We celebrated “Men’s Day” at Sari Bari this week. Something we started last year, which was born out of the imagination and desire to celebrate the very good men who work with us (thanks Beth and Melissa for leading the way). They are few but heroic in their own ways, a son of woman formerly in the trade who is passionate not only about his mom’s freedom but about all the women at Sari Bari finding their way to freedom. Sweet Upendra, a man among men, barely grazing 5 feet and yet containing one of the biggest hearts on earth, a doing, defender of us all. And there are the men who cut the bags and do the accounts reminding us that there are good men out there and they show us what exactly it means to know what it feels like to be respected, honored and cherished. We are their sisters, mothers, aunts, bosses and friends.
We said this week when you walk into to Sari Bari you walk into a space where women are central. Everyday inside these walls, it is about the women, their journey’s, their stories and their healing and their empowerment to be able to live like they are within the safe walls of Sari Bari even when venture outside the wall. Men’s Day is just one day we remember that the men in our lives are an important part of the story, for both BETTER and worse. Because the truth is when you walk outside the walls of Sari Bari it is always “Men’s Day”. A place where men can walk the streets unconcerned for their safety, their dignity and a place where their rights need little defending—that’s what it’s like for men everyday (at least that is what I presume and have observed as a woman in India and elsewhere). So we want to honor the ones who truly seem to have a desire to honor women and particularly the ones who want to honor women who making the painful and difficult journey that the women at Sari Bari are making toward new life.
I know “good” men, a lot of them. It all started with my Dad. I have a great great Dad. A kind, compassionate, justice oriented, hardworking, feminist, creative and fabulous dad. Such a Dad that made me feel that I never needed to defend my rights as a woman, because that is how much respect I was given. I was told and shown from early on that I could do and be anything, just do my best, male or female, that was all that mattered. He told me and still tells me that I am smart, beautiful and loved, that I can do anything. I don’t always believe him, but that is mainly about me and at 40 I am surely farther along in believing my Dad than I ever have been. My dad, Tudor D. Lance is an excellent man.
I also have an excellent brother and an amazing brother-in-law who loves my sister very well. And there are so many, many male friends and mentors who honor and care for the women in their lives as equals, partners and friends without prejudice. These men are gifts, undoubtedly imperfect, as we all are, and certainly something to write home about.
I have experienced first hand both in India and elsewhere some men who are challenged by my confidence, who think my body is for gratification and my mind a waste of good wife material. I am sorry for these guys. They are missing out on some tremendous gifts that can be offered by the other half of humanity. Because the women I know would do anything for their kids, even sell their bodies, they are smart, funny and sassy. They are heroic beings of strength and vision. They are so so so much much more than objects. The men who cannot see the whole woman, are missing out on being better men, they missing out on their wives wisdom and strength, they are missing out on the beauty that women uniquely hold and they are missing out on gifts that are only offered in places of trust and mutual respect.
So today, I am thankful for the “good men”, the ones who change the world when they show respect, share power, give dignity and remember that they are always only half the solution, half of the story, half of the image of creator God.
For my Dad on Father’s Day and for Upendra, Sanjoy, Shibu, John D., Rajesh, Kyle, Brent S., John S., Kerry, Dan, the husbands and partners of the women at Sari Bari, for my brother Justin and my brother in law Landon, the good men of WMF, the lawyers, doctors, rickshaw drivers, bus ticket takers and compassionate bystanding men who make being a woman at little bit easier!