Book review: Don’t slap your wife but don’t get slapped either (by Dr. Sunil Vaid) 13

Somewhere inside this odd and inconsistent book is a sensible little self-help book trying to get out.

In the preface to Don’t Slap Your Wife But Don’t Get Slapped Either, Dr. Sunil Vaid says that, although he agrees that is mostly women who are “suppressed, manipulated and tortured” by their husbands, this book gives voice to the minority of men who are exploited. The blurb, however, gives a different perspective, saying that the book demystifies the trials and tribulations that married couples face, and that it offers wisdom for men who are trying to be better husbands. In trying to achieve these two aims, the author ends up revealing his prejudices and ends up doing a great disservice to the field of self-help.

But let’s look at some positives first. Sunil Vaid’s writing style is simple and lucid. The book is also structured to keep the reader interested. Running through the book is the story of three women who meet regularly and exchange notes on their new marriages. There are also three men who eavesdrop on these conversations and then reflect on their own relationships. Finally, there is the author himself who summarises the issue on hand and provides advice. The text is broken up with jokes, anecdotes, and bite-sized pieces of information.

All of this, however, is overshadowed by the fact that the book is bizarrely inconsistent. Sensible advice and good data are mixed up with sexist opinions and irrational conclusions. On one page, the author gives considered, balanced advice about how to sustain a relationship. On the next page, he lays all the blame at the feet of the women and advises the men to be cautious of their wiles. Sometimes, both women’s and men’s nature are analysed and dissected in equal measure, and, at other times, women are written off as manipulative. A paragraph on mutual respect and love for the other person is followed by a paragraph describing how women never want to solve problems anyway. A section on love and sex advises Indian men to be more sensitive to their partner’s needs. But it also comes with the tall claim that the woman holds the upper hand during sex. Elsewhere in the same section, we are asked to take pity on unfaithful husbands who have been pardoned by their wives. Why? Well, firstly, the poor guy has already been manipulated by the other woman that he slept with. And, by pardoning the act, the wife is also manipulating him. Such is the logic employed at many places.

In an early part of the book, there is some historical perspective about the oppression of women. “The fact is that for centuries, most men have lived pretty self-centred lives, with little sensitivity towards their wives’ or families’ needs”, writes the author. He then proceeds to berate the modern male for still not changing their “cave-dweller” attitudes. But just a few pages later, the author betrays his own attitudes by launching into a rant about women’s liberation, blaming it for all manner of things from increased stress to failed marriages. There is even a full page devoted to showing, through a mix of bad science and sexism, that women are adversely affected by testosterone when they work in male-dominated fields.

The sexism is also evident in the stories of the three women. Strangely, the men in their lives, as well as the men who eavesdrop on them, are one-dimensional characters that the author is scarcely interested in. Surely a book that claims to be the voice of suppressed men would have a greater variety of men’s stories?  Anyway, in all the three stories, the acts of evil are perpetrated by the women. The worst that can be said about the men is that they are misinformed or clueless, although there is a small reference to one of the men being rough during sex. (This is quickly dispensed with so that we can focus on the evil acts of the women.) Parminder, the feminist, plots to dominate her husband and his family and is predictably shown, in the end, to have had an immoral lifestyle that leads to her own downfall (she is suitably contrite). There is a laughable sequence that involves a feminist club (“The Libber Cats”!) that meets to coach such women into dominating men. Savitri, the innocent girl, has no mind of her own and is so brainwashed by the feminists and by saas-bahu serials that she starts sleeping around. She first sleeps with her husband’s cousin and then with the landlord. She ends up being punished for this by being abandoned by all three (who all live happily ever after, one assumes). The third woman, Saloni is set up to be the sensible Indian woman, which comes as a bit of relief, if it weren’t for the small detail of another woman (ostensibly another Evil Feminist from The Libber Cats club) accusing her husband falsely of harassment.

One could excuse this away saying they are just stories. But the author then goes on to classify women into categories. Doormats, he says, are usually “semi-literate wives”, whereas Indirect-aggressive types are “products of joint families or girls with many sisters”. The book is rife with such sweeping generalisations.

By the end of the book, we are left with a very unclear picture of the nature of modern Indian relationships and how men (or indeed women) should navigate them. Those who read this book might come away with some good advice if they are able to look past the vitriol against women. But many others will simply imbibe the prejudices of the author. And that would be a pity. Because, as the author says, in one of his clearer moments, the foundation of any good relationship is mutual respect and love. Not prejudice and hatred.

[This is the unedited version of a book review I did for Deccan Chronicle/Asian Age]

13 thoughts on “Book review: Don’t slap your wife but don’t get slapped either (by Dr. Sunil Vaid)

  1. Reply Nupur Jul 23,2013 10:23 am

    I enjoyed this book review. This book does sound a bit confusing. However, you have given a clear picture of what to expect, which is not an easy task.

  2. Reply Dr. Sunil Vaid Jul 24,2013 11:01 am

    Dear Suchi,
    Thanks for reviewing the book in depth. Such a balanced review helps me to understand how well I have been able to get my thoughts across to my readers. Yes, the male female relationship is really so complex and diverse that there is bound to be some inconsistency. No wonder, when author, Cindy Cashman wrote, “Everything Men Know About Women”, all she could fill it with was 200 pages of pure BLANK pages.
    The only point I would like to reiterate is that my views on male – female parity are not sexist because I firmly believe that they both are definitely of equal importance but they have been designed by the Almighty for different tasks. The only way, we can usher in true equality is by respecting the female designated tasks, which actually are much more crucial to a family’s wellbeing.
    Of course this book is addressed mainly to men (husbands) and to show them how the female mind works, I have chosen slightly specific female personalities, which makes the book seem biased in favour of men. But then this book is 1st part and the 2nd part ‘Slap your husband’ will be addressed mainly to the females. It will answer most of your grievances. But look at the delectable irony of this book addressed to males – the 1st person to read this book, the 1st person to evaluate it, the 1st person to appreciate it and select it for publication, the 1st person to edit it and now the 1st person to review it have all been females. No wonder women are getting the upper hand.
    Dr. Vaid
    P.S. I have no sympathy for anyone indulging in adultery (whether male or female). By showing their pitiable condition I wanted others to take a lesson and beware.

    • Reply grayrain Jul 26,2013 2:32 pm

      Please stop ruining the image of Indian men by attempting to speak for them. I live in the States, and the image of India as a rape-crazy patriarchy are pretty steadfast, and your opinions match that image entirely.

      Here is your main problem – stop assigning duties to each gender. Stop treating them as cattle. Stop trying to ‘explain how the female mind works’. You just want to stereotype the other gender so that your own crude beliefs can find justice, by the act of just simplifying women down to a common set of actions and thoughts. You *want* to keep them simple so that they’re easier to control.

      Here is the reality – human beings are different. As we continue to evolve , individuality is replacing both primitive terms of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’. India, however, seems to hate individuality, most likely because that means people would then revolt against the idiotic religions and beliefs that continue keep them as a 3rd world country, while a handful at the top dominate all the country’s resources.

      Why are women reviewing your book first? Because any man who reviews it and give it a positive review would be instantly cast as a misogynist such as yourself.

      Here is the funniest part of your book – you really hate women who sleep around, don’t you? It’s the basic insecurity of Indian men, and most men, their gene’s desire to ensure paternity. That’s all it is. I say, let people do as they like, and stop controlling them.

    • Reply Suchi Govindarajan Aug 13,2013 6:21 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Dr. Vaid. I appreciate it. I’m afraid the view that there are female tasks and there are male tasks is quite outdated, and that is exactly what I mean by sexist. You may want to look up the difference between sex and gender, and also how so many of these tasks are social constructs. In fact, it will be very good for the world if men and women took up tasks according to their personalities and inclination. We definitely need more women in corporate leadership and in government. We also need more men to spend time raising their children. Overall, if we were to approach everyone as a human being with their own unique personality rather than stereotyping them, it can only be good for the world.

  3. Reply FemNortius Jul 25,2013 7:16 am

    I firmly believe that they both are definitely of equal importance but they have been designed by the Almighty for different tasks.

    See, you have lost your objectivity right at that point. Keeping aside what your beliefs might be, a book which originated and is tainted by your belief cannot be taken seriously. This makes your methodology highly questionable to say the least.

    No wonder women are getting the upper hand.

    Dude, what? If you think women have the upper hand here, just because she happened to review your book full of sexist and misinformed view on women and bad science, then you have still a lot of research to do before you even attempt to publish a god damn book on female minds.

  4. Reply Roshni Aug 13,2013 6:06 pm

    This is a wonderful, balanced review! Thanks so much, Suchi!
    By the way, Dr Vaid’s comment that “The only way, we can usher in true equality is by respecting the female designated tasks, which actually are much more crucial to a family’s well-being” confirms his sexist and stereotypical view of women!!

  5. Reply Saheer Shaik Sep 1,2013 3:49 pm

    I have not read too far into the book yet; therefore, I keep myself away from commenting on the inconsistencies in the author’s thought. However, I disagree with Suchi that the author has a totally outdated thought. When the author points out that there are male designated tasks and female designated tasks, I feel he is only trying to make a point that men and women are not exactly the same. They are the same on the human grounds. But, their make itself is very different, which gives raise to two different set of personalities. There is no 1:1 match between these two. If the difference is not evident, try comparing them each calendar day of a month and you will start noticing the difference around the 27th day! The real problem arises only when we try matching them in every aspect. The western world has promoted this “very-equal” thought so much that now it is baring the consequences of it with the highest rates of divorce.

  6. Reply Ekansh Mar 24,2015 6:32 pm

    I didn’t like this book.
    But some gud advice was their in this book. But overall its not worth buying.

Leave a Reply