Gender Roles and Toxic Masculinity

From the moment a baby is born, the first question that is asked is, “Is it a boy or a girl?”. The dilemma is whether to buy a doll or a bike or paint the nursery in hues of pink or blue. Will the baby grow up to become a beautiful young woman or a strong young man? Gender roles are thrust upon us the day we are born. What one is supposed to do  becomes the important question rather than what one wants to do? We raise our boys to be macho, enduring, financially capable and heroic while we raise our girls to be demure, delicate, passive and submissive. This demarcation of roles has led to an imaginary line of prejudice being cultivated over the years. Women who do not want to bear children, are career-oriented and do not want to be a homemaker or dislike cooking are seen as arrogant, power hungry and un-homely. Men who wish to be house-husbands, who cry or take care of their children are considered weak and sissies. Widely accepted stereotypes have been prevalent around the globe, which eventually leads to the formation of sexist ideologies. Gender stereotypes exist in occupations, physical appearances, personality traits and even domestic surroundings. The views expressed by people who believe in gender stereotypes, but claim they are against gender discrimination, are highly hypocritical. If a man proposes to a woman and is more sexually experienced than her, he’s considered to be manly but if a woman asks a man out or is more sexually active, she is termed as desperate and her morals are questioned. This stems from the age-old notion that women are naive and need to be constantly protected by a man. The dynamics of gender have definitely changed over the years but it will take some time to break the glass ceiling. Movies, films, books are all filled with countless gender stereotypes which further normalize the issue.

Toxic masculinity
Toxic masculinity refers to a set of beliefs and expectations which surround men, thrusting the idea of manliness and “how a man should behave” upon them. Men are often told to bottle up their feelings as staying connected to their feelings will make them less of a man or worse they are bullied for being weak. There is a growing need for a safe space or platform for men to address their issues, to talk about the high expectations set for them and how they feel pressured by it, how they can let out their feels without being judged. Men feel the need to be right always and have the supreme authority over women. In an interview from the Nirbhaya documentary which aired on BBC, one of the rapists admitted that the reason for adopting the gruesome methods of rape and murder was because the victim resisted. Had she accepted her fate and let them do what they wanted, they wouldn’t have been this merciless. To conclude, their male ego was hurt. To examine the fragility of the male ego it is important to dive into our cultural roots of patriarchy. From where does abuse, domestic violence, rape, workplace harassment and misogynistic ideology stem from? Each stems from an ingrained thought that women cannot and rather should not have an opinion and must if she does, it must be suppressed. An example from our Indian Legal system is the Adultery law which states that the wife cannot be held as the abettor of the crime because she is not capable of making her own decisions.

What our films say about the issue?
The sight of the hero bashing up a plethora of goons with his bare hands to save a damsel in distress is a USP of the top-selling, mainstream movies of Bollywood. The standards set by Hindi cinema trigger toxic masculinity in the robust, unsuspecting youth of today. Physical aggression is linked to masculinity which sets a wrong example. This leads to severe other issues like growing misogyny and the advent of the rape culture. Phrases like, “Mard ko dard Nhi Hota” or “Stop crying, are you girl?” have toxic masculinity oozing out of them. Casual misogyny portrayed in movies is a manifestation of our toxic norms and culture where a plain no by a woman is considered an implied yes.

It’s high time we smudge the lines of gender roles, accept the consequences of toxic masculinity and strive to blur it.

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