By Jambavan Das
As of late, there has been plenty of discussion within conservative and traditionalist religious circles in regards to the chastity of women. The logic behind this is quite simple—women should be protected. Of course, it is not hard to see why women should be given careful attention. Like anything you treasure, women should be cared for in such a way that they cannot be exploited and taken advantage of by unscrupulous people. Thus, the preponderance which religionists have engaged in for the benefit of virtuous women—who are in themselves an asset more valuable than all the gold that lies under the surface of Mother Earth—is quite reasonable.
There is a serious problem, however, in this equation: who is supposed to be protecting the women? First of all, when we say “protect women”, it implies that the other sex—men—are the ones protecting women. Yet we can practically see that many men are failing miserably in this regard and have been doing so for some time. This of course, is the very reason which initially set the women’s liberation movement into motion in the early 20th century. It was only natural that if the men were not going to look after them, the women would have to make every effort to look out for their own well-being and especially for the well-being of their children. And it was in this spirit that immediately after securing the right to vote, women began mobilizing themselves politically to enact legislation to achieve this aim, such as making the consumption of alcohol illegal in the
Although women could claim victories such as the prohibition of alcohol (even though it would eventually be overturned) their liberation movement was largely unsuccessful in accomplishing their aims. Yes, the women’s liberation movement helped women to enter the workforce in greater numbers and brought them more influence within many spheres of life, such as politics, sports, education, etc. Still, it did not help to bring about a positive change in men’s behavior. If anything, it could actually be argued that it made men’s behavior worse. As the social status of women throughout the world increased, so too did the divorce rate, drug abuse, the birth rates of illegitimate children, and government aid for single mothers. As women ascended in power, many men absconded from their responsibilities in even greater numbers than ever before, bringing about a host of social and economic ills which society had never before seen to such an extent.
Every one of us can acknowledge that these are very harmful and realistic threats to social stability. But we must now stop placing all the blame on the women of the world for these problems. Instead, we must ensure that not only are our young girls being trained to one day be dutiful mothers and wives, but that also our boys are being trained to be responsible and virtuous men. You can argue that women should be married young, but to whom? Some kid who values neither hard-work nor education, yet wastes all of his precious time in front of video games with only an occasional break to eat, smoke marijuana, and sleep? If we do not have higher expectations for men, we cannot lament that women are not being protected.
Although some may find themselves perplexed as to how this situation is to be ameliorated, it is really not that difficult of a situation to correct. For one, parents could begin by removing television and explicit and derogatory music from their homes. Once terrible influences such as these are out of the lives of our children, positive individuals such as parents, educators, and spiritual mentors can then play a greater part in their lives. Males are by nature adventurous and want to be challenged. We should engage that potential for not only their benefit but for the whole of society. Young men have the energy and time to engage in a host of activities that promote character development such as preaching, pilgrimage, humanitarian efforts, etc. Not only will such engagements keep them “out of trouble”, they will also help them to grow into their roles as leaders and protectors, capable of being the strong and compassionate fathers and husbands of the future, which the world needs now more than ever.
The situation we now find ourselves in as a society is neither helpless nor irreversible. Yet we aren’t going to be able to fix the problem by simply chanting “protect women, protect women” over and over. We need to train those young men who are supposed to eventually take up the task of protecting. It is time that we look at ourselves and see what we can do as parents, friends, and mentors to guide our young men in the right direction so that they can in turn become assets to our society rather than liabilities. After all, they are looking to us as role-models and it is we who must take the first step if we are to change the course of history.
Jambavan Das is a Sanskrit translator and missionary with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness for more than 15 years. He is also a professional financial advisor, and he is presently working on a translation of the Vishnu Purana. The URL for this article is: http://samprajna.org/node/99