April 08, 2009

Lost Generation Not Just Indian Men

Anand Ramlogan’s “Lost Generation” article in the January 25thSunday Guardian was insightful. I took a long time before I responded to it because I did not want to be offensive in doing so. Then I realised, if he could speak of Indian men being unable to hold on to Indian women as a matter of grave concern, without seeing anything particularly racist about it, I should not worry too much about being frank about my response. Here it is.



In this Bollywood adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, the forward-thinking Indian beauty shuns her Indian suitor, who is presented as a buffoon and falls for the more modern Caucasian American man. It is subtle commentary to say the least.

As a past student of Naparima Girls’ High School, I saw with my own eyes the transformation of my Indian classmates when we later attended UWI together and went abroad on our academic and career adventures and were free from prying parental eyes while being offered a wider choice of men from up North, up the Caribbean islands and all over the world. They jumped whole heartedly into a brave new world so much so, Naps Girls started to get a reputation.

Anand is right, there is a growing chasm between the modern Indian woman and her Indian male counterparts, many of whom are still raised to think of and treat with their women like it was still 1950 and so, as he pointed out, they simply lack the skills to woo today’s savvy Indian woman.


As the ever world-wise black chic and mother hen, I was often the one being called on by my Indian girlfriends to buy birth control and cover for them to their parents while they were dating non-Indian men and venturing to night clubs and I offered shoulders to cry on over broken hearts and pregnancy scares. Their clueless parents were still expecting them to be virgins and marry nice Indian doctors, lawyers and businessmen. In fact, in my little circle of friends, which comprised of girls of all racial backgrounds, none of my Indian girlfriends ended up with Indian men or are still unmarried.

When you talk to them, they will tell you that the glaring difference in mentality and expectations is comparable to what I feel as a black woman when a Nigerian man aggressively and often obnoxiously approaches me with hopes of snagging a doting, submissive wife. In this respect Anand is right, there is a growing chasm between the modern Indian woman and her Indian male counterparts, many of whom are still raised to think of and treat with their women like it was still 1950 and so, as he pointed out, they simply lack the skills to woo today’s savvy Indian woman. While he points to hip hip and dancehall pop culture. I think the new age, intellectual, emotionally adept Indian women I know were more influenced by “Jane Austen, Oprah, Deepak Chopra and Joy of Sex” as far as their expectations of what a romantic partnership should be. It’s not that there aren’t Indian men who “get it” but some complain there are just too few to go around. Accomplished black women often make a similar complaint about available black men who can match their level.



It's not just Indian women who are looking outside their ethnicity. Indian men have been doing it for a long time, without so much fuss being made. Therein lies the double standard.

What I find a little off-putting about Anand's article is that it totally ignores that interracial relationships are also being pursued by savvy, world wise Indian men as well. Why this double standard of, 'Protect our Indian women' but our Indian men can do whatever they like.

It is already hard for women to find quality mates; being further restricted to searching only in your own ethnicity is really unfair especially when your ideal soul mate could actually be someone your parents may not have had in mind.


Here is a very objective stance on the subject. Honestly, there are advantages to dating in your own ethnic/cultural group. Chances are that my Indian sisters going for what they consider to be the more “modern” man outside of their ethnicity are going to be presented with either the same or a lesser version of the exact same problem she is trying to avoid. In fact, she may be worse off because the non-Indian man may actually be choosing an Indian woman because of a stereotype. He may have the false expectation she will be more submissive and acquiescing to his sexual and ego requirements than say a black or white woman. It is similar to what a black woman faces when white and Asian men assume that because she is black, she is a wild cat in the sack and will fall into the role of “Ever Loving Mama” who will carry their burdens for them.



Interracial relationships do come with their share of challenges.

In many respects, dating outside your ethnicity or culture can be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire when it comes to facing stereotypes and prejudices. However, that is about all I can see that is negative about it and as I type this, the world is changing. As the world gets smaller and people start to see each other more honestly we are beginning to actively challenge these stereotypes.


The willingness to cross cultures and ethnicities increases the more one travels, reads, learns and accomplishes. Which is why keeping people ignorant and insular is always part of segregationist governments. You see, with knowledge of the world and travel of the world, you develop a greater sense of individual identity in relation to the entire world and not just one tribe in your own hometown.

It is therefore unrealistic to expect that todays’ woman who is well read, well travelled and open to a range of experiences will limit intimate relationships by ethnicity, religion or culture. Those things may superficially help but do not guarantee lasting happiness and fulfillment in a relationship. It is already hard for women to find quality mates; being further restricted to searching only in your own ethnicity is really unfair especially when your ideal soul mate could actually be someone your parents may not have had in mind.

Mr. Ramlogan’s advice to fathers to take an active interest in developing emotionally intelligence in their sons is not just for Indian men but all men. I am heartened that he did not fall into the trap other “male activists” have of whining about the loss of their comfort zone. That ship has sailed and re-oppressing women is not the answer.


While I can understand Anand’s cultural and ethnic focus on Indian men, the issues he mentioned are part of a wider problem that is affecting all young men. Let’s face it, for generations we in the Caribbean have spoiled our men. There, I’ve said it! So, whether ethnicity is Chinese, Indian, Syrian, African, European or a mix of any, chances are, if that man is from the Caribbean, he has been handicapped by:

1. Overbearing mothers who substitute the relationship fulfillment they did not get from their emotionally retarded or absent husbands by overly codling her sons. These Goddesses of domestic martyrdom, easy forgiveness and indiscriminate ego-stroking without demanding responsibility, turn boys into a men who are useless emotional cripples with unfounded self-importance. These megalomaniacs in the making now expect the wife to take over where the Holy Mother left off, this time with “fringe benefits”. The role of maid, sycophant and sex slave is one the modern woman no longer wants, sorry.



"And after I am done the housework after coming home from my job, I will tend the kids, supervise their homework, whip you up a three course dinner and pleasure you any way you like till you fall asleep." Dream on guys!

2. Unfair and damaging sexual double standards which for centuries have said that a woman’s chastity is somehow more crucial than a man’s. Biology is now showing that both genders are equally licentious, in fact women have far more sexual capacity for pleasure than men. However while allowances and excuses have always been made for men to fully explore their libido before, during, inside and outside of marriage, women were required to exercise self-restraint, commitment, self-sacrifice, forgiveness and emotional strength. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for now that we have achieved sexual liberation we are now far more empowered to strategically wield our sexuality than men are. Karma is a… you-know-what.

3. The expectation of automatic leadership simply by virtue of being born male has led to big egos with no substance to back it up. The truth is, respect is earned and leadership is not a Divine reward for having a penis. Leadership comes after you have self-searched, developed mind, body and spirit to acquire positive leadership qualities. You then use those qualities to uplift a household or community by humbly understanding you are first a servant, not the master of everyone else. In today’s ideal household, who gets to “lead” is expected to be fluid not predetermined. The leader is whoever is best at it at the task, in that particular time, in that situation, no matter the gender. So, if the husband is the better cook, his has the last word in the kitchen. If the wife is a financial wiz, her budget is law and in both cases, opinions are solicited and considered. This team-playing is what modern women expect. So if a man approaches her quoting the Apostle Paul (a man who never had a wife) or the koran with some kind of entitlement to special deference, he is going to be put in his place. Rightly so.

4. The false belief that boys are not as emotionally fragile as girls. Guess what? They are! They require just as much emotional nurturing, attention to developing their communication skills and learning how to be empathetic and socially adept.

Mr. Ramlogan’s advice to fathers to take an active interest in developing emotionally intelligence in their sons is not just for Indian men but all men. I am heartened that he did not fall into the trap other “male activists” have of whining about the loss of their comfort zone. That ship has sailed and re-oppressing women is not the answer.

The answer lies in understanding that your masculinity can never be taken away from you. How can it? It’s in your genes. However, it is the man-made self-definition of what it means to be a man that is evolving. You are very fortunate that now you get to actively participate in reshaping it. You can finally weed out the traditional socialisations that have proven to be unhealthy and keep those that are beneficial. If you ask me, you should be just as excited about this chance to grow just as we women were when we started questioning those same man-made definitions of our gender role. Just as many of us discovered, our inner-being and its potential transcend gender completely.

1 comment:

kyllah fam said...

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