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!
Last month, I was talking to a guy from a matrimony website. Yes, I have hit that golden age where marriage is apparently the only priority in my life and if you can’t find the significant other now, then you are doomed to live a lonely life of an outcast, as per my parents.
So coming back to the guy, he was a data scientist and was discussing his journey, life choices and the like. You know, he said in a cold morbid voice, “My professor at IIT KGP said that men aren’t allowed to fail. You just can’t give up and take a pause in life, you have to be seen as a successful masculine power figure, else you have failed the male species of homosapiens.
Girls have the option of quitting their job, taking a career break to pursue their passion or hobbies. I don’t have that. I mandatorily have to slog my whole life so that I am not looked down upon or called a lesser man. I can happily be a stay-at-home dad while my partner pursues her career, but sadly coming from a tier 3 city and middle-class family, neither my family will support it nor will I be able to find a partner like that.”
This stayed with me for a long time as I have known very few people who wish to be house-husbands, take long paternity leaves and care for their kids and help with household stuff. Why is this idea being laughed upon? We definitely have no problem if the other gender gives up the rat race and prefers to stay at home or start a boutique or clay modelling workshop, then why here?
Men can’t be expressive and definitely can’t talk about their feelings out in public and if they do, we start questioning them about being emotional.
“Bro he has like 5 different skin products. Duh, that’s so feminine right, his parents didn’t raise him right, dude he is so gay. Just ignore.”
You know it’s different for women, it’s what traditionally accepted as a grim reality in the era of feminism where it’s not just about gender rights but instead, human rights.
What we can feel, express, talk and act like is largely monitored by a generation who themselves were indoctrinated to have certain belief systems and can’t seem to break that. We aren’t just limiting ourselves to a bubble and missing out on the plethora of experiences and gender-fluid roles, rather, we are setting inhumane expectations from a particular gender and constructing their world view in a rather skewed form where the choices imposed on one gender has a ripple effect on others.
Why do things always have to complimentary? Why can’t we decide on our own way of doing and experiencing things without cultural and moral policing? Why can’t we be a part of a world where things aren’t made difficult in the competitive world around us? Why are we part of a world where every one of us is fighting for an iota of space for our existence to be acknowledged?
I feel it’s time for us, especially people in our twenties, to call out and break these stereotypes and break this prejudiced veil of socially acceptable gender norms where men can’t cry, can’t take long paternity leaves, can’t be a single parent, can’t be a victim of a sexual crime and the long list of can’t dos, as it does not just affect them, it affects us, all of us.
So let’s accept the fact that men are a victim of patriarchy too. We need to evolve as a society to be more inclusive in nature and accommodate everyone.