Vel Venkatasubramaniam – “Feminism means that no one is judged for things they cannot change”

How do you self define?

I define as male.

What does feminism mean to you?

Feminism means that no one is judged for things they cannot change.

What do the words ‘woman’ and ‘man’ mean to you?

A way of identifying yourself.

When did you become aware of your gender?

I think I’ve always been aware of my gender from a very young age. There’s some societal expectations for people of my gender. For example, boys aren’t allowed to cry, things like that.

Do you ever feel unsafe due to your gender?

Sometimes, but not nearly as much as others do. There’s the fear of being accused of things such as sexual assault, because the favour tends to fall on whoever’s identifying as a woman, no matter what the evidence shows. So there’s always the fear of that as a man, even though there’s only a very small chance of that happening.

Do you feel treated differently by men and women?

Oh for sure. It depends a lot on how familiar you are with them, but I think it’s a lot more likely, at least in my friendship circle, that a man will come up to you and hug you, and that would be considered more normal than a woman doing it. Unless they know you very well, then it sort of reverses. With the same sex it’s like the handshake hug, but when you get closer to them it’s a proper hug, but that’s more likely to be with the opposite gender.

What do you think are some of the positive ways that the world views women?

I think that there’s the cultural view that women are more caring, and it’s weird because that is a positive ways that the world views women, but it also restricts your way of thinking about women, so I’m not sure I’d say that it’s completely positive. It can be really demeaning to people when the stereotype suggests things as being normal even when they’re not, and it’s perfectly okay not to fit into that stereotype. I’d say there aren’t really many positive ways, maybe there are but I just can’t think of any.

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Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

Did you encounter any obstacles on your path to manhood?

I think I had a fairly lucky upbringing, as far as they go. I didn’t have any major obstacles.

What do you think about casual sex? 

It’s perfectly alright as long as people are up for it.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice and why?

I’m pro-choice because it just doesn’t seem right to me that the act of bringing up a child is only something you should do if you’re 100% sure about it. If someone wants to have an abortion because they’re not ready, I’d say that’s many, many, many times better than bringing a child into the world and letting them have an upbringing that’s not good for them; they get neglected or their parents just weren’t ready so they’re not mature enough to have a child. Not everyone wants to have a child and in terms of contraception, many of them are still not 100% effective. So yeah I’m definitely pro-choice.

What are your feelings about contraception?

I think it’s good that we’ve got such a variety of it now, because some people aren’t comfortable with some types, so now there’s alternatives. In terms of stigma, I haven’t noticed it as much in the UK but I’ve seen it in other countries quite a lot. I think a lot of work needs to be done to reduce that stigma because it’s a large reason why we have over-population and children in poverty.

What are your thoughts on marriage and monogamy?

As for monogamy, I take a polyamorous relationship and cheating as very different things. I think healthy polyamorous relationships where everyone involved is consenting, and knows about everyone else involved, then that’s perfectly fine. But I’m very against cheating, and any other form of betrayal in that sense. As for marriage, I think if both people think they want to get married then that’s great; but I also think there’s a lot of pressure in certain societies to get married, even if that’s not what those people both want. I think a lot of the pressure can come from parents.

What are your thoughts on parenthood?

I think I’d quite like to be a father someday, but there are definitely very different expectations for mothers and fathers. Like just look at the different ways the world views single mums and single dads. I’ve seen so many people looking down on single dads, because they don’t see it to be a very masculine role I suppose, and I think that’s terrible.

Do you think your sex education was sufficient?

My sex education was fairly basic but it happened over the course of a few years and they added things as it went along so I’d say it was pretty good. Gender education was interesting because when we first started sex education, when I was in Year 6, so about seven years ago, that wasn’t really on my mind. It was really standard back then, male and female. But they continued that education all the way up until I left school, so about three years ago, and by that point they’d changed the programme to fit multiple genders roles and multiple self-identifications. They they didn’t include everything but they did include some. The problem is is that it’s largely down to the teachers. For example, my partner, she’s Irish and her school was quite religious. So the religious teachers had a completely different idea to the non-religious teachers and they would teach abstinence and things like that. There should definitely be a standardised system for it, because the way it is right now, it’s all very up for interpretation.

Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?

Yeah.

Has your sexuality ever been used against you?

Not really. I’ve never really been too open about it, but the people I have talked to about it haven’t used it against me.

Is there anyone you would undermine your principles for?

Yes. That depends on the context really, but if I had to undermine my principles in order to help somebody who really needed it, then I would in a heartbeat.

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Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind and stand up for yourself?

Either when I’m with friends who I’ve known for a long time, or who I’m comfortable with at least, or with people I don’t know at all. Either one of those extremes.

Do you feel satisfied with how women are depicted in film, TV, and advertising?

As a whole, no. I think there are some examples of improvements, but as a whole it’s still terrible. There’s an increase in awareness of the depiction of women and men in these different forms of media, but it’s still considered more effective, from a business standpoint at least, to use the same old techniques that they’ve been using for years and years. So until we either use our buying power to change that, or they find another way that still sells, then none of the demeaning stuff will change. 

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

I haven’t paid much attention to products marketed to women, probably for good reason. From what I have seen, they all tend to follow the same structure. They seem to show a woman staring at the camera with make-up, overdone make-up and photo-shopped to look better than a ‘normal’ person looks. Even if it’s a supermodel, she still gets photo-shopped a lot. 

What are your biggest fears?

The unknown and being forgotten.

What are your greatest accomplishments?

It’s difficult to say, I don’t know if I have that many accomplishments. Potentially, I might have helped save someone, but it will take a long time before I find that out.

What image do you think you project on a day to day basis?

I think I project someone who’s a bit of a clown. Not like the killer, or scary kinds, but someone who makes jokes a lot.

What image would you like to project in an ideal world absolving social expectations?

Probably, in an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to project one at all.

What are your most positive relationships?

My closest friends and my partner.

What do you deeply love about yourself?

I think I’m empathetic, I have good grades, I try to help others, and I have a sense of humour, but I don’t really love any of those things. They’re just normal. I love them in other people, but not myself. 

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Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

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