The Breakthrough Voice 21st March, 2016

Why neither gender benefits from being told to “Man Up”.

Can’t ask her out? Man up.
Scared of bungee jumping? Man up.
Upset your boyfriend broke up with you? Man up.

Why is it that anytime we have a less than favourable reaction to something, we’re told to “man up”? What does that say about our society? That to be a man means to be strong, brave, emotionally stable, and fierce, and to be a woman is the opposite of those things? Think about every time you’ve been told, or have told someone to man up, be a man, or act like a man, and ponder the damage that it does to a whole generation of women, and also to a whole generation of men.

The damages to women are clear – our culture deems women the weaker sex; they are the failures, the emotionally unstable, the fearful, and the overtly sensitive. So any display of behaviour corresponding to a woman, is met with a sharp “Don’t be a girl!”.

The damages to young boys and men is less obvious. Unfortunately, It is EQUALLY corrosive for half the population to be brought up on these God like ideals. Not only do boys grow up never allowing themselves to feel, they also grow up believing that that’s all women do! A double whammy.

For achieving true gender equality in India, it is imperative that we put neither gender down. Countless helpless men are sexually assaulted in our country, but never receive the support they need because we can not comprehend the thought of a defenceless man. It is even worse when a man is assaulted by a woman, because “Come on, how is that even possible?”.

Men don’t give themselves the permission to grieve the loss of a loved one, because that is not what a “real man” would do. Psychologists have spoken about the importance of embracing grief in order to move past it, but our men continue to bottle it up, because their parents, teachers and friends have told them to for eons.

Their relationship with women continues to suffer because of this subtle messaging. From being suffocatingly protective because women are “delicate”, to never being emotionally available to their partners, to believing women should be soft spoken and submissive, to expecting their girlfriends and wives to be the natural homemakers, to domestic violence of women, and to offensive thoughts on the role of women in society, the effects are resounding far and wide.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that these dialogues are the only culprits. What we’re trying to say is that these dialogues are another demonstration of the unequal, sexist society. And this sexist society harms men, as much as it harms women.

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