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!
Men shouldn’t cry. It is an age-old saying. Young boys are told from their childhood ‘boys don’t cry’ every time they pour out their emotions. In Indian society, a male human being is expected to suppress his tear glands and it’s considered as a sign of weakness. A woman possesses the sole right to pour out her emotions in the form of tears. Any man who cries is considered as weak and is bullied until he stops doing that. However, we should not forget that crying is only an emotion, and I am proud to say that I do cry and have never tried to hold back my tears.
In our society, the word ‘masculinity’ is equated with strength and ‘femininity’ is equated with weakness. A guy is bullied and looked down upon if he shows anything slightly similar to femininity. I am not sure when was the first time I was instructed that ‘boys don’t cry’. Maybe at the age of five or four. The instruction was given by all; teachers, friends, relatives but fortunately my parents never told me to hold my feelings. I remember them saying, ‘Let him cry and get rid of his feelings.” Add to that the conditioning that seeps in with remarks like ‘act like a man’ or ‘boys don’t cry’.
When we take a closer look at things we get to see that our patriarchal society has made a generation of men like zombies with no emotions on their face. Same men get themselves drowned in alcohol for getting off their emotions but will not let out their emotions in the open. We can see that women are more sensitive to men because they face no barriers and can emote themselves.
We have created a generation of men dealing with an epidemic, maybe something worse than that. This suppression of individuals can lead to self-destructive behaviour by men like heavy drinking, drug addiction, suicide, and even refusing psychiatric help. This reminds me of an old video by Madhuri Dixit which talks about how ‘boys don’t cry’ is the reason for young men indulging in violence against women. The video doesn’t surprise me in any way. What can we expect from a society that expects emotions of anger and aggression from men?
The toxicity imposed by the society on men has dehumanised them and the women have to face the brunt of it in the form of violence.
There is no simple solution to the problem we have created over the past several years but we can start with the basics where boys are allowed to connect with their emotions than suppressing it. Men have feelings; men can feel fear and pain. There is nothing like ‘real men don’t cry’. Real men do cry and they are not afraid to express their emotions. Let’s be the agents of change towards a more gender equitable society and not ourselves drown and be stuck in a patriarchal society which spreads toxicity.