By - Dr. Khalid Sohail
Thank you very much for inviting me to share my ideas about
the dynamic and mysterious relationships between men and
women. I am quite aware that you are trying to raise social
consciousness in men especially regarding violence towards
my opinion the Women’s Liberation Movement has been one of
the major social movements of the 20th century.
In the West activists like Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan,
Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir and in the East
writers like Ismat Chughtai, Kishwar Naheed, Fehmida Riaz,
Farough Farahzad and many others paved the way for women to
improve their self confidence and fight for their rights.
Because of their efforts there are more and more women in
the world today who want the same rights and privileges as
men in their communities and cultures and are proud to be
Since women’s personal, social and political lives are
intimately connected with those of men, men’s liberation is
crucial to complete this process successfully. In my opinion
men are lagging behind in this evolution. The time has come
for men all over the world to do some introspection
regarding their attitude towards women. They have to realize
that they need to resolve their anger and resentment towards
women and develop a respectful relationship with them as
neighbors, colleagues, friends and lovers, if humanity is to
grow to the next stage of evolution.
a psychotherapist I have had an opportunity to work with
many men in helping them change their attitude towards women
and develop a healthy, happy and respectful relationship
with the women in their lives. Those experiences were very
rewarding and the women in their lives welcomed the changes.
Why do men
resist the process of liberation?
Why are they
angry with women?
Why do they
Why do they
not respect women?
Why do they
not treat them as equal to themselves?
very significant and complex questions and there are no easy
answers as there are many psychological, social, religious
and political factors involved in this process.
Most of the men I met in my personal and professional lives
have been the product of patriarchal societies where for
generations they experienced social and cultural
conditioning that women are not their equals, and these men
also had poor role models. In their families and communities
women were treated as second-class citizens and considered
inferior to men. When women demanded equal rights they were
subtly suppressed or violently oppressed. It is unfortunate
that many holy books also told them that men were superior
to women and they accepted male privilege as their
After a lot of introspection as a psychotherapist and a
secular humanist I have come to the conclusion that the
process of liberation in men is quite different than the
liberation of women. One fundamental difference is that when
women become aware of their role as second-class citizens
they want to change themselves and their environments.
Gradually they realize that by redefining themselves at
personal, social and political levels they will gain a lot
of power. So many women have become actively involved in
that process and have succeeded in achieving some of the
goals for themselves and other women.
other hand many men believe deep down in their hearts that
if they redefined themselves, they would lose the control
and power that their forefathers have enjoyed for centuries.
That is one major reason they are resistant to change. There
are only a few men I have met over the decades that are
genuinely liberated. They are humanists and are sensitive to
the inequalities of life. They are against all kinds of
prejudices and injustices. They realize that for centuries
what they considered their rights were actually
privileges…even unfair and unjust privileges. They know that
our society has been so male dominated that most men are not
even aware of it. Such a bias exists in most aspects of our
circles people call their God “Father”
women take their husband’s name or retain their father’s
name. Children do not take their mother’s name. This
tradition makes no practical sense since nobody can be one
hundred percent sure who is their father but everybody is
sure of their mother
…in common English
language usage, the male pronoun is used for women as well
as for men.
Genuinely liberated men believe that
relationships at a personal, social and political level need
to be reviewed and changes made at every level so that men
and women enjoy equal rights and opportunities. They know
that gender liberation is just one aspect of human
liberation. I have seen the process of liberation in men
beginning in two different contexts:
positive response to the liberation of women. When women in
their lives became independent, they welcomed that change
and reviewed their philosophy and lifestyle. It is ironic
that those men who try to genuinely liberate themselves and
become kind, caring and compassionate towards their wives
and sweethearts are sometimes teased and tormented by their
macho male friends, colleagues and relatives and are called,
‘sissy’. ‘wimp’ and ‘zan mureed’ [slave of the woman].
Rather than being appreciated they are ridiculed. Such
social pressure can become a hurdle in men’s liberation.
B,…as a part
of personal liberation. Some men during their emotional
growth realize that many attitudes they have grown up with
were not very healthy and they must cast off these biases to
gain a more mature outlook on life. These could include
attitudes towards people from other cultures, religions and
races. In this journey they also become sensitive to women’s
struggles and sufferings. They liberate themselves by
changing their attitudes towards themselves and others,
To such men the experience of liberation in
their relationships with women is a part of a larger
experience of human liberation. Arthur Schlesinger in his
article, The Crisis of American Masculinity wrote,
“…if this is true, then the key to the recovery of
masculinity does not lie in any wistful hope of humiliating
the aggressive female and restoring the old masculine
supremacy. Masculine supremacy like white supremacy was the
neurosis of an immature society. It is good for men as well
as women that women have been set free. In any case, the
process is irreversible; that particular genie can never be
put back into the bottle… The key to the recovery of
masculinity lies rather in the problem of identity. When a
person begins to find out who he is, he is likely to find
out rather soon what sex he is.”
These men usually realize that this process
of liberation is quite complex. It has intellectual,
philosophical, emotional, social, religious, political, and
cultural and many other dimensions and sometimes they are
successful in one area more than others.
Changing oneself is more difficult than one realizes. Some
men are successful on their own after a lot of
soul-searching while others need professional help from a
psychotherapist. I am fortunate to have been part of that
journey with many of my male patients. I saw the
transformation of abusive and angry men transforming into
kind and loving men. It was a rewarding experience for both.
I learnt as much from them as they learnt from me. I was
glad that when I asked them, “How can you hurt someone you
love?” they responded positively and did some introspection
and developed a healthy attitude and lifestyle.
such story is of Ben and Wanda (names changed to respect
their privacy). When I asked them to share their
transformation while receiving psychotherapy Ben wrote,
“Growing up I didn't have much of a role model as far as
abused my mother both mentally & physically. It bothered me
alot as a kid & I swore I would never do that to my wife.
When I met
my wife I had no worries that I would ever be like that to
her, but as time passed, progressively I began to become
off with small things like saying she did something stupid.
I got angry, I found it easier & easier to go further, to a
point when I was calling her names. She had told me, many
times how she felt when I called her names, but having grown
up with it, I didn't think I was being abusive.
& I had many fights, & many times she cried, to a point
where it didn't register with me that she was even upset.
spoken of counseling many times over the 9 years we've been
married,& she had threatened to leave many times over those
9 years. I guess I didn't think it hurt her as much as I
did, because I never believed she would go.
we had a big fight & she told me exactly how she felt.
didn't pay attention until she told me what she'd lose if
out the things she'd lose were:
every day after I left for work
-waiting for me to come home to yell at her
-wondering what name she'd be called that day, and so on.
at this time where, I realized what I was about to lose.
lucky that when I decided to come to counseling, I already
made the decision to change.
the biggest step for me & my wife .
Dr.Sohail has helped us a lot, but if I didn't make the
decision to change, I don't know how much he could have
His wife Wanda shared how Ben had changed
with his soul-searching and therapy.,
been married now for just over nine years. I lived most of
those years trying to make sure everything would go right. I
was always afraid of my husband getting mad. I never had a
fear of him physically hurting me. He was just emotionally
abusive. Back then, the smallest thing (like not being able
to find his keys) could set him off. I remember going over
in my mind at night almost an item check list, thinking of
where his wallet, keys, cell phone, & anything else he may
need in the morning, so that I could tell him where they
were so he wouldn’t get upset. I took on the responsibility
for everything. I didn't want to upset him. I felt very
alone as the only time I saw him smile or be happy was when
he was with his friends. I wanted to make him happy but felt
like I never measured up. Then one day we had a huge fight
and I felt so angry I was screaming. I told him I could not
tolerate his abusive behaviour anymore and I was going to
leave. After that day life changed. We also started
receiving therapy from Dr Sohail. Gradually he became a
changed man. My husband who I would be afraid to ask to stop
for fast food, was going to pick it up with me, even taking
me to different restaurants without me even asking. We spend
more time together now, we talk all the time, & even better,
we laugh together ! I now look forward to him coming home.
He hugs me when he walks through the door & tells me he
loves me. Now I can feel those words. He worries about me in
times that he would have never before. Best of all, he
respects me now.
He doesn't call me names anymore.. We have been getting
along great for the last three months & I know that we will
continue down this road we have chosen for our relationship.
I am now proud to say I am his wife.”
I also met some men who were
fascinated with the idea of liberation but once they found
out the emotional price they had to pay for that change,
they backed away. Others who had a keen interest and were
genuinely motivated went through the process, step by step,
and finally achieved a richer quality of life and more
rewarding intimate relationships.
One of my
writer friends Saeed Anjum used to say to traditional men, “if
you want your son to become a prince, you need to treat his
mother like a queen. If you treat her like a slave your son
will never become a prince.”
I believe we are reaching that cultural stage
in human evolution where women are discovering their
masculine side and men are getting in touch with their
feminine side. More and more men and women are achieving a
balance of power in their relationships. I am looking
forward to the day when men and women would be able to
become friends as well as lovers and bring out the best in
each other. I strongly believe that growing together is
better than growing alone.
my personal life I feel fortunate to have a loving
relationship with my sister, aunts, nieces and female
friends. My sweetheart has been my wonderful friend for the
last thirty years. All these women helped me respect women
and become a better human being. Thank you
Role in Breaking the Silence on Domestic Violence
a seminar in Toronto Canada Jan 30th, 2008