August 13, 2020
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Women Without Men

The end of man is nigh - you don't need a woman to say it

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Women Without Men
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I have a friend, a famous writer, who a couple of years ago visited two prestigious Delhi colleges soon after her book was published. The two readings helped her get a fix on the likely trajectory of evolution. At Lady Sriram, eager girls plied her with questions about her book, its characters, its themes. At St Stephen's, all that the cool boys wanted to know was how much money she had made, how long had it taken her to write the book and who were the celebrities she'd met. Recounting the story some days later, she announced plaintively, "Really, men have no future."

I tend to agree completely with her. I would go as far as to wager my entire collection of books and single malts that what we are frenziedly preparing to usher out in the next few weeks is the last millenium of male dominance on this planet. The evidence is all around us. Men are no longer what they used to be; while women have become men, themselves, and more. Into his sixties, my grandfather could till the fields all day; my father can't work a garden bed in a week. My grandmother didn't earn a single anna in her long hardworking life; my mother can still support four families.

Mankind - as in exclusively men - is in grave danger of atrophy. The woman has grown, found a way in the world, adding on to her innate gifts of sensitivity and nurture, the attributes of earning, pleasuring, dictating, creating. The man has shrunk, losing the qualities of strength, aggression, wilfulness and virility that once defined him. Psychology and technology have conspired to reduce him. Mind games - in research institutes, in the media, in offices, at home - have worked hard to soften him, leading him into the bewildering mazes of empathy and sympathy, leaving him a quivering mass of uncertain, directionless jelly.

Can a man anymore whack his child for being rude, rather than attempting to understand the underlying trauma that has caused the rudeness? The mother can, and does, and is admired for her moral steeliness. Can a man anymore walk out on his woman for her endless carping and cribbing, rather than making allowance for the repression of centuries that she's struggling to cast off? A woman can, on her feckless man, and be roundly lauded for her purposefulness. Can a man hit an obnoxious woman and live to tell the tale? A woman can, and live to be celebrated.

Pschyospiel may insidiously enfeeble the man around the clock, but in the long run technology will do him as much damage. For the truth is machines are fairly indifferent to who pushes the buttons and pulls the levers. You need a man to haul in the wood; you don't need one to log on to the Internet. Inexorably, one can see, science is working towards making men redundant: in the not too distant future women will still need sperm to make babies, they may not need men. Mail-order catalogues will offer a choice of offspring, varied in colour of skin and slant of eye.

In her new book Stiffed, Susan Faludi asserts that the '90s man is becoming the '50s woman. "No wonder," she writes, "men are in such agony, not only are they losing the society they were once essential to, they are "gaining" the very world women so recently shucked off as demeaning and dehumanising." As relevantly, in her earlier bestseller, Backlash, Faludi had written that contrary to popular belief studies had revealed that masculinity is a "fragile flower - a hothouse orchid in constant need of trellising and nourishment". In other words it is dying, and may be eventually up for nothing but museum preservation. The mail-order catalogue once again.

Look around you. The landscape is littered with the wreckage of men. Passed over, rejected, aimless, cosseted alive by women. A recent Brad Pitt film, Fight Club, has been making big waves in the West. In it men try to rediscover their inner strength and beauty through the testesteronic excercise of clinically bashing each other up. Somewhere in the eponymous book, the author Chuck Palahnuik sets out the central thesis, "What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women." Evolution has tricked men up a blind alley. Just as the dodo and the cheetah served their purpose before being wiped out, we've been put on notice. Having given us the strength, adrenalin and aggression to quell the mastodon and the tiger, it has let us loose in shopping malls and fashion stores. So we beat metal in gyms and kill cocktails in bars. Perhaps it's evolution's way of toning us down, before phasing us out.

Look at women, in contrast. They have gone from nurturers to providers, from preyed to predators, from order-takers to order-givers, from weak to strong. It only needs a man to tell you that men are sad creatures. Each morning they wake afresh to battle the ghost of their self-esteem, and try to quell it with the size of their house or bank balance or penis. Having been bested, by night, they look for a woman to lean on. Look at the parade of their woes. Fly-by-night studies tell us they are more prone to stress, depression, heart attacks. They don't know how to pick their mates, going only for looks, while women intelligently evaluate their mates on a slew of counts. They can't nurse babies. They can't bear them. They can have only one orgasm at a time.

Men will eventually become extinct. Living with three women, of that I am sure. Each of them has the power to derail me in a moment; I can scarcely ever dent their equilibrium. This is how Bahadur Shah Zafar must have felt as night fell over his reign, and Englishmen gathered at the drawgates to shrink the surpassing, eternal glory of the sprawling Mughal empire to the size of a tightly sadly walled city.

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