Sharp, thoughtful and to the point writing that paints a vivid portrait of Vivek’s Shraya’s search for safety in our masculine-dominate culture. The personal stories that makeup I’m Afraid of Men are compelling and framed from the perspective of a person whose gender expression ever-shifts against, and with, conventional norms, serving to challenge the status quo as well as each of our roles within it.
Vivek’s experiences are relatable, and although she refers to them as common compared to the atrocities others have endured, her stories are no less heartbreaking, a striking portrait of a culture gone terribly wrong. Vivek illuminates one of the underlining threads that is keeping all of us stuck, “most men don’t think they’re misogynists, let alone think they have misogynist attitudes or engage in misogynist behaviours” making this a blind spot that men themselves are solely responsible for.
But all this takes more than simply acknowledging blind spots, it’s knowing one should look in the first place. Our culture has been putting men on a pedestal, imbuing them with a masculine ideal and characteristics that overlook the infallibility of being human. This infallibility is not to be confused with the right to be wrong, however, it is an entry point allowing for a fuller appreciation for the complexities that make up “the other”. In response to one of Vivek’s relationships, “First, it allowed me to see that one of these characteristics, didn’t necessarily cancel out the others.” It’s insights like these that turn Vivek’s experiences into possibilities for ways forward. Transforming a toxic boys-will-be-boys culture that rewards conformity over diversity may not happen overnight, however, acknowledging that the labels we employ are barely a one-dimensional starting point may help to speed up the inevitable.