It is utterly upsetting if not earth-shattering to me that regardless of whether it is popular or high culture, the "unfairer sex" is not celebrated in my country – at all. In the literary front there is a conspicuous bias towards women – to begin with. Flurry of poems sprang up from all corners imaginable, noted for what women are precisely not. And for the portrayal of our kind, there is Devdas, the quintessential sissy who cries his eyes out for a girl (even worse, for remorse and redemption)! There is even no word in the Bengali language macho enough to describe a macho. Certainly, this matter of grave concern deserves diligent scrutiny and manly accusations. For a start – hold your breath – I blame the wily feminists for ALL of these; starting from promotion of metrosexuality to elimination of old-fashioned sword-flung masculinity in the mainstream media.
These days a predisposition seems to have rattled the society that manliness is ought to be gauged against the film stars – about which, we, the well-groomed, honest, hard-working, witty, tall and handsome blokes have complained for years. Even though this heinous practice causes nothing but menace to the society, we are men enough to take the challenge.
For the sake of partiality, however, I intend to present none other than Shakib khan, our alpha-male often misunderestimated as poor man's Shahrukh Khan. His thespian credentials are staggering to say the least. It is widely accepted that there is "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkThTbDlryQ">no number one, no number two, he is the only one" and on top of it he has this remarkable ability to do all sorts of things casually (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2uwWYivwms">His fight casually, he love casually, he killed casually). If this is not good enough for you, let me remind you that he is bestowed with gifts of undeniable physical prowess. He towers above his colleagues, heightwise and quite possibly otherwise – as far as insidious rumours go. And yet, a Freudian investigation reveals that insecure feminists jealous of his masculinity are trying to taint him with lipstick and blush, forcing him to wear dresses and thus, ravaging the macho-man (A photographic evidence is provided).
I am telling you, they are a special breed. They have been living all around us ever since the dawn of time just as "The Fallen" in the movie Transformer had been hiding in this planet forever – but we failed to spot them (they are the masters of disguise). Again, the evidence is provided. First, look at the portraits of Jemdanee or Khair un-Nissa (She was not Bengali though, a Hyderabadi courtesan renowned for her beauty), two of the earlier Indian women to be portrayed in European style with fidelity (Admittedly, the portrait of Khair un-Nissa was a disappointment to one contemporary, as it did not do justice to her beauty!). Who can resist their charms, seriously? So were Jemdanee's sprightliness and good humour that her companion William Hickey (the relationship started as concubinage but developed into somewhat deeper and meaningful one – according to Hickey) and his friends adored her wholeheartedly. Ben Mee, Hickey's best friend, was on the run from his debtors but cared enough to send gifts for Jemdanee from Paris and wrote, "I lately met with some ornaments, fresh from Paris, which from being so I think likely she will admire and cry "Wah! Wah!" at; they consist of bracelets, necklace and earrings. My best love to her and I beg her to wear them for my sake." (1)
And now look at the portrayal of our kind more or less from the same era. A casual glance may entice you to the fashionable chorus that women are subjugated, oppressed and blah-blah! But that is a trap you see, one needs to be careful observant! Can this whisker-boastful Babu represent the fabled Bengali race that had the knack of thinking everything a day earlier than its Indian counterparts, really (but not the "doing" – you see we were never fond of menial jobs)? Just put a bottle of beer in his one hand and a TV remote control in the other and bang! You have Homer Simpson. The cunning feminist, in this preposterous painting, not only sucked the Mojo out of this otherwise sexy Bengali man but also did not put any hair in his chest. Did you notice that the upper portion of the torso is intentionally rounded (I am not talking about the women, you incorrigible men!)?
But wait, things get even worse. The hapless man at his bare minimum dignity (i.e. left to wear nothing but underwear), is begging for mercy as well as engaged in appeasement; and look what the heartless woman is doing – juggling with his dhoti, an umbrella and a broom. Let me assure you that the latter two objects viciously pointed at the babu are not there for their intended purpose. In case of a mistaken assumption for this scene being mark of just candid exuberance, I intend to present my second exhibit. The well-meaning babu we see here is really not sure how to deal with the forebodings of subjugation while the triumphant sexual marauder is thumping her left foot on his face, as if it were a dead-big-ferocious animal.
The pattern is visible even today. Whenever we try to do something manly, they induce – I don't know how – well-planned and genuinely concerted effort to crush us. Remember, the so-called infamous incident of our Minister Abul Hossain? Leader of the Opposition assures her colleagues (in an attempt to bring the pages of fairytale into modern day reality) that whoever wins this race, will win the ministership. Was it the fault of Minister Abul that his colleagues were not men enough to rise up to the challenge? Surely, he ran and ran for his life ministry. I can even imagine cheer leaders chanting in a Forrest Gump-like setting, "Run Abul run". He won the race fair and square and asked the incumbent prime minister to keep her promise as any decent man would do. Needless to say – as the story unfolded – we witnessed some cruel man-hunting (not the type men fantasize), again by the ruthless feminists hidden at the core of our society.
Slavoj Žižek happens to be a curious blend of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Russell Peters, equivalent for the study of philosophy. To me, it is impossible not to get smitten by this intellectual bad boy; particularly what intrigues me most is his commentary on pop culture and cinema (The Pervert's Guide to Cinema is a must watch for cine-buffs). He typifies "certain kind" of low-budget highly watched films in the following way: A plumber goes to a house to fix a hole in the pipe and when he informs about his accomplishment the lady replies, "there is another hole, can you fix it too?" You see it is the perverts alone who would recognize that the protagonist in this simple scenario is a plumber, not a poet, not a film star and not even a rugby player. Why?
The answer is obvious. Women in the west have this incredible attraction for bulging muscle in uniform. Bangladeshi women are not so different in this regard – I am told. The difference, however is, they are not in the habit of disclosing their preferences due to the peer pressure (you know who they are). As a result, the private tales remain confined to certain circles. Then again, perverts ought to have good ears, too. In the name of "bhatghum" (equivalent of siesta, widely appreciated for its contribution to our well-developed potbelly), I swear, they make all sorts of sounds watching the bulging muscle in western outfit (to be precise, in the lack of it) – and worse – feminists assume the major role in orchestrating such reactions, as if we, the Bengali seducers are no match to western men. Excuse me! We too have bulges; it's just that we prefer to have it in our abdominal region.
Dear comrades! It's time we threw our fists in the air and vowed: we shall be avenged! We need not bother sporting our potbelly; neither should we pay heed to those who insult us by insisting on wearing men-bra. And to those who are laughing up their sleeves at our misery, let me remind you as my friend has put it aptly in his Facebook status, "the day women will walk in the road boldly exhibiting their bald head and potbelly, and still consider themselves to be sexy as we do – is the day they will earn the right to call themselves sexy".
Faham Abdus Salam is trained in Molecular Therapeutics.