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!
TW: Domestic Abuse, Death
In my last article, I wrote about the effects of masculinity on men and that it’s ‘nurture’ not ‘nature’ that is shaping the overall idea of masculinity. This article is about the way Indian masculinity penetrates society and its role in love, relationships, and the counter-revolution which is challenging this toxic masculinity.
Recently in Delhi, a man poisoned his wife and her family with thallium which is a poisonous substance. In this incident, 4 people died and his wife is critical. In an investigation, it was found that the man took revenge on his in-laws as they were allegedly humiliating and taunting him as he was not doing any job. His manly ego got hurt and this crime happened. In another recent incident in Telangana, a man slit her throat after arguing with her. These incidents are not just about controlling anger.
Pampering as a son is a common sight in Indian families. This also relates to the patriarchal culture of India. The majority of mothers don’t accept that their sons can make mistakes or misbehave. Defending the son is the prime duty for most mothers. And the behaviour of these boys towards women becomes toxic if their father usually considers their wives as objects.
They beat their wives, don’t allow them to take decisions, etc. Overall, these kinds of men don’t even think that their spouse has their own identity and life apart from being a wife, mother, etc. When boys are raised in such an atmosphere, they find it very difficult to respect a woman and even find it more difficult to accept her opinion or simply apologize.
When these boys are confronted by women who are treated at par with the sons in their family, two things happen usually. The first is that these boys go into an absolutely emotional breakdown or these boys become aggressive. This aggressiveness turns into sexual violence, physical violence or emotional torture. It becomes very difficult to adjust to the relationship. So the way boys are brought up matters a lot.
Girls, on the other hand, are treated quite differently. If she laughs loudly then she is not that ‘sanskari‘ (well-mannered). The way she walks or sits is also controlled by the parents. Since childhood, it is fed to them that “You are a girl, you should know cooking, wear a proper dress” (so that boys don’t consider her as an open invitation), etc. This scene is changing slowly now. But this revolution has not reached rural India yet. While girls are still married at a young age, dowry practise continues even today, and the education of girls stops at a young age.
Our films are also of no use. Being a man here means 4 packs should be abs, when a girl says no to a boy in a relationship, she means yes. And many such stereotypes are shown. All these behaviours are reflected in society. But there are some people like Anubhav Sinha in Bollywood who have slapped this behaviour directly.
Many men do not allow their wives to do jobs and others are those who do find it difficult to accept women as their boss. There are also those who need a wife with less skill and payment than himself. Our country will take a long time to get out of the patriarchal society. It has been only 5-6 years that the rate of female infanticide has decreased slightly. There should be love, compassion, and responsibility in the journey from boyhood to manhood.