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A Letter on Fatherhood



 

Content warning for abuse & violence.


Update March 1st, 2022: Since putting this essay out, I've had the opportunity to listen to the people in my life and most uncomfortably even listen to some who completely disagree with every word written on this. I think it's important for anyone reading this to recognize that you shouldn't have to be a father, brother, or a man who's had to see the women in your life endure a lot of what this covers to give a damn. You just should! This was written and still comes from the perspective of someone that really wants kids and I think that's how I approached writing this, but that shouldn't be the only reason to care. You just should, because empathy isn't contingent on subjective or anecdotal experiences. Be an ally, because it matters. Not because it affects you. For anyone reading this essay who disagrees with the words on this digital canvas, my DM's will always be open to listening, learning and further conversation.


<3 Pran


 

Dear Reader,


Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been occupied with thoughts of parenting.

I’ve been reading books on parenting.

Really.

Heck! I’m studying for a degree that serves me with a weekly reminder on how crucial good parenting is and how easily I could screw up.

It is safe to say that I spend a lot of time thinking about fatherhood.

What it would mean to be a parent and raise little shitheads of my own.

My Maasi has two daughters; two incredible young women who give me a lot of faith, and are a reminder of the good in this world. I have seen the two of them grow out of their prams and grow into fiercely kind and brilliant women.

They are maybe why I dream of having daughters of my own.

And ever since I’ve started thinking of having daughters of my own, I have been snared with this thought;


If I have daughters, what kind of a world would I be welcoming them into?

Will they be able to walk home safe from school, college or after work?

Will they ever be able to walk through a street without being catcalled or harassed?

Will they ever feel heard, feel safe, be free of discrimination and prejudice?





At the time of writing this, vigils are being held around the isle in the memory of a young woman. My newsfeed is filled with the hurt and frustration of countless women that see themselves in her.

This has happened before.


The day I landed in London, a vigil was being held in the memory of a young woman who was brutally attacked as she was trying to make her way home. Much like now, social media was flooded with messages of grief, frustration, anger, and solidarity, and evident in it all was an identification, a reflection of themselves.

This had happened before.

This is happening now.

It would stand to reason it will happen again.


The statistics don’t lie. (Source in Footnotes).


  • Globally, one in three women has been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life.


  • Most violence against women is perpetrated by current or former husbands or intimate partners.

  • There is evidence of intensification of violence against women and girls across the globe.


I happen to sit and write this from a position of great privilege, and if you are a man reading this letter, I would like for you to be aware of how that certain privilege extends to you as well.

As I write this, As I think these thoughts, As I put them on paper;

I am frustrated,

I am angry,

I am upset,

And yet, I am still writing from the perspective of someone who has never had to think twice before walking back home after a night out.

Never had to text his friends the licence plate of the taxi I’m taking.

I am writing this, confidently certain in the knowledge that the worst that can come at me on a night out is someone drunkenly calling me racial slurs.


And if that, the statistics, the gravity of the situation does not infuriate you, then this letter is for you.


Every single woman that I know, every single one, has experienced some form of harassment; has been on the receiving end of an inappropriate encounter with a man and that is putting it incredibly mildly.


Why is it that every time we talk about safety for women, it turns into some version of, “Well, girls shouldn’t go out that late”, or “Well she shouldn’t have worn that”, or “You know, picked a safer well-lit street to walk on”, or “Women should know better than to drink at this hour or this place.”?

This is not about how women aren’t keeping themselves safe, because the truth is, that no place, pub, park, street, or corner will ever be safe if we continue to ignore the role of men and how we are at the root of this crisis.

Why are we putting a bandaid on a problem that needs proper dismantling and reconstruction?


And if you are reading this, and thinking, “Well it’s not all men”, then this letter is for you.




The real problem here isn’t women or their lack of awareness. Trust me, the women in your life have walked with keys between their fingers or a finger resting on a can of pepper spray.

Newsflash, the problem lies somewhere else.


It lies with men and why we are so resistant and unwilling to entertain the idea that there are men out there that are actively causing harm that ranges on a spectrum. The harm that looks like unsolicited remarks or inappropriate pictures to the north end of the extreme.


That’s a bit extreme Pran! I love and respect women and would never do or endorse these things.”, is what I imagine you’re thinking at this point.

But it’s never really about endorsing, so much as it's about being complicit in silence.

At this very point, in reading this, as a man, you’re either rejecting this completely or embracing the thoughts that are flooding your mind.

Regardless, there is a whisper, and I would encourage you to listen.

If you follow that whisper further down the rabbit hole you get to an incontrovertible truth.

The problem does not lie in ‘those’ few men that do ‘such’ things, it is somewhere closer.

It’s in the little things.

The times you called one of your mates a ‘little bitch’ because there is really nothing worse than being a woman.

The times you stood silent when your mate shared explicit pictures of a girl, sent to him in confidence, on the group chat.

The times you engaged in locker room talk.

The roots of the problem lie in our social circles, in every group of friends, somewhere in us and the society that raised us.


If at this junction, I haven’t lost you, and you are wondering how this concerns you, then this letter, this rant if you will, is written for you by a man who has been in those rooms.

Spoken those words.

Uncomfortably laughed when a friend spared no detail in describing an intimate moment with their partner at the time.

Objectified women and boasted of sexual conquests just to prove he was man enough.

I am complicit, simply by virtue of reinforcing these views on women and staying silent when I could have said something.

I know of friends in committed relationships who are anything but healthy. I know it because I saw the roots of their problematic behaviours all those years ago. And I can bet my limb and a kidney that you have a friend like that yourself.


Nobody likes to admit it; I sure as heck didn’t want to for the longest time, but as men, we’ve all known of other men in our circles that have a history of inappropriate behaviours that we’ve historically brushed away as “Just a bit of messing” or “He’s a sound lad when you get to know him.

We say these things to quiet the shame we feel in our silence when what it really sounds like is, “Sure, he grabbed her ass in a bar without her consent but I am deeply uncomfortable in calling him out, and he’s my friend, and I fear what this would reflect in me. And sure look, I know him to be a good person so it can’t be more than just a bit of fun.


We’ve all had a friend who’s that guy.

The jester in the room.

The one that does inappropriate things but doesn’t really mean it.

Who, maybe left to their own devices, would actually ‘never’ assault a woman.

Because he’s a good lad who knows the difference between a no and a yes that is hiding behind a no.

Yes, he’s sometimes inappropriate towards women but he’s not one of those ‘Me Too’ people.

He’s not a rapist, not like them at all.

He’s one of the lads, one of the boys you know!

And we never call him out on it because it's just a bit of fun.

And we never call him out on it because really, we’re afraid of going against the lads.


If any of this, any ounce of this resonates with you, then I implore you to read on, because I have felt the discomfort that you’re feeling in reading this as a man. And I’ll tell you now, the more you unpack this the more uncomfortable it gets, but persist. Persist, unlearn, re-educate and then do the right thing.






Hold other men accountable.

Us men love to be heroes, we love to pretend, ever since we’re kids, that we have a fluttering cape behind us. So here’s a hot tip: be heroic by holding other men accountable.

Nobody wants to be the one to call their peers out. I had my reasons for it and I expect you have your own, but there is no alternative. You’re not jeopardising some code of ethics or foundation of masculinity.

Actually, while I’m here, screw the bro code!

I don’t care what Barney Stinson said!

It’s never done any good for anyone and has only fueled a perpetual cycle of silence where men aren’t held accountable by the very people that exist in the same privileged space as them.

By calling other men out you’re doing the decent thing.

The right thing.

Sticking to perhaps the most important code there ever could be, the code of basic human decency.

By asking men to be better, by calling them out, you’re maybe making the world a bit safer.

For every man you call out in your circle for the inappropriate things they do, you’re potentially saving another life out there.


However, if at this very junction, you’re still unconvinced on why this concerns you, allow me to present you with a thought experiment:


Imagine having a daughter of your own.

Imagine this incredible bundle of sunshine that fills every space she occupies with unfiltered heart and joy.

You see her through her first steps, the first words she utters, see her grow into the most incredible human you still aren’t sure you fully comprehend. She’s wicked smart! Could run the world tomorrow if she wanted to.

She’s simply brilliant; has a heart that is bigger and beyond whatever you could imagine. She’s the best of you and then a shit tonne more!

Then, she grows up.

And then the statistics become very real because based strictly on the maths, she’s very likely to be on the receiving end of some form of male harassment.

If you’re reading this and rejecting the numbers, reassuring yourself that it won’t be your daughter, then I hate to break your bubble because statistics don’t lie.

The majority of women in your life have experienced it and therefore, it stands to reason that your daughter will too.


We live in a hyperconnected world where news often flows faster than reason. As men we’re acutely aware of the acts of violence, the workplace harassment, the everyday sexism that women deal with and yet at some level, some of us never think that that is the case for our wives, our mothers, our friends, our daughters, our partners.

It is,

It has been.

And, it will continue to be till we change.

The change won’t happen on its own.

We have to be part of that change. We have to will it into existence and be allies to the women making strides in making that happen.


If you’re a man, and in reading this you’re left with more questions than you started with then you’re at a precipice.

You’ve arrived at a place where some men will never get to, some have arrived and looked the other way, and I pray that you’re here wondering what you can do. If that’s you, then this letter is for you.







Start with yourself.

Make a start. Understand and reflect on your privilege.

Educate yourself on the prejudice that exists in the world. Educate yourself by listening to more women, those that have used the greatest platforms in the world to speak their truth and those that give light to your world.


Start by accepting the role you’ve played, in your locker rooms, your dorm rooms, your workplace, in every space you occupy and walk through as a man.

Understand how your privilege blinds you to what your peers might experience.

Follow that whisper in your ear, the one that speaks of a time when you were complicit in silence and inaction.

Work through that guilt or shame you’re experiencing and come on through to the other end with action.

Start with healing the parts within you that may hurt the women in your life, be that through inappropriate jokes, right down to abusive behaviours that may seek visibility through emotional and physical acts.

Engage in dialogue, uncomfortable as heck at first dialogue, with yourself and with the women in your life. Let them speak and be open to hearing what they have to say.

You may not like what they have to say, but this is an opportunity to learn and be better.


Challenge the handbook that you were handed.

Question your societal script.

Get into therapy and unpack the root of your conditioning.

I know the idea of sitting across from a professional while you spill your guts may seem scary and counterintuitive but it's an important step in becoming a healthier person.


Again,

Call the men in your circles out for the inappropriate shit they do or have done.

Let it be known that there is visibility and accountability for how they navigate this world. That there is no longer refuge for them in spaces that have historically served as echo chambers of misdemeanours.


Believe women. I cannot stress this enough!

Believe victims of abuse and harassment because nobody relives trauma like that for clout.

However, if this is an especially hard one for you to get around, go back to the part where I told you to challenge your conditioning and unpack why you think victims might be lying.


You will have your journey of what this process might be like, but start with the first step.

Start with acknowledging that you’ve been part of the problem.

Start by acknowledging that it starts with men and we have a role to play in this.

There are few things in life worth fighting for; the right for women to feel safe and for women to be respected is worth it.

A world where no woman ever again has to say 'me too' is worth it.

Do the work.

Educate your sons, mates, the men in your lives to be better.

Do the work and help build a better society than the one we currently have.

For my daughters.

For yours.

For all.




- Pran

 

* Facts and figures: Ending violence against women | What we do | UN Women



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