Discussing, debating, and defining masculinity based on movies, TV serials, books, or half-baked discussions on social media can never be productive to use as a parameter for real life. The reason is simple: there are a lot of ifs and buts when movies, TV series, books, or any medium takes up the subject of masculinity. It is true when people say that in real life there are a lot of variations in how things happen which cannot be simply defined objectively.
After World War II, the world changed dramatically for men and women. There were a lot of conscious efforts to give women space in a lot of spheres, which continues till now. India, after independence, also gave women rights at par with men at least in the Constitution of India, which directly translated into legal rights for women. Though how much of it has resulted in action is always debatable, women also have failed to rise to the occasion (this subject is beyond the scope of the topic).
Despite the world achieving an unprecedented level of technological and scientific achievements, parts of the world continue to be fully functional patriarchies. Here, fully functional patriarchy means men are in charge of all things and women have no voice even for small things.
What parts of the world are fully functional patriarchs? In the Indian subcontinent- Afghanistan, and Pakistan, beyond India- Syria, Iraq, Iran, or any country which is quite vocal about women staying at home.
When discussing patriarchy flourishing in these countries, there are no half-baked truths about patriarchy. There is no confusion about how men operate when women have no dominant role. There is no dispute regarding what the results of patriarchy are. They are self-evident. What patriarchy actually looks like can be easily defined.
With the western world becoming more developed, these originally patriarchial countries/societies have turned into ultra patriarchial societies to defend themselves from western values. Then the ultimate question is: What does the unadulterated and pure masculinity of patriarchial societies look like?
Before I start answering this question, I would like to warn men and women who always portray men as victims of circumstances will feel deeply offended. But here there will be no scope for counter-narrative because these societies are living breathing examples that cannot be falsified even if you want.
1. Masculinity here is extremely violent: Whether the adrenaline coursing through the body or the unchallenged power results in being violent is debatable, one thing is clear that men clearly express their intent to be violent if things do not go their way. Any area where the men of these ultra patriarchial societies feel challenged or disrespected will not shy away from killing you and will find a way to justify it. In all, the violent tendencies can be exhibited even for small disagreements or offenses.
2. Family life is a portrayed focal point of life but filled with abuse and cruelty: Illustrating this point is pointless because scientific knowledge and research abound on the issue, though such research is always dismissed by men of ultra patriarchial societies. Marry against the wishes of the male member of the family and the concept of family is thrown out.
3. No regard for human life and the fundamental rights of the individuals: The men of these ultra patriarchial societies can kill their own, let alone strangers. These societies are self-evident of this. Nothing more can be said to describe the situation.
4. ‘Women are weak’, an excuse to not exercise self-control by men: Strong belief that men are more powerful than women results in the shifting of responsibility on women to not provoke men so that they are not raped or beaten or abused. Don’t wear clothes which men prohibit, don’t talk loudly so that men feel angry, are such examples.
5. Women by their birth and body are sex objects and cannot have any identity beyond that: Iran’s highest political leader’s statement that women do not have the right to discard the role of wife or a mother is sufficient to say how important it is for a woman to provide sex to a man in the form of marriage. Even if she can refuse to have children depends on the rights of a man.
6. Weak people should not have free will: Women are weak, so they cannot demand even the slightest of respect from strong men. Women are weak, so they should follow the rules of the men discarding the free will and consciousness granted by the creator of the human beings. This also applies in the case of people who are not physically strong.
7. Only men suffer and women enjoy: There is always a faction of men in all religions of the world who would shout in public that women only marry men for money. Some would say men work hard in their jobs, while women sit at home and spend money.
8. Marriage is treated as a form of slavery for women where they have to obey the husband.
9. Lastly, men are always the victims of their rules: Men don’t cry or men don’t take support from women have created a long line of troubled and mentally unstable men. Destiny does not allow all men to earn money or be rich. Similarly, not all women are on earth to be duty-bound to family only. But still, gender norms on men have destroyed families too.
These are major characteristics shown by the patriarchy of any country. The minor characteristic of masculinity that deserves attention is polygamy. A major portion of the world has acknowledged the harmful effects of polygamy, but still religiously patriarchial societies treat polygamy as a full-blown expression of masculinity and virility.
The characteristics are shown by developed, developing, and underdeveloped countries in various proportions. The Western world (developed) from time to time shows a tendency to be masculine by taking up subjects like abortion, divorce, infidelity, and child custody.
The reason they (western societies) keep abandoning these masculine traits is because of two reasons. One is they value the social setup that has given them immense development which primarily depended on the all-inclusiveness of women in all spheres of life. The second is the Western societies are not deeply religious. They quickly discard ideas that have lost reason or have been proved wrong especially matters related to women.
India (a developing country) fluctuates between patriarchy and Shakti devotion (women as Goddess). In recent years, the masculinity debate is getting prominence because of the resurgence of discussion around Indian culture. Though Indian culture has fair regard to women particularly in Shaivism, today’s Indian men are more into their expression of masculinity.
Not only men, but Indian women are also equally into men’s supremacy. The momentum to portray the family as the central focus of Indian culture is bringing back masculinity in its pure form which existed till the Independence of India in 1947.
Indian men and women now spend time debating and enforcing women to wear sarees and salwar suits as a part of Indian culture. There is a whole league of Indian men who now openly discuss how women need to be controlled and do not have rights beyond what men decide.
The underdeveloped countries have poor records of human conditions, and it is significantly worse for women. They are deeply patriarchial where violence of any kind is rampant.
Call it nature’s rule or the balance created by nature, where ever men have single-handed rule without voices of women are disruptive, unstabilized, and prone to kill people among themselves very often. Let’s take up the example of China. After the one-child policy, China had shown a decline in the women population. It is now estimated that 34 million men will have no women to get married. The aggression of China towards the world in recent years has sometimes been attributed to more men than women resulting in dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
A similar case is with India where it is estimated that 37 million men will never find a woman to marry because of the skewed sex ratio. But India never acknowledges this problem to show itself as a reformed and advanced country, unlike China.
Whatever the circumstances may be when women do not play a dominant role the world always suffer under the constant threat of violent and human rights violation. Taliban in Afghanistan and terrorism in Pakistan are end products of unbridled and unchallenged patriarchy/masculinity.
Poverty and thoughtlessness are also common to countries where masculinity is practiced as a cult. People struggle for food and basic amenities because the country’s focus is always on what women are doing, wearing, or thinking. The whole energy is spent in controlling women rather than thinking about necessary matters.
My main objective in writing this article is to shake Indian men and women. History is again repeating itself in India. India now faces multiple threats from its ultra patriarchial neighbors and countries which are deeply religious.
The problem is Indian men and women are still investing time in what women’s roles should be, what should they wear from sarees to jeans, how should Indian women keep their husband’s families together, or how women neglect family. India had been a majorly patriarchial society but has failed miserably for the past two centuries. Let’s remember this.
From BJP to RSS to leaders like Owaisi, instead of looking for development in India, hours and hours are wasted in keeping women in check. India needs to keep its excessive masculine tendencies in check now. Crying always in the name of women will not help the Indian future.
Indian men in the past centuries have failed to keep India safe. It’s time Indian men and women come together and start contributing in the fields of defense, science, technology, economy, or social conditions to make India a powerful nation rather than spending hours to keep the focus on controlling women. The present scenario of India as a country requires immediate attention for all-around development so that enemies can be kept at bay.