“A man would never set out to write a book on the peculiar situation of the human male. But if I wish to define myself, I must first of all say: ‘I am a woman’; on this truth must be based all further discussion. A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex; it goes without saying that he is a man”
-Simone de Beauvoir
Would we discover a new hidden world if we were to engage with Beauvoir’s statement and change the starting point of enquiries that we undertake as film makers? Four men and one woman from Nepal, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka attempt precisely this by asking questions that reveal the ‘peculiar’ situation of men in four South Asian countries. Let’s Talk Men 2.0 a package of four films converses with a cross-section of men (and women) across four countries and what unfolds are stories of love, sex, war, violence, rape, money, relationship, power, body and politics but their point of engagement is men and what price they pay to become ‘men’.
The project has been designed, coordinated and co-produced by Aakar. The project received support from Partners for Prevention; IPPF; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway; the Royal Norwegian Embassy (Pakistan); UNWOMEN; Trocaire and CARE International (Sri Lanka).
The emergence of a global women’s movement in the last thirty years has been marked by an immense production of film and other cultural representations of women in the domain of gender. While this project has been successful in revealing ways in which women are gendered, it has also inadvertently contributed to gender becoming synonymous with women. Men have escaped a similar enquiry and as a result masculinities remain an invisible part of our social life. We know that it exists and we experience it through the presence of a violent, aggressive masculinity but we know very little of the nuts and bolts of its construction, maintenance and perpetuation. Why men invariably find themselves at the centre of conflict and violence needs to be examined and understood through the lens of gender? What drives men to take risks with their health and their bodies? How are men coping with changing gender roles and employment patterns? What does love mean to men? What are the everyday rituals of being men?
We keep seeing and producing images and films on themes and stories that bring us close to the ordinary, the everyday and the extra ordinary that constitute lives of men but they almost always are blind to gender. If we were to believe these cultural productions it would seem that men lead a life beyond gender while women remain trapped within gender. We see men in these images but yet we don’t see ‘men’. Let’s Talk Men 2.0 attempts to break this invisibility by posing a question – is it possible to unearth new stories of men by asking a different set of questions? What lens should we use while making films on men’s lives? The aim of the project was to reveal stories of masculinities from across South Asia with the intention of creating a body of representations that can together shed more light on the making of ‘men’ and also provide an opportunity for a public debate on the theme.