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The man in manifesto

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A social media project encourages men to declare their to-do list in order to reduce sexism.

It wasn't the unapologetic, the overt, the ubiquitous or the blatant sexism that got to him. It was the little everyday instincts that even the men who thought themselves to be unbiased and sensitive to gender issues gratified, maybe even as a bow to feminism, that seeded MANifesto. Peter Griffin, writer, blogger and journalist, started a project on social media to get men to declare their understanding of a gender-neutral world and the steps that they will take to make it so.

And for that Griffin first wrote his MANifesto in which some of the promises include, "I will not promise not to swear but I will eliminate from my vocabulary words that use gender as an excuse" and "I will not vote for or support politicians who make sexist statements or display sexism in their conduct" among 14 other such declarations. The public proclamations are in a placard form which is underlined with the sentence, "I will do these things because I am a man, secure in my masculinity, and because I know that I only become less of a man when I forget them".

The project evolved from a couple of posts on his blog, zigzackly, that were reactions to the tragedy of the December 16 gang rape in Delhi, the government's response to the demonstrations, and the young woman's death from her injuries. "Those posts helped me examine my own biases, and put my thoughts into words at a time when people were horrified enough to have their complacency shaken, when they were more open to self-examination. It was also informed by the many discussions, online and off, around the way that women and girls are treated in India. "

Griffin uses himself as an example to illustrate how each one of us, male or female, urban or rural, aware or ignorant, contribute to the culture of patriarchy in our own little ways. "Two of mine: I'm prone to use bad language, and the MC/BC variety of gaalis falls from my lips without thinking. I'm trying hard to eliminate them. I was brought up to open doors for and offer seats to women. Instead of stopping those displays of 'chivalry' (which, when practised only to women, is patronising ), my attempt to change is to extend it: hold doors open for anyone, male or female, offer my seat to anyone who needs one more than I do. " Though these pledges are essentially meant for men, women are also encouraged to use the template. Most of the online reactions, however, are from women.

Pledges, petitions, placards, social media declarations have been commonplace as outlets for objections on social issues (Got-StaredAt, HollaBack!), especially banners, badges or posters that are easily shared over social media. Older entries on Griffin's blog, such as one-liners that make use of the phrase "... you're part of the problem", are similar efforts. But aren't such projects like a flash in the pan that exploit raging sentiments at the time and fizzle out later or run the risk of preaching to a crowd of converts? Griffin agrees and disagrees. He says, "I don't think that a project like this will, for instance, end genderbased discrimination right away. But it's a start. It's one start, one effort, and if it provokes even a few conversations, a few changed mindsets, I would be very pleased. "

He says that a public acknowledgement of what we see as wrong, and what we could do to put it right, would make us think about our actions and attitudes, about our casual sexism.

While this goes on, as a next step, Griffin wants to ask those who like the idea to point a camera at themselves and record a small personal manifesto and upload that;that he could later stitch into a short film.

"One friend wanted to use it in an ad, but I didn't want it to be tied to a particular brand. How it evolves, if it does, depends on how worthy the idea is, and whether it gets to be seen and heard beyond my circles. In fact, I'm happy to have people take it and run with it and expand it in ways they consider fruitful without bothering to ask me. "

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