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The Answers To These 3 Questions Say So Much About What Society Thinks Of ‘Being A Man’

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By Lipi Mehta

Growing up in India, I was no stranger to how my role was fixed in society as that of ‘being a girl’. I was expected to have long hair and dress in a certain way and I remember how neighbours and others in my society told my parents how, given my style of clothing, I always looked ‘boyish’. I also saw how my friends, boys who I grew up around, were expected to be tough. When we played games in our building complex, they were expected to run faster and bear the occasional fall and bruises with a smile, because that was a sign of their strength.

Recently, Youth Ki Awaaz, along with UNFPA India, tried to understand what people think of how masculinity is oppressive for both, men and women, and what they feel about the notion of ‘being a man’. We asked three questions to our audience and created a platform where they could submit their thoughts about the same in the form of blogs.

Here are some of our learnings.

‘Be A Man!’ What does that mean?

be a man - what does that mean

A female responder said that usually, ‘being a man’ indicates being ‘strong’, ‘powerful’, ‘heartless’, ‘brave’. Another female responder presented a different view, stating that a ‘man’ is one who can “raise voice for equal opportunity for both male and female” and added that being physically brave is not enough until a man can “teach” the other sex “how to be brave instead of treating them as weaker section”. It was interesting to see a variety of answers for a question where one would otherwise expect to read one-word answers with ‘virtues’ or ‘qualities’ that define a ‘man’.

We also saw a dialogue taking place here. A male responder asked why women want to be like men when they are “not made to do what men can do.” A woman replied to this stating that women don’t want to be like men, they want to have the same privileges that men have in society.

On one of our articles about a similar topic, a male responder questioned as to why traits like ‘risk taking’, ‘competitiveness’ and ‘physical courage’ are considered as typically ‘manly’ traits whereas they have benefitted people across all genders. He further went on to question why femininity is not devalued by equating it with ‘bitching, jealousy, whining, neediness, vanity, clinginess, helplessness and over-sensitivity’ and other such stereotypes. He concluded by saying that instead of looking at these as gendered traits, let’s look at them as traits that a person of any gender can possess.

Do men and women have an equal choice in deciding when and whom they want to marry?

Most responders gave the same answer for this question: No. One male responder said that he thinks in rural India, girls are forced to get married soon after they are 18 and in urban India, between the ages of 21-24. He added that the only idea is for them to “settle and have children”. One male responder pointed out that men also face the pressure of getting married but probably at a later age, around the time they are say 26. One person said that men and can choose between marriage and career till the time they are 35, “whereas girls?”

Some of these answers drew a clear distinction between how marriage and career are considered as completely separate in India, where they can’t co-exist in equal capacities, especially for women.

How are household chores divided between boys and girls in India?

household chores between men and women

We received a variety of answers for this question. A female responder stated very practically that regardless of the gender you belong to, one should know how to, at least, do basic household chores, especially if one is living alone. A male responder shared an insightful experience. One mentioned how it is ‘unmanly’ for men to be helping at home and how in his society, men are “not allowed in the kitchen”. The same responder mentioned how women look at men in a “condescending” manner if they help at home and how men are teased as being “tied to the wife’s apron strings”.

The purpose of this exercise was to ask some carefully worded questions to reflect on what people think about the mindset of ‘being a man’ that we are brought up with, in India. In some cases, while some hard truths were reinforced, it was also heartening to see our audience taking the discussion forward, thoughtfully questioning each other whenever needed. If there’s one thing that this exercise taught us more than anything else, it was that while masculinity is oppressive for both, men and women, we all need to equally take a stand against these patriarchal notions!

Disclaimer: The views presented in this article are the author’s, and do not necessarily represent the views of UNFPA.

You must be to comment.
  1. Batman

    How about you count your privileges.

    20 instances of female privilege:

    1. Lifeboats are reserved for women.
    2. Seats are reserved for women on buses.
    3. The media only focuses on women’s issues.
    4. World’s most dangerous jobs are worked by men.
    5. News channels announce deaths of ‘women’ and children.
    6. Juries discriminate against men in domestic violence disputes.
    7. Women have special quotas in the parliament, companies, and colleges.
    8. Women receive lighter sentences for the same crimes committed by men.
    9. Child custody is given to women is divorce courts, in the majority of cases.
    10. Men have to earn for women, but women are not under any obligation to earn for men.
    11. Domestic violence and dowry are seen as women’s issues, while men are the prime victims.
    12. Men give women child support and alimony, not the other way around. Men are ripped off their life savings.
    13. Men are used as ATMs. Women always marry men who are richer, earn more, ‘well-settled’, and better educated.
    14. Men die on jobs daily. 95% of work related deaths are of men, but that is neither an issue, not something that women and children are grateful for.
    15. Draconian laws where women can land men behind bars with little evidence if any, giving a rise to false cases of dowry, rape, and domestic abuse. Police readily believe women, even though they lie more.
    16. Men have to propose, buy roses, flowers, chocolates.
    17. Separate compartment and reserved seats for women in metros.
    18. Men have to earn for women but no such obligation for women.
    19. Men have to leave their seats for women in public but women never leave their seats for men.
    20. Children are handed to women in family courts in the majority of cases.

    1. Anil Rodrigues

      Ahahahahaaa… Nailed it…

  2. G L

    There is a world of difference between men and women, and that is how God intended it to be. A man is supposed to be manly. That is why he is a man.

    1. Shubhangi Mehta

      “God” didn't intend anything. 'Man' and 'woman' is a human creation, the natural creation being that of 'male' and 'female'. And the “world of difference” between these two sexes is purely and solely biological, because apparently two opposit biological entities are required to create life. We didn't land on this planet preloaded and programed with inbuilt personality traits, we create that for ourselves. More to the fact the society created it for us. The same society who is guilty of changing 'sex' into 'gender'.
      A man is man because he was told to be so, and because he and the people around him are stupid enough to not do anything about it.

    2. Sushil Kumar

      “A man is supposed to be manly”…..If god had intended that then he would have instilled necessary instincts associated with manliness, or womanliness for that reason. But, it is not what we see around us. There are confident men and then there are those who are not. Same holds true for women. Forcing a man to conform to gender norms result in either violent mindset or herd mentality: men who are too scared to think freely and logically.

      You have decided what god wants just based on what is under one’s belly, not based on what sits above one’s shoulder. Human mind is much too diverse and complex to be merely divided on the basis of gender.

  3. sunniman

    To Shubhangi Mehta, Lipi Mehta & Youthkiawaaw alias Feminist Website & Other Feminists:

    Equality is a Myth is a fact, which u MISANDRIST Feminists will Never understand in ur lives.

    I will pray to the Man & his Family members, who will marry Misandrist Feminist Shits like U who will
    definitely make his & his family members life a Hell.
    I will also pray for the Boy who will be born to U.
    Only God can save Ur HUSBAND & BOY from U MISANDRIST FEMINISTS.
    Amen.

  4. sunniman

    To Shubhangi Mehta, Lipi Mehta & Youthkiawaaw alias Feminist Website & Other Feminists:

    Equality is a Myth is a fact, which u MISANDRIST Feminists will Never understand in ur lives.

    I will pray to the Man & his Family members, who will marry Misandrist Feminist Shits like U who will
    definitely make his & his family members life a Hell.
    I will also pray for the Boy who will be born to U.
    Only God can save Ur HUSBAND & BOY from U MISANDRIST FEMINISTS.
    Amen.

    ok this is the second time i am posting my comment as my previous comment is not shown
    . If it is not shown in your feminist website, that is already expected, which is no surprise to me.

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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.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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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.

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