This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhineet Nayyar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

From One Man To Another, Here Are 4 Rules We Can Break To Challenge Patriarchy

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!

Created by Youth Ki Awaaz

Were you told to hide or control your emotions while growing up?

It is no secret that patriarchy, as a system, tends to privilege men in countless ways, from guaranteeing economic, political and social freedoms to providing material benefits through traditions like dowry and generational wealth ownership.

However, even in the most progressive of circles, the harmful impacts of patriarchy on their beneficiaries seems to escape conversations, even among men who accuse feminism to be a “phallus-hating exercise.”

Representational image.

As a cisgender man belonging to one of the most patriarchal states of the country, who is trying to battle the confines of patriarchy himself, I find it my responsibility to share my thoughts and experiences.

Before we jump into the “how” of resisting patriarchy, it is important to understand the “why” of doing so. So, why should men fight patriarchy when it benefits them?

Oppose Patriarchy As a Fellow Human

To begin with, because it is the right thing to do. Any system that leaves our fellow humans bereft of any right, which we might exercise almost unconsciously, must be fought tooth and nail. Our identical origins and a shared cosmic history deny any one of us the right to oppress others, and any system that enables this oppression must be dismantled. The fact that men profit from this system should not change anything, besides actually making us feel even more guilty of its existence.

I mean, think about it. You, as a man, owe your successes, in part, to a system that was put in the past, thus making your status not only questionable but also unethical. And this brings me to my next point.

Oppose Patriarchy Because It Controls You

Any oppressive system, including the one in question here, operates through assigning roles. It assigns the role of “the oppressed” to women and that of “the oppressor” to men. Then, it makes sure that these roles never change hands, through the use of force, social rules, customs, expectations and obligations that are almost written in stone. For instance, we have always heard the holy commandment: “Crying displays weakness, and therefore, men must not cry.” This rule exists to reiterate the same basic principle of the supremacy of the oppressor.

In essence, patriarchy does not just regulate how women must be treated. It also controls how men must behave. To men who wish to preserve the system because “it keeps them free,” I say: it really does not.

With the help of another rule: “Talking about our feelings displays vulnerability, and therefore, men must not talk about their feelings,” patriarchy ensures that oppressors prevent each other from breaking out of its chains. It guarantees that those who break this rule must immediately be put down to the oppressed’s level, through the use of phrases like “are you gay?”, “stop being a girl, man”, or, my absolute favourite, “are you on your periods, bro?”, phrases that comprise toxic masculinity today.

Now that we have a better understanding of how patriarchy functions, it isn’t going to be difficult to understand how to ignore it and live a life that’s more freeing than the one that we have been living until now.

“Men can’t wear pink? Oh, shut up. Break this rule!” Representational image.

Break The Rules That You Are Expected To Follow

For starters, do you remember the rules that patriarchy put in place to control its oppressors from the previous section? Well, break those rules, whenever you can.

Men must not cry? Break this rule!

Cry your hearts out. If you can’t do this in public, cry into your hands when you’re alone. That’s what I still do, at times. Just bawl your eyes and hearts out. Maybe you’ll wash your eyes clean before going out the first time, and the second time, and even the third time. But, soon, your resistance to this rule would force it to bend and let you display your sadness to the world.

Men must not display affection to their male friends? Break this rule!

Hug your brothers-in-arms the next time you see them. Use the phrase “I love you” as graciously as you can with them. I know this is easier said than done. All of us fear being ostracised more than anything else, of being labelled ‘weird’, especially when we are from families where our own fathers hardly showed any such affection towards us. But, telling your friends that their presence means something quite important to your existence is an inherently liberating feeling. Try it out.

Men must not discuss their feelings? You guessed it right, break this rule!

Although therapy in today’s world burns through our wallets, there are still pockets in which some form of therapy is affordable. And while it might take some time and effort to find someone you are comfortable talking to, the experience is deeply moving. Talk to them about your inhibitions, your fears, your insecurities, because no matter how convinced you are of being a more advanced gender, you are only human. If you can’t start therapy right now, be it for material or social reasons, explore the possibility of creating a support system from amongst your close friends or siblings, who might not need to know everything, but just help you through the worst of your days.

Men can’t wear pink? Oh, shut up. Break this rule!

Although my fashion sense is deeply questionable, at times, I’ve been told that pink suits me well, and I see so many men around me pulling it off. Even if you can’t rock it, is the colour of your clothing really symbolic of your worth? This rule is really more stupid than evil, and starting your resistance by breaking it would feel really comforting. Trust me.

Delegitimise These Rules

While it is important to break these rules in our personal spaces, it is also important to broadcast the same for our fellow men, if you’re comfortable, of course. For most of us, these expectations are accepted involuntarily, so questioning them inside and outside our families only further weakens their legitimacy, making it easier for more men to break them.

Now, it is important to understand that there must be certain rules that are difficult to break right now and all by yourself. For example, the expectation for men to earn more than their partners. Or for men to be saviours of women. Rules like these require a much more collaborative approach, and for them, all you can do right is continue questioning them.

Identify more such unsaid rules, battle with their legitimacy internally and externally, and break them whenever you can afford to do so.

You must be to comment.

More from Abhineet Nayyar

Similar Posts

By Rohit Malik

By Sudipta Mishra

By Rohit Malik

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below