A helpline for men in a utopian world
One of the largest helplines for men, with a network of 40 NGOs, even brands itself as “saving” the Indian family system
KOCHI: Línea Calma (“The Calm Line”) is a helpline for men in Bogotá, Colombia. It was launched in December 2020 to assist men dealing with anger, jealousy, the desire to control, anxiousness and other emotions, some of which potentially lead to violence against women.
As far as I know, nothing like it exists here in India yet. But there are helplines for men to report abuse, including physical or sexual violence from women. In their approach, these helplines are the opposite of Línea Calma. They villainise women. There is nothing that suggests that they work toward dismantling toxic patriarchy. One of the largest, with a network of 40 NGOs, even brands itself as “saving” the Indian family system.
What would a helpline for men that understands that the root of all gender-based violence in this country is the patriarchal system as enforced primarily by the institution of family be like? To have such a premise would mean that even a man who has experienced abuse from his wife or wife’s family should be able to call this helpline and be understood and assisted. The onus will not be on the person seeking help – the one on the inside of a personal nightmare – to shoulder systemic weights, but the onus is on the staff to avoid a misogynistic framing.
Most feminists would agree with the above; but very few “men’s rights activists”, as they call themselves, would consider an inclusive view that takes into account how patriarchy is bad for everyone or how patriarchal agency is societally and culturally inbuilt into people of all genders in places like India. Just like how Línea Calma centres its approach on machismo, a culturally sanctioned belief in male dominance, other helplines must find their contextual centres.
But in a country as diverse and unequal as India, a single contextual centre may not apply. Beyond requiring a multiplicity of languages, sensitivities to other factors including caste, class, religion, community-specific gender dynamics and education will also be essential.