Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide is a heart-rending piece of news and a telling instance that toxic social constructs of masculinity could break a person apart, under its performative pressure.
Depression has become a sad and unfortunate, worldwide phenomena afflicting more than 264 million people across the world that hits people of all ages, genders and various spectrum of identities. All of us are vulnerable to emotional breakdowns. But ‘being a man’ implies a performance. A performance where a facade that you pull up to show the world matters more than who you are.
We as a society are so deeply vested into the task of creating and sustaining the myth that maleness is equivalent to strength and endurance that spaces and means to express emotional vulnerability for boys and young men of various age groups have shrunken into miniature holes with very little breathing spaces.
Talking about one’s emotions and feelings is perhaps feminine. But feminine is beautiful. If what was once traditionally masculine, such as being the breadwinner of a family or being a savior of your loved ones, can become desirable enough to evolve into a collective aspiration, the ‘feminine’ modes of being need to universalized just as much.
Men have inflicted this burden upon themselves and their same-gender peers for too long. This obsessive need to retain one’s ‘manhood’ (a concept not devoid of problematic notions and assumptions) and to act as a stoic, casual, chilled-out guy who does not get affected by things that happen to him or by what goes on around him, is a culturally created normative aspiration that is killing the emotional instincts of boys right since the moment they enter school.
We need to de-stigmatize mental health disorders, and make therapy and counseling services more accessible, for sure. But we also need to de-stigmatize male emotional vulnerability. Males lack adequate psychological support-systems within their relationships and friendships because performing the role of a man demands a suppression of your fears and inhibitions, a denial of any prevailing feeling of sadness, trauma or despair in your psyche and being.
Manhood has been largely portrayed in popular culture and literature as a free state of being that is devoid of any kind of societal repression; but it comes at a grave psychological and emotional cost.
We seek to remember the dead as martyrs who upheld the virtue of bravery until their last breath. Perhaps the virtue itself is overrated? Perhaps it would have been easier if one did not have to be a man at all times, at all costs? Or if the definition of ‘being a man’ was a little more flexible?
Perhaps we need to normalize expressions of a broken, flawed, and vulnerable self, and lift off the hegemonic embodiment of man as a stoic, perfect, unflinching human being from its pedestal of glory?
“Being a man” has been a trend for too long. We forgot to be human enough.