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!
A man’s life isn’t easy as people think, probably because our concerns just aren’t voiced out.
So, it all begins when you own at least that one picture of you with your manhood, majorly captured to keep the family’s reputation boosted up. Ostentatiously showing off that picture that the mother produced a “baby boy”, is one of the seeds of patriarchy that have been sown in the society.
Many boys have injured themselves, getting slapped by an aunt or the teacher. Many times they get wounded and have squealed with pain, tears rolling down our eyes. But, every time a boy complains of pain, parents castigate him with the famous overrated Hindi dialogue “मर्द नहीं रोते”(Men don’t cry)? Our patriarchal society affects gender roles while we are growing up, thus building in a preference for “masculine” qualities and expectations in men.
So it’s considered normal when a guy needs to find a very “professional and classy” job and earn a very high salary by having a profession such as a “doctor” or an “engineer”, only to prove his manliness. Men are supposed to find a wife, produce at least one kid, and make the family proud by being well-established. The society expects that every guy must be “strong, courageous, independent, rich, intelligent, violent, insensitive, less expressive, assertive”.
The moment a guy fails to meet any of these parameters, he immediately experiences the challenges, the flip side of being a man. The professional background that earns him a modest salary is scoffed at. His passion to be a sport player other than “cricketer”, especially in India, is unfortunately still disparaged by most in many places. His physical deformities or mental disabilities are mocked. It becomes shocking when a guy is exposed to undergoing defalcations out of greed for being “rich” to keep up with societal pressures. If a man is sexually impotent or earns lesser than his wife, the society labels him as a “नामर्द”. Being single by choice, or being comfortable with their feminine side makes a man homosexual by default. And, being some transgender, a cross-dresser or a eunuch are derided and are banished from the confines of the society altogether. Such factors ensure that latent homophobia or for that matter, any such oddity omnipresent in our society lashes out at every instance of a man expressing or being himself differently from expectations.
And when boys have dysfunctional family systems or try to become iconoclasts to such established beliefs, they are handled to a scale where the older members still berate or beat them up regardless of their age. Most boys start acting fake to keep up with such demanding social standards. They try to pretend to have owned these clichéd “cool dude” titles, behave like bullies who try to manipulate young minds of juniors or colleagues or physically abuse them, get into the bad company to earn this “bad boy”, “fuckboy”, “playboy” label. And then this culminates in having sex, doing drugs, alcohol, drinks, and whatnot. While on the other hand, there are boys who genuinely be who they are, nonetheless, they are knocked down since they are believed to be disparate from established traditions.
Additionally, the boys who are incessantly built up with the misogynistic “Be a Man” dialogue then lack female importance in the society and become lechers with morbid sexual interests, violent husbands, criminals, rapists…the list goes endless.
It’s easy to pinpoint boys about how they become a terror to women by their uncouth behaviour, but honestly, it’s the society which creates these gender stereotypes, not the genders. It’s the traditional ideas which haven’t yet fleeted; it’s the wrong attitude which is rooted deep within our thoughts. It’s like creating a wall and cementing it layer by layer progressively as generations pass.
Learn to be who you are. Because if you lose your identity in the colours of being someone else, you’ll never be identified as anyone out of the ordinary. Be different, love yourself, be happy, because it is not a precondition.