ByÂ Kanika Katyal:
“Mard ko dard nahin hota.”
“Mard ho to saamne aao, warna choodiyaan pehen lo.”
“Ladki ki tarah mat ro. Mard bano.”
All of these are some of the most common stereotypes that men are faced with.
The fundamental point consolidated through all three stereotypes is that patriarchy is a double edged sword. While men enjoy a privileged position, the flip side is that they are also subjected to a lot of pressure .The victimiser and victimised are thus, not so distinct.
The finale episode of Satyamev Jayate, titled ‘When Masculinity harms men’ significantly represented how the fixed notion of masculinity structured under patriarchy oppresses men.
1. The episode begins with the narration of two brutal instances, where masculinity equated with aggression took two lives.
One minor tiff on the road turns into a brawl and claims Akash’s life. AÂ monstrous levels of physical, psychological, sexual and emotional trauma engulfed Amit.
Is a small scratch on a bike weighty enough to bruise male-ego? These gruesome instances of savagery and cruelty make us wonder where all this aggression is coming from.
It springs from an unhinged, preposterous and sadistic exigency to establish masculinity. The problem lies in the constant need to assert an assumed sense of superiority . There seems to be a race for social manhood. A competition based upon hostility to determine who the ‘more manly’ of the lot is. You need to trample the other down before he gets a chance to defeat you. Thus, the number of people you terrorize is directly proportional to your degree of manhood.
But these deeply entrenched notions of masculinity are so brutal that they end up devouring men, pushing them to deadly extremes and even claiming their lives.
2. Five men, from five different parts of India, come together to narrate instances of oppression against men in patriarchy .
– Vipin Bharti: “Why are you crying? Are you not a man?”
What is this regime of control that terrorizes men? By compelling them to be brave and fearless all the time, it paradoxically instils the fear in them, the fear of failing to match the gendered expectations.
– Lenin: “Maar khaa ke aaye ho? Jao maar ke aao.”
He highlights the picture of a society where the assertion of masculinity in the public sphere is held in utmost respect, where a gun is the epitome of masculinity and bravery and killing for no reason symbolise valour.
Anyone who does not bear these tokens of masculinity, which are in fact seeds of violence, conflict and war, is a “moga” or an effeminate man.
– Chhindrapal and Ram Mehar throw light upon a tradition of socially sanctioned form of gender violence.
The saying in Haryana goes:Â “Beat her (the wife) in the morning, Beat her at night” – that’s how a man can prove his masculinity.
This legacy of physical assaults on women is naturalised, as if she was born to be beaten. The whole discourse based around the need to “prove” is in itself, not only problematic but also coercive.
– Madan Bharti narrates a tale of gender-based discrimination in terms of educational opportunities. While he went on to pursue his education, he zapped the potential of his younger sister because it somehow hurt his self-respect, reinforcing how unjustified and shallow these implied social protocols are.
3. How do you expect the relationship to improve if men are told that women are tools? Like they have a divinely ordained claim to each woman who comes in the scope of their vision?
A horrifying example of such a sick mental outlook is the acid attack on Laxmi. Women are not seen as autonomous individuals, she is just an object to satisfy the desires of men. She is meant to submit. So, a rejection from her is equivalent to castration.
4. Such violent manhood is connected to notions of inequality, injustice, power and authority. As Kamla Bhasin insightfully explained in the show – Sex is biological, gender is a socio-cultural construct. Gendered division of labour is again a social construct, not based on some metaphysical notions of natural endowments. Masculinity has nothing to do with nature!
Again, the very fact that girls as young as 6 years old are raped shows that it’s not about so much about sex.Â It’s power politics that takes the form of sexual politics. It’s an assertion of authority over the powerless, which serves to massage the ego of the otherwise repressed man. So when you fail to exercise your agency elsewhere, you vent out your frustration through your ever potent expostulation of masculinity. All this is just because they are told that men are strong and women are weak, and need to be put down, in every sense of the word.
So even if it is a baby, this feigned sense of supremacy gained is enough for the man to feel man enough. In their misguided quest to be ‘real men’, men have stopped being even real humans!
5. So, what is the solution?
Fundamental changes need to be made in our conditioning and socialization. The couples featured at the end of the episode solved the puzzle regarding what it was that comprised real manhood. They exemplified how even a reversal or re-structuring of conventional gender roles works best if the relationship is based upon respect, equality and mutual understanding.
The notions of the male bread earner, the woman being the home-maker, and the naturalised subjugation of the wife, all were defied. Through their negotiation, and improvisation of the traditional arrangement of duties in the institution of marriage they defied orthodoxy to find their peace and happiness.
The solution is thus, as simple. We need to understand that it is we, both men and women, who constitute the family, society and humanity. There are no two opposing, competing teams.
A culture that idealizes dominance rather than cooperation and partnership cannot imagine other models for living. The creation of gender binaries and divisions is a form of hierarchy and oppression that we need to rid ourselves of. We are equal individuals who can have the same desires, goals and ambitions and can learn, grow and work towards a better society collectively.