“Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?” –Ernest Gaines
For the past few decades, people all over the world have fought against the unfair treatment of women. This hard fight has turned out to be more successful than everyone presumes it to be, yet there’s still much more to achieve. Many campaigns around the world are trying to take this fight further like the HeForShe campaign. The HeForShe campaign stood out for me and made me think. Have we ever given any thought to or even considered the fact that men are suppressed too by the same patriarchal structure, in many different ways?
Let’s start by talking about the men in our families. Our fathers. Fathers have always been expected to behave in a particular way because of our social customs. There is a common perception that the father cannot or has a limited role in nurturing his child. His role is confined to the financial responsibilities, that is, being the breadwinner of the family. He is expected to be the working figure, not in any way involved with the running of the household. He has to maintain the character of this authoritative figure who is not approachable by the members of his own family.
This brings me to my second point. Emotion. Something men in our society are expected to not have. They need to mask their emotions from the world. They can feel, sometimes, but never show it. They can’t cry when they’re sad, depressed or even just for the sake of crying. Their cluster of feelings tends to stay inside them and not sharing them, in most cases, can have a negative impact on their mental health. They live in an environment where they do not feel comfortable in expressing their feelings or sharing their problems, making them look emotionless and perhaps not even human.
Moving on, violence is considered to be an ‘important’ trait for being a man. They are expected to be extremely aggressive and violent, and at the same time to be extremely tolerant to all forms of violence. It is assumed that they are not breakable in any way and will not feel any pain no matter how badly they are hurt. The statement that “mard ko dard nahi hota” has become a common saying now and is thrown around a lot. It is also considered that a man’s strength and aggression are directly proportional to the his masculinity, and if a man shows even the smallest amount of pain he is ridiculed by society, especially if the violence is coming from a woman.
Let’s look at the aspect of being ‘tough’. There is a common belief that men are the stronger ones in terms of physique and thus have to handle most manual/physical work no matter what. If the man is weak and cannot handle strenuous manual work, he is labelled to be not masculine enough.
When we talk about masculinity, there are certain things which definitely come under the category of ‘feminine stuff’ and hence are not suitable for a man. Dolls, dresses, dance -the three D’s you should surely refrain from. A man who likes doing makeup and shopping is undoubtedly considered to be gay (as if being gay equals not being ‘normal’). Whenever we see products targeting the idea of diversity and beauty, why are men left behind? Why can’t we associate men with being pretty or beautiful? Who decided what is feminine and what is masculine?
It is time we become aware about what is happening around us and the impact it has on people’s lives and help change these circumstances because we are all human beings and no human being should live in fear of expressing him or herself to the people around him or her. It is time to live and let live.