This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Akshat Seth. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Wanted To ‘Be A Man’ But Ended Up Playing The ‘Weak And Impotent’ Brother

More from Akshat Seth

By Akshat Seth:

I am a man with soft hands. ‘How does that even matter?’ one may wonder. Well, to me it does. The fact that I have soft hands and thin fingers had been one of the major reasons for an inferiority complex in my adolescence. It still is. Throughout my teenage, I remember daydreaming about how one day I’d become tough and have thick muscle on my hands so that I could teach a good lesson to anyone who bullied me or misbehaved with my sister. I have been this way since my childhood. My parents tell me that it was because of the amount of anaesthetics I had to endure for my eye operations. So why is it that I have thought about, dreamt of and tried acquiring some muscle and fat? Because I was reminded again and again as I grew up, that in order to be a proper ‘man’, I had to have a certain minimum amount of muscle so that people don’t take undue advantage of me and more so since I had eyesight issues. Over the years, I have accepted this notion as a part of my psyche, so much so that whenever I thought I was too fragile and not suited for the world which needed tough men, a look at my hands would make me hate them.

When you enter teenage, a whirlpool of emotions engulfs you, and anger is one of them. I had nightmares of being bullied. I was bullied sometimes (who isn’t?). I remember a casual incident where a friend advised me not to cry “or girls would notice it and laugh at you for being a sissy”. That was class eighth, and my resolve to ‘be a man’ and strive to appear one obviously became stronger as I moved deeper into my adolescence. The stronger my resolved, the more I failed and the more I failed, the more hateful and frustrated I unconsciously became of myself. The idea of masculinity runs so deep in our society that you even fail to realize what kind of ill effects it has.

akshat seth

One of my uncles who has been showered with a lot of bravado on account of the ‘gloriously’ violent fights that he picked in his youth, has told me a number of times that I should work out and become strong. “Shareer mein jaan nahi hogi to koi bhi teri Biwi ko utha le jaega aur tu kuchh nahi kar paega” (If you don’t have physical strength, anyone would carry away your wife and you won’t be able to do much) he’d say. The fact that women are equivalent to the izzat (honor) of you and your family means that such an argument works. This argument of women’s safety and honor being at risk contributed to full scale riots and loss of lives in Muzaffarnagar in 2013, and in my case led me to believe many a times that not having a ‘body’ was equivalent to being worthless. Such kinds of reminders in the lives of men are as frequent as diktats of dressing and behaving ‘decently’ in the lives of women.

The paranoia naturally increases when it is not merely about your ‘feeble and soft women-like hands’ but the added pressure of fulfilling the role of the protector of the family’s honor. What I am going to narrate is something that occurs very frequently in our society, but is rarely openly spoken about. My own sister was molested by this man who’d come to deliver clothes. I was watching television and couldn’t react even as that man left after being duly obliged with a slap for his endeavor. I cannot describe in words the guilt I felt – not so much due to sympathy with my sister as for the realization that I had failed to live up to the role of a brother whose duty was to protect her. I suggested filing a police complaint and my parents obviously refused for the fear of being made the hot topic of discussion in the whole locality, and the police asking my sister about her love affairs. The fears were obviously not misplaced – you can expect only so much courage in a social structure designed to make you live in constant fear. What hurt me the most was the unsaid – my sister and my parents feeling that by having not been able to beat the shit out of that man, I’d let my family down. Now it makes for a very interesting reading of the society where you have a law and order machinery to protect people and address complaints and yet I am expected to be ‘man enough’ to protect my family from individual acts of crime. Just like it is the fault of the woman if something happens to her, it is the fault of the man that he was ‘impotent’ as to allow that to happen. Patriarchy demands that brothers and fathers make life hell for a woman by blaming her for what she underwent; ‘weak’ ones end up committing suicide many a times. Destiny had me play the role of the weak and impotent brother. One can only imagine the misery that I inflicted upon myself for a long while, cursing my lean frame and soft little hands.

I shudder to think how dehumanized and miserable does this system leave us human beings. It is a crime to walk ‘like a girl’. It is a crime to have soft little hands with thin fingers and little muscle on the body. It is a crime to cry. No wonder that we see many workers frustrated with back breaking labour and exploitation beating up their wives. It is after all a crime for a man to seek solace from this harsh and miserable world by crying upon the shoulders of a woman! The idea is to make her cry even more. The popular reality television show Satyamev Jayate in its episode on masculinity cites an instance in Haryana where men don’t even pick up their own newborn babies as it is beneath the dignity of a man to do so.

Patriarchy, and a misplaced perception of masculinity has turned the joy of living life into a painful existence where you have to constantly prove yourself according to ridiculous standards that make you more and more dehumanized. I think it is time to realize that such insanity is taking us nowhere. It has only made lives miserable, devoid of the joy of love and freedom. It is time that men accepted themselves for the humans that they are. Until we accept ourselves as human beings, we will not be able to accept women as equal human beings.

I guess I am more at peace about my soft little hands, they work just about fine in realizing the dream of making this world a better place for me to live in, and they fervently wait in anticipation of sharing more warmth and love through their softness.

You must be to comment.
  1. Jafar Rehman

    This article sheds light on a lot of things.The man who molested had power and used it for no good,misused it.Won’t it be better if he didn’t had any power(muscles)?Power is dangerous when in wrong hands,it is nothing without control.
    On the other hand society needs to stop generalising everything, it urgently needs to stop defining limits and standards.

  2. nidhi nishra

    Well men with soft hands and women with large feet!!

  3. dark moon

    And a person with short height who cannot stay slim enough. We all are living with our own ‘perfect imperfections’. Your hands are more manly than others can ever be. How? Look how beautifully you have expressed your thoughts , insecurities and opinions. There is no such thing as manly man BTW the very concept of man and woman should die. No one wants to exist in such binaries.

    1. Akshat Seth

      Thank You. You are spot on- the long held notions about gender have only contributed to the reinforcing of power-structures. Its time we moved on and became humans.

  4. Akshat Seth

    I for got to add that this article first appeared in the bilingual monthly Aaghaaz (
    The January-March issue has a special focus on alternative perspectives to gender. The link to the magazine is here.

  5. Avinesh Saini

    Without power and agression, humanity won’t have existed. They would have been gobbled up by sabre toothed tigers.

    1. D Roy

      No…wrong logic.

      What you said was true in prehistoric age in jungles.

      But why should such corrupted logic hold good in this age?

      If agression is the answer everywhere, then civilization becomes meaningless…then man should go back to jungle.

  6. D Roy

    Dear Akshay

    Very well said…

    …because of such perverted thinking of patriarchy, crimes against women are so high in Haryana and other North Indian states…And no man dares to protest, else he will be mocked by the other men of corrupted patriarchy.


More from Akshat Seth

Similar Posts

By Bhaskar Choudhary

By Ungender Legal Advisory

By Anila Ghufran

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below