Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!
Some days back I ‘twitted’: “Let’s start a conversation here. Yesterday night, I was feeling low and I cried. It felt good as usual. Its a request to all the men when you come across this tweet to write about the last time you cried. Will request @BoyTalkProject to help. It’s ok for men to cry, let’s talk.”
The tweet was liked by around 5 women, neither any man liked the tweet nor commented. Now, we can think that it is merely a coincidence because I am no celebrity or influencer, therefore, no one commented. Yes, it can be the reality but the harsher reality is that most men do not talk about their emotions in public.
Recently, the BoysLockerRoom chat incident shook the conscience of the country. A group of boys, mostly under 18, from various reputed Delhi schools formed an Instagram group where they allegedly shared explicit contents about their fellow women friends. After the incident came into light, legal action was taken and much discussion started happening.
It will be wrong to say that this was a lone event because we all know that in private chat groups of both men and women such discussion does take place. However, planning or sharing thoughts someone shows a highly criminal mindset and stringent action should follow. Normalising such grievous crime is the last thing we should do right now.
I am not here to discuss this particular incident but to discuss why it is the time we should break these ‘rules’ meant for men. These ‘rules‘, at the end of the day, bring forth more toxic masculinity.
Toxic Masculinity is an idea and a stereotype. In an article, published in the New York Times, Maya Salam wrote, “So what does “toxic masculinity,” or “traditional masculinity ideology,” mean? Researchers have defined it, in part, as a set of behaviours and beliefs that include the following:
In other words, toxic masculinity is what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly; that they have to be “tough all the time”; that anything other than that makes them “feminine” or weak. (No, it doesn’t mean that all men are inherently toxic.)
Here we will try to break the idea of toxic masculinity with some basic concepts. These key ideas are important for men to understand and reflect. Till the time we will not learn and understand these ideas, we will never be able to come out and start a conversation.
This year-old idea is baseless and completely false. Weakness has nothing to do with crying. But, this false idea affects life and growing up of men from the very childhood. They learn to suppress their emotions or never discuss their real emotions. They feel that if they cry or talk about their own sorrows, problems, or traumas then the society will laugh at them. This whole idea forces men to never discuss their emotions and by practising this it becomes a part of their life.
To talk about my own experience I would say that I still cry. Amid this lockdown, as I stay alone in a city far away from my parents, I have realised that crying is the best way to heal.
Emotions are mixed with various experiences of joy, sorrow, trauma and others. It cannot be natural to only express a specific kind of emotion if you are a man. As a human being, we have every kind of emotions and all of these are very special. Strength is a mental structure and it has no connection with the emotions. This idea of being strong forces men to pretend to be stronger, therefore, they hide the actual conversations and indulge themselves in superficial and misogynistic conversations.
Misogyny exists in every part of our life starting from families. So here a conversation between parents and their sons become very important. Every family should come out of the idea of ‘Mera Beta’ and act on sensitising them. Identifying and learning misogyny should start from childhood, therefore, along with parents teachers and schools here should play a greater role.
An article published in Feminism India noted: “Patriarchy engenders false consciousness in all the sexes and genders. For women, it internalises notions of desirable beauty standards, sense of being weak and helpless and thus a need for dependence on men for all kinds of support. Interestingly, patriarchy like many other social systems has antagonistic characters inherent in it. As patriarchy unfolds, the principal beneficiary of this social system, that is, the men themselves get affected by these contradictions in multiple ways.”
The article went on to say, “The glut of male entitlements provided by patriarchy develops a pernicious false consciousness among men and the upholders of hyper-masculinity. It provides them with a sense of unassailability which eventually develops into an exaggerated sense of invincibility among men. This can be easily gauged from the careless attitude of society towards mental health and physical safety of men, primarily that of boys.”
Being a man is not about being strong, but being a man should be about being a good human being. So talk to your parents, talk to your friends, partners, teachers or with whoever you feel like talking to. Express your real emotions and learn to express.