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

Masculinity Today Is Not In Crisis, It Is A Crisis Itself

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?

Since childhood ‘gendered’ roles have been established, starting from colours (pink associated with girls, blue with boys), toys(dolls for girls, guns and cars for boys) dresses, behavioural patterns and even choices in life. Everything has been gendered. These roles have been so deeply ingrained in our patterns of upbringing and have become so universal that they now exist very visibly, often hiding in plain sight.

Representational image.

Through the multiple waves of feminism, we’ve constantly tried to challenge Patriarchy i.e., the men’s world. But in this tussle, many of us forget that feminism as Bell Hooks said is to “end all kinds of oppression against each member of the society”.

Sexism, misogyny and toxic masculinity have stifled even men. They have to pretend to be a ‘MAN’ always- pretending to be strong even if they feel weak, to be confident even if they feel insecure and tough even if they are hurt. So in this so-called men’s world, ‘patriarchy alone triumphs’.

The Trap Of Masculinity 

Our society tends to believe that male hormones always push men to be strong, chivalrous and violent. We all have come across the phrase, “Men will always be men”, but this egotistical attitude and sense of entitlement are pumped into the system by ‘toxic masculinity’, the genesis of which could be traced to age-old traditions where men had to fight bulls, run on fire or fight a male counterpart to get married.

Like women, even men do not have an option to step back from performing their assigned roles. If they try to deviate from their responsibilities, they are teased as being ‘girl-like’, ‘coward’ or ‘unfitting to be a man’.

There is constant pressure for them to be the breadwinner or karta-dharta (sole doer) of the family. This pressure suppresses their innermost dreams and aspirations. If anytime they fall short of the expectations of society, they are mocked for being effeminate. They are made fun of for being ‘dependent on a woman to survive.’

In this wrongdoing, the first thing parents ever do is snap out at their young boys while they nag or cry by telling them not to ‘cry like girls’. Next on, we never see boys playing with dolls because we assume that these are made only for girls, even punishments given to boys in school are harsher as they are considered to be ‘more naughty and mischievous’. And now we have started ‘glorifying’ men doing household work in the name of gender equality because we wrongly believe that these roles are only to be performed by women.

Representaional image. Photo: Getty Images.

Patriarchy for years has given unreasonable power and a sense of entitlement to men in society. They reign over in the hierarchy and control major decisions. However, this machismo is unverifiable and men are often bullied by it. If we notice carefully, patriarchy is also restrictive to males as for any other gender or sex.

Masculinity Today Is Not In Crisis, It Is A Crisis Itself

It is time that we redefine the qualities of being a man:

  • BRAVE enough to be vulnerable
  • STRONG enough to be sensitive
  • CONFIDENT enough to listen to the women in one’s life
  • MAN enough to stand up to other men 

“By far the worst thing we do to males – by making them feel they have to be hard – is that we leave them with very fragile egos.”

Does The Law Acknowledge It

“Mard ko kabhi dard nahi hota” (Men don’t feel pain),  “Man up”, “male ego” are the ideas that stop us from acknowledging that crimes like rape and sexual assault can also happen with men. Movies like Udaan and Patrick Melrose have tried to throw light on this where men refrain from sharing their horrific experiences with anyone due to the fear of being made fun of and sometimes end up being more aggressive and violent and are more likely to take it out on their loved ones.

According to an NGO Hands Hope Foundation, of the 71% of men they surveyed who said they were abused, 84.9% said they had not told anyone about the abuse. The primary reasons for this were shame (55.6%), followed by confusion (50.9%), fear (43.5%) and guilt (28.7%). Statistically, more men die from suicide than women. Some have argued that the high rate of suicide for men could be traced to masculinity, which causes men to be less likely to seek help for emotional problems.

As much as men may benefit from patriarchal societies on the surface, it’s clear that the disadvantages have far outweighed the advantages.

In India, unfortunately, we have no exclusive laws pertaining to the protection of men. Khap panchayats are ready to end life in order to protect the ‘maryada’ (women) of the house. But society is quick enough to hide the atrocities being committed to men. They are considered strong enough to protect themselves and are never considered as the victims of any crime.

In my opinion, toxic masculinity has internalised the idea that men can’t be raped or harassed.

Let’s Learn To Unlearn

So in order to bring about a change, it is important to read, understand and analyse feminism as a concept in its entirety.

It is not just to bring equality rather it focuses on the idea of neutrality. We need to stop placing labels, definitions and define specific roles for one another. It is time to change the standards that men and young boys are held up to. It is time that we show them that being an “alpha male” is not something to aspire to, that being violent and destructive are not traits that we normalise, and that the display of emotions is both normal and encouraged. By doing this, we can restructure society and the way that society treats each and every person.

In the end, it’s not that everything we’ve learnt till now is toxic and that we have to stop being ourselves and men have to stop being men. But what we need is to create a balance and unlearn those negative scripts of traits that have been subconsciously passed on to us from generations to generations.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
You must be to comment.

More from EXpresso

Similar Posts

By kanika sukhani

By Kinza Jamal

By PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia) India

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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