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!
By Mayank Jain:
We have learned to preach love. We love to quote quotes and we make sure we express our displeasure for those fairness creams every time we have an intelligent gathering around. We are getting better at appearing non-sexist. Despite so much that we are trying to accomplish to come across as a non-judgmental bunch of people, spotting someone who doesn’t fit in gives us a mental itch and our hypocrisy is exposed in no time.
As much as I hear that these times are tough for the minorities and the underrepresented, I also realize the fact that being a man is tough even when the population of men is more than women. It is partly due to aÂ set of expectations that having a male genitalia thrusts on you, and partly because of the simple fact that we aren’t just people for the world.
We are a breed of conformists who believe and worship the ideals of real manhood (whatever that means), and the rest are non-conformists who are reminded/forced to conform to the idea of ‘real men’ or else they will shame the name of the ‘stronger sex’. It is an everyday struggle to dodge the pressure of conforming to those ideas which you hate in the first place. These are some of the stereotypes that I have continuously faced:
“Is that a pink shirt?”: Yes, and I also have 2 more *pink* shirts which I love to wear. Why do I have to stay away from the colour pink and focus on blues and greys? Children get colour segregated toys from the very childhood, I might have got some too. But, why this cringe from the society when a guy wears a perfectly fine shirt just because its colour is Pink? I have seen other colours become victims of this stereotype as well and what it does is create a segregationist society where men can’t venture into spaces which are ‘reserved’ for women and the same goes for women at times. Someone with a liking for “pink” is automatically labelled ‘too girly’.
“Stop crying like a girl.”: There are a lot of people who want to tell you this and they do. The idea of a “real man” is suddenly invoked when a man starts feeling emotional. If a man cries, it is not because he is weak. It is because he doesn’t want to die with his feelings pent up inside. There have been times when crying came to me as an inevitable response to a situation and I had really no inclination to think about my ‘masculine identity’ at the moment, but it is practically a full-time job of people around you to start making fun of your crying and emotions. Probably because men are supposed to have hearts of battle grade tin and steel.
“Do you really write poems? About love?”: I never thought I would get to hear this. As much as I was aware of the idea of segregation of careers by the idea of ‘masculinity’, I never believed that even creative expression is perceived to be a feminine trait while it has nothing to do with your biological makeup. The idea that men can’t write poems or express their feelings is as ridiculous as it is disappointing. Have we forgotten Shakespeare, Keats and Frost in one go? Why can’t men be poets, artists, or even knitting experts? And to answer this question, yes I do write poems aboutÂ love and I will keep doing it because I don’t want my hobby or career to be defined by what people think a man ‘should’ or ‘should not’ do.
“Go to the gym. You must be tall, dark and handsome.”: No. You don’t get to tell me how I should be. This has always been a nightmare for me. Not being inclined towards cricket and the gymÂ is a crime for someone who wants to be identified as ‘man’ in the society, because outdoor sports are the only way to be strong and a man can’t do anything without his physical strength. Instead of opening up spheres to women also, we build walls ofÂ ‘masculinity’ and in turn, we describe a man by the built of his body and his ability to reach the top shelf of the kitchen (where he isn’t supposed to enter, in the first place). Everyone falling outside this sphere of ‘tall, dark and handsome’Â is qualified for being ridiculed or bullied.
“Be the man. Start paying for your girlfriend.”: What about, no? Why can’t a girl pay for herself? Why do men have to be superheroes and ‘rescue’ people all the time? Why do we have to call ourselves the ‘stronger sex’, why can’t we be vulnerable for once and let a girl help us out? While it is a personal choice for men to pay for people around them or not, but if paying for someone makes you think that you are reasserting your ‘manhood’ in the relationship, then you have got it wrong. Chivalry is not dead but this fake male superiority should be killed at the earliest. Why is paying for someone a crucial requirement to ‘be a man’?
I could go on about how patriarchy not only affects women but men as well. I could point out my displeasure when my sister was told that her brother will take care of her all the time. There are hundreds of similar stereotypes that aren’t just limited to men or women. There’s a lot to do towards ending stereotypes and sexism, but I still dream of a society where people are people and not their gender. Let’s create one?
To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter atÂ @mayank1029