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Role Reversal: The Problem of the Increasing Marginalization of Men

Feb 24 2012
Men and women should find balance, not switch dominance.

A world away, a men's rights movement is afoot.

Welcome to the matriarchal society of Meghalaya, India, where, in a vast reversal of traditions the world over, property names and wealth are passed along from mother to daughter instead of father to son. Women have the luxuries, opportunities, and advantages typically enjoyed by men. Even the preference for baby boys is gone; as one Khasi man told the BBC, at the hospital, "If it's a girl, there will be great cheers from the family outside. If it's a boy, you will hear them mutter politely that 'whatever God gives us is quite all right.'"

And the Khasi men are experiencing the crippling prejudice, discrimination, and oppression that women throughout history have known all too well. Keith Pariat, a leader in Meghalaya's men's rights movement, told BBC reporter Timothy Allen that they "do not want to bring women down …. We just want to bring the men up to where the women are." According to Allen, Pariat was "adamant that matriliny is breeding generations of Khasi men who fall short of their inherent potential, citing alcoholism and drug abuse among its negative side-effects."

The story is depressing and frustrating.

I am troubled by the injustices and oppression that Meghalaya's men experience. I desperately hope they gain equal rights and that women's attitudes toward them shift from contempt to appreciation. If Khasi women speak up for these nearly voiceless men instead of taking advantage of their traditions, the men's movement stands a chance.

Yet I am realistic. I know that such cultural shifts occur at sloth-like speeds. No doubt during the in-between, the male suffragettes will face bitter opposition. No doubt Khasi women and even other Khasi men will heap moral scorn upon them, accusing them of upsetting the natural order, defying God's will, and of being ungrateful for their divinely appointed lot in life. I am sure many Khasi men will cope by forfeiting their hope altogether and resigning themselves to the apparent futility of fighting the deeply entrenched system. With broken spirits, perhaps they regard their gender as a crippling curse and feel consigned to second-class citizen status.

What a moral tragedy these Khasi men face. And, if we are to believe reports about current trends, American men are facing their own tragedy.

Of course, men in the West still enjoy vast preferences in most sectors of public life, including in professional hiring, government leadership, and, some charge, the church. They aren't experiencing anything close to what their Khasi brothers are. But if recent reports and cultural analysis are to be trusted, men here seem to be on the decline. They no longer dominate in business and higher education. Why this is so remains a matter of debate. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo suggests it's due to arousal addictions: excessive internet use, gaming, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for porn. Theologian Roger Olson suggests that the American public schooling system has shifted in a way that seriously disadvantages boys.

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