There must have been a plethora of times you would have heard phrases like the ‘alpha male’ or the ‘macho man’, seen people reproaching men who cry easily or wear makeup, little boys being bullied and ragged, or you might have been a part of it.
Facing humiliation in the hands of society because you do not follow the socially accepted set of behavior and roles, termed as ‘masculinity’, is not uncommon for men. Major discourse on the topic of gender equality focuses on the oppression faced by women at the forefront, which is right to do, women do face the maximum brunt of violence in society today. However, the stigmas attached to gender are not limited to women alone.
It is this concept of ‘masculinity’ in society today that influenced men to possess vigorous strength and establish their dominance over their counterparts, which slowly and gradually led to the rise of patriarchy. A patriarchal society, like ours, expects a man to always appear on the front line of everything, to have the power of his family, his relationships in his own hands, to exert his dominance over non-masculine beings, and to measure his worth in terms of his salary, material possessions, bodily strength, etc. This is the notion of masculinity that has been built in our minds over all these years.
What is society’s notion of masculinity?
“How is one supposed to be a man in society?” Think of it yourself once. Almost all of us, at one point or the other, have romanticized the idea of men being these super active, extremely strong emotionless robots. It’s the years-long conditioning of the minds of people that they have been compelled to believe in this idea of manhood, that this is how men are supposed to be, it’s like there is an instructional manual on how to be a man.
For starters, it’s this notion of not crying like women and not feeling the pain too closely and that’s concerning and hence, the major question of how masculinity is affecting men must be tackled with. Emotional vulnerability and sensitivity are considered inferior qualities that somehow diminish the strength that a man is supposed to have. Young boys are being frowned upon by parents if they cry over little things or if they are seen playing with dolls, liking women’s attires, or trying makeup.
Think about the number of times you have heard people around you telling a male to ‘man up’. Well, we can certainly recount many.
Moreover, there is this need, in fact, the necessity, for men to be financially stable and successful and be the one who is sufficient enough to raise his entire family alone. Anyone who doesn’t choose a very mainstream career with a very hefty salary is not very appreciated by people who believe in this traditional concept of how a man is supposed to be.
Well, it doesn’t end here. People attach a very weird stigma with being a man, which is, to be hypersexual. An alpha male is believed to have an insatiable sexual appetite, sleep around with women, and be physically attracted to almost all females. It is downright absurd how this is looked upon as some mark of strength possessed by a man. While we do not deny that physical attraction is a thing, it’s also true that it has a biological reason and works for both men and women.
When does masculinity convert into toxic masculinity?
Let us see a few examples of how such gender stereotypes work negatively and how masculinity affects men. While financial stability and independence is a good thing, it is this pressure created by society on men that is alarming. Research shows that men who are the primary sources of income (breadwinners) in a family tend to have worse health than men whose wives earn close to them.
On the other hand, men who earn comparatively lesser as compared to their wives are generally seen to be more involved in inflicting violence on their wives and hardly engage in any sort of household help. Hence, the idea of being the sole breadwinner doesn’t have many benefits for men.
When the idea of masculinity is started to be shoved down upon those who do not want to conform to such ideas, it becomes toxic. Toxic masculinity in no way means that men are biologically or intrinsically violent or toxic, rather it is what society forces them to become sometimes.
How does toxic masculinity harm men?
It has been often seen that strict gender roles are one of the factors that lead to men being extremely violent in certain situations. In grave circumstances, it also leads to child sexual abuse.
Mental illnesses, anxiety, stress are common repercussions of the same. However, a lesser percentage of men, as compared to women, are seen to seek professional help for such problems, and you obviously know the reason by now. Of course, the masculinity norms again, which deter them from revealing their emotional side, or else they are considered to be weak.
The idea that men should be risk-takers, physically strong implies that any man who doesn’t possess such attributes is not a man and has feminine characteristics, which are somehow considered to be inferior. Such things eat up men from the inside when they find themselves not being able to conform to these socially accepted standards. Do we still need to ask how is masculinity affecting men?
Let us debunk these gender roles together
There is no guide on how to be a man, so let us not burden men to prove themselves as something that they are not. If you’re a man being hated for wearing makeup, try telling people from the next time that you believe you are beautiful. The next time somebody raises an eye on you for earning lesser than your wife, tell them how you help her at home and how she loves it.
We, as a generation, can together try to stop our men from being humiliated just because they don’t want to do things in the way society expects them to. Let us debunk such gender roles, together, as a community.
Also, let us remember that: “Subjugation of femininity is not masculinity.”