When they were playing together one evening, both hurt themselves accidentally. While her tears were accepted easily, his were judged instantly. “Ladkiyon ke tarah rona band kar, mard bann.” (Stop crying like a girl, be a man!) He quickly wiped his tears and tried to pretend that he wasn’t feeling any pain because being called like a girl was no less than a shame in society and he knew it, even at the age of six.
However, the worse was still to come. “Ladkiyon ki tarah ball mat phek, hath mein churiya pehni hain kya? Mard bann!” (Don’t throw like a girl, are you wearing bangles? Be a man!)
“Class 10 ke baad arts? Ye toh ladkiyon ka subject hai. Mard bann aur science padh!” (Arts after class 10? This is the subject of girls. Be a man and study science!)
“Break up ke baad ladkiyan roti hai, mard bann aur chal party karte hain!” (Girls cry over break up, man up and let’s go out to party!)
And this went on and on. He lived his life killing all his emotions and tried to ‘man up’ everytime he felt sad.
The phrase ‘man up’ has been a major part of every guy’s socialisation. Gender inequality immediately makes one think of the various atrocities done to women, some of them are even being voiced and addressed now, thanks to feminism! However, most often than not, we forget the inequalities faced by men. These inequalities breed themselves under the immense pressure to be a macho man and adhere to all the norms of masculinity. There is a strange craze among men to ‘be a man’!
A man is fiercely powerful, strong and fervent, but emotionless, expressionless and definitely not feminine. Yes, anything but feminine. Even the Oxford Dictionary defines the term masculine as “having the appropriate excellence of the male sex, virile, vigorous and powerful.” This definition explains the societal mindset in general and the level these gender stereotypes are ingrained in our culture.
In the world where the socially constructed word masculine is synonymous with strength and feminine equals weakness, a guy loses respect if he does anything considered even slightly feminine. And since emotions are considered weak and allowed to be felt and expressed by only women, there is immense pressure on men to conceal their emotions, make themselves indifferent to an extent that they don’t allow themselves to admit their pain, both to the world and themselves. It becomes their sole responsibility to be the bread earner, pay every bill, give a seat to a woman in the public transport, even if she is young and fit and can comfortably stand. There’s always the pressure to be that hero who is not scared of anything and mind you, he never ever shows the world that he feels pain.
Masculinity here becomes a commodity which can be measured, possessed or lost. Those who are successful in concealing their so-called ‘soft’ emotions, are possessed with masculinity and are greatly respected by the society while those who choose to be a little human are treated with disrepute and are often called gay, janani (Sanskrit word for a mother) or a man with a weak heart.
Now, sharing a little of my sociological knowledge here. I would say that technically both men and women are born with different sexual organs. However, different sexual organs do not define the characteristics of that particular person. Gender comes into play here, which is entirely a social construction. It is the gender and not the sex which set norms on how everyone should behave and sadly, the norms are quite immutable. I would take your few seconds to bring the nature-culture dichotomy in your attention.
Since prehistoric times, men are associated with a culture where they are the creators – strong and powerful, whereas women are associated with nature, who are the care takers – nurturing but fragile. Thus, masculinity and femininity become polar opposites and their overlap is treated as a sin. This idea has been pervasive universally and affects the functioning of the society at large.
It never allows young boys to embrace themselves, shape themselves and their lives according to their own likes and dislikes, feel and express emotions, most importantly, allow themselves to be a human.
It prepares them to think that they are inherently a stronger sex and women who are considered to be the weaker sex must be submissive to them at all points of time. This also makes their aggression, anger and bad behaviour acceptable. I would like to exemplify this by pulling a little back and sharing how in the old times, though it is still prevalent, men after coming from work used to beat their wives to death out of frustration and it was totally acceptable or how men used to consider women’s body as their property and hurt them brutally while having sex, displaying their power. Only because their aggression was totally acceptable.
It constantly demeans women, because, at several times, the incapabilities of men are called ‘women-like’. This depicts how women are seen as insufficient and incompetent in a so-called man’s world.
These are just a few out of a list of reasons I have, which suggests that we must disempower the wrong ideas of masculinity and femininity, which is propagating patriarchy and inequality in the society and further dehumanising men to a great extent. Let both men and women choose their way, their code of conduct and their likes and dislikes according to themselves, irrespective of what society expects of them.
Everyone has the right to embrace every emotion that comes to them naturally and live their lives fully. You only live once!