In our society, a man has two types of identities. One is a biological identity. The second is the social identity. The social identity of a man is a set of complex expectations that every man must fulfil. It’s always important and compulsory to meet these standards of masculinity, and if someone fails to meet these, then he tortured as a ‘Narmard’ or lesser man. So that is why men are under constant pressure to prove their manhood to themselves and others.
The expectations begin with the birth of a baby boy. Society begins to expect them to grow up to take care of their families. The list of expectations increases as they grow older. Our society sets new milestone of masculinity with age. A man is always expected to become strong rather than sensitive. To appear strong, boys start hiding their vulnerability and weakness. They try to show their strength by suppressing their inner voice and expression. Young boys adopt many symbols of masculinity to appear strong.
For example – some people from higher castes display their caste name on their vehicles because they feel it gives them a sense of power and entitlement. Some brands also market their products catering to men like ‘dangerous Jaat’ and ‘risky Jaat’ which makes them want to wear their caste on their sleeves. Why cannot a young man be an ’emotional Jaat’ instead of a ‘risky Jaat’? Youth from all other castes also follow similar cultural references.
Ironically, there is no one way to achieve a standard of masculinity. The standards of masculinity depend upon various social-cultural factors. They are also getting exposed to different kind of images or messages of violence on their social media profile, vehicles, T-shirts to appear superior. They feel they are expected to take risks and drive fast, fight and do drugs to prove their masculinity. Due to this risk-taking behaviour, many young people lose their lives every day. And the skewed and stereotypical portrayal of men in the media doesn’t help either.
The society also approaches with a reward and punishment mechanism to control the behaviour of men. The society appreciates men with hegemonic masculinity by saying “real man”, “strong man”. Mard. Society always appreciates a man who doesn’t display a sense of fear. Soft-spoken people never get the appreciation that is why youth mostly use a hard tone of language. In our childhood, we could express our inner voice without agitation, but as adults, we cannot cry in any situation because according to societal norms, a real man doesn’t cry.
Thus, men proudly express their feelings of aggression, anger rather than love or hurt. Even when many of them express their love, it is through violence. I have known so many men who are even scared of laughing. There is also an enormous pressure of sexual performance and being a man inherently entails that you must be able to satisfy a woman. Sex then becomes an instrument of power used to assert dominance on women, further misused in cases of harassment and sexual violence. But wearing this fake mask of masculinity inevitably affects the man too, making him insecure and guarded.
Today there is a strong need for transforming hegemonic masculinity into relative masculinity. We should create safe spaces where men can express their vulnerabilities and insecurities without a fear of judgement. We should redefine the meaning of masculinity in which we should encourage men to explore their sensitive side as well.