosti in four slums of Mumbai. 126 young men were interviewed (informal conversations) over a period of one month . It was discovered that many of the young men either denied or justified gender discrimination. They also felt that going to sex workers, dominating women in general, forcing them to have sex and being aggressive and powerful was the test of a ‘real man.’ It followed that that these men felt absolutely no guilt about forcing girls to have sex with them ( raping) and then blackmailing them into having sex with multiple partners. Women were in general looked upon as sexual objects. Also, women were bracketed into two kinds – the good girls and the bad girls. The latter were those who were either sex workers or those considered having a ‘loose’ character. The awareness about how exactly one could contract HIV was low, and therefore many of the young men indulged in risky sexual behavior.
These boys were seen as allies
coro_1_1.jpgWhat was really unique was that the researchers did not see these youngsters as enemies of society… but as allies. Allies who could be helped to overcome their skewed ideas about gender equality and their risky sexual behavior. That is why a ‘large-scale invervention programme’ was conducted amongst 750 young men from the same slums – to try and sensitize them to ‘gender violence’ and make them aware of health issues. This was done through games and group activities.
Men realised what it was like to be treated like objects
One very significant ‘game’ that was played was one where half the men became ‘Objects’ and the other half became ‘People’. The men who became ‘Objects’ were ordered around and made to do humiliating things. In another game, some men had labels stuck on them and the other boys were to treat them exactly as per the labels. This was quite humiliating for those who were labelled ‘prostitutes’.
The result of this whole program was that the participants realised what it felt like to be treated the way they treated women. Interviews revealed that their attitudes altered to some degree. The men in the study became more sensitive, started helping more at home, and overall became more respectful of women. Even the eve-teasing complaints against these boys decreased. Many of the young men also reported that they became ‘quieter’ and less aggressive after the program. They said that they had become ‘changed from within’. Their self-esteem increased and their relationships with women improved.
Our society creates these attitudes
Whether or not the effects of this program last is not the point. It shows that the regressive attitudes of these young men can be changed if they are caught at a vulnerable stage in their life. In fact these kind of gender sensitisation programmes should be carried out in each and every school.
Though the men picked for this particular survey were from the slums, these attitudes are not restricted to the poor. The case of Manu Sharma who shot Jessica Lall because she refused to serve him a drink is a case in point.
It’s not just the poor
Gender discrimination is common even in elite schools. Girls are not treated equally – not just by the boys, but by the teachers themselves! In my daughter’s school for example, girls who do something naughty (say, skip class to see a basketball tournament) are severely reprimanded while the boys ‘get away with everything.’ Also, whenever the teachers suspect that there are couples, it is the girls who are victimised and humiliated, as the teachers (even the female ones!) assume it is the girl who entices and ‘traps’ the boy. Therefore even if the boy has had a healthy upbringing at home, this attitude of the teachers and of society can make him believe that women are indeed always to blame. No matter if he is the aggressive or lewd one.

Related Reading: It’s important to talk about sex
A real life incident of molestation at the Gateway of India
Why some men are violent and aggressive towards women
A poor attitude towards women is the cause of the poor sex ratio
Men beat their wives because they think it is their right
How to prevent being molested in public
Men will not be allowed to teach little girls

15 Comments leave one →
  1. sarika permalink
    December 22, 2006 9:29 am

    Interesting article!!

  2. December 22, 2006 3:46 pm

    I totally agree to you on this, but don’t you think its also the responsibility of women to step forward and fight for their rights. Not the old fashioned feminine style but they should protest by stop being a sex symbol. On the tele, print and every other kind of media what do we observe? Women portraying like an object for sex and no women on earth has any issue with that. It is some kind of a freedom for them. In this manner man self permit themselves to take advantage of women where ever they get a chance.

  3. December 22, 2006 4:51 pm

    I agree that women should not behave like sex objects. If there are not enough people or women protesting against this, it is because by being sex objects the women are not harming anybody else. So it is a question of freedom of choice.
    However I do not agree that if a woman is provocative in some way men have a right to take advantage of her. Willingness has to be the criteria.
    In any case, whether a woman is being provocative or not is a very subjective thing and depends on cultural, societal and individual values.

  4. December 22, 2006 7:13 pm

    It does but it has been observed that the western women have been the victim of rape and other gender based violences more than an asian or african women. If a man sees a girl in a mini skirt he has no right in the world to sexually exploite the situation but unintentionally that girl is inviting that man.

    Appearences does matter whether we like it or not. Offices have dress codes, army got their uniforms, so duz the air hostesses and pilots. We have all the rights how to dress and what to eat but every action has an equal but apposite reaction.

  5. December 26, 2006 1:09 pm

    Hi Nita,

    Heartening news really!! Beyond doubt that biased, prejudiced, conditioned mind sets can alter under patient, caring, sensitive guidance.

    Just how intense is the need and urgent as well can be gaged from the fact that most teenagers (boys) subscribe to the logic that inviting clothes= invitation to rape. A report by amnesty International stated that 25% of all rape cases were blamed on the woman. This shocked me enough to write of it “*here*”:
    Sensitivity towards the issue and the erroneous behavioural pattern has to be addressed seriously.

  6. January 4, 2007 11:19 am

    Hi Neeta, your article is really very very heartening…kudos to the people involved for doing such a great job…and i agree a leopard can change its spots…i think what worked over here was that the boys were treated as allies, as you mentioned…so they did not get defensive and shrink back in a shell, but opened up and were more willing to change…it’s terrific and really good news…as for ammar saying some women invite this by wearing the clothes they do, well don’t men have enough of self-control?? agreed SOME women need to tone down, but by and large, most women will dress a little boldly only where they know there are people around of the their own lifestyle.

  7. Sandhya permalink
    July 8, 2007 4:18 am

    I wish the NGO comes up with creative programme to sensitises (1) middle class men (2) female school teachers!


  8. vinod permalink
    July 25, 2008 11:46 am

    The methodolofy of the people who conducted those workshops follows that of a teacher in the US in the 1970s who taught primary school kids (whites) about what it felt to discriminate against the blacks. There is a google video of a movie made on her. I think you should be able to find it.

  9. August 16, 2008 1:30 am


    I hope you dont mind, I linked this post while replying in Roop rai’s blog.

  10. Diesel permalink
    September 6, 2008 3:23 pm

    Hey so lemme get this straight…you are a 2nd wave feminist, right? Not the third and fourth wave that calls for female superiority and end to sexual dominance by males by trying to beat them at their own “game”, namely by being ever more promiscuous?!

    And any retard who thinks that we must copy the west by being sluttish can bang his/her head on the wall till (s)he bleeds…the US is showing an overall want for virginity before marriage or atleast monogamy in the case of premarital sex. I think we are advanced on alteast one front!

  11. June 16, 2011 8:53 pm

    The methodolofy of the people who conducted those workshops follows that of a teacher in the US in the 1970s who taught primary school kids (whites) about what it felt to discriminate against the blacks. There is a google video of a movie made on her. I think you should be able to find it.

  12. fakeindianbbahu permalink
    September 14, 2011 9:45 pm

    Nita , I liked this blog.
    Infact I went thru horrible phase in my life , unfortunately after “love” marriage.
    My Mother In law put all her absolute hollow views in my husband and also his upbringing was such , Ofcourse when I got married to him , my company had regular training on respecting all culture , religion , gender everything , it was very strict if rules voilated.So I was misled. He hit me multiple times , abused , he was addicted to pornography due to his parental pressures and we had sex just for a child for continuing the family name, he was under parental pressure and show in all ways to me and them that “I am not a good typical indian seasoned girl.” . He had real upbringing issues.

    Finally I have solved the problems by treating him back the same way and taking him to counsellor and opening talking about his misbehaviours to many people.I treated him like an object like how they did.Now he is coming back to senses and he started going to counsellor and even psychiatrist willfully and also understanding the cheap behaviiour of his parents , Not only that he now takes emotional matter advice from my parents who really are normal people.

    My blog has many of my horrible sufferings and blog specially of times when I was fighting it back..


  1. “i am not an object” « Bobobobo’s Weblog
  2. Eve Teasing | Subterfuge
  3. Eve Teasing | Subterfuge Magazine

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