Every year we celebrate 19th November as International Men’s Day. However, in spite of all the awareness and rights about equality, there’s a lot of pressure on men because certain social precepts define how exactly a man must behave and what exactly defines his manliness. Along with these perceptions, there is a lot of pressure to keep up with the given set of standards that prescribe how one can be the ‘Perfect Man’. Even after being the most advanced species the primitive thought that causes gender stereotypes has not left us. Gender stereotypes are extremely harmful because they limit men and women’s capabilities which are necessary to develop their inter-personal abilities or pursue their choice of career. In this article we are going to look at the flaws which exist in our society when it comes to stereotyping a particular gender.
The first common notion which society holds is that a man cannot cry. Rather, crying is associated with what girls do and tears are seen as a mark make him unmanliness. However, we fail to understand that by training an individual to abstain from freely expressing his emotions from a tender age we are also restricting him from having a healthy mental state by preventing emotions. This can even lead to a person becoming unresponsive to emotions or sensitivity at a later stage. This inability to feel anything in the long run can have a very adverse effect leading to mental instability. Interestingly, statistics show that men are victims of the most volatile crime. Further, 76% of suicides and 70% of the homicides caused globally are by men.
We also create stereotypes when we claim that boys can’t have a liking for the colour pink, watch a romantic film like Twilight or help in domestic chores. We forget, ironically enough, that some of the world’s best chefs (from Gordon Ramsay to Sanjeev Kapoor) are male, and we do enjoy their delicious recipes and even take utter pride when they represent our country. Very often we do see a trend of girls learning singing or dancing and boys going forward for a sport. However, the people who defy stereotypes become victims of mockery when they are good at an activity their gender doesn’t permit them to be good at. For instance, a boy being a good ballet dancer is seen with scorn. Again, we forget the names of male ballet legends like Vaslav Njinsky or Benjamin Millepied.
Sexual violence is another deeply tabooed topic. Rape is a humanitarian concern. Men face rape, but because of social standards, it’s mostly overlooked and mocked at. How many times have we seen the media reporting that a man has been raped? Very rarely. Bullying, harassment, or mistreatment is not given an ear to because of the image we have formed about male infallibility. Sadly, social expectations also cultivate toxic masculine trends when such abusive activities are used by men to showcase their dominance.
A man is always assumed to be strong no matter what, and if a man lacks physical strength he is considered to be unmanly. This notion is a very disappointing one because we seem to have glorified the physical demonstration of violence as a desirable characteristic of manhood. Instead of encouraging and glorifying just physical strength, people must highlight and inclulcate in their young ones strength in spirit, strength in character, and the strength for persistence. These are the real qualities which make for a healthy and truly desirable man.
Men are also victims of body-shaming. Just like women are under pressure to be perfect, fair, slim, a flawless dainty work of art, society desires men too have to keep up to the notion of the being ‘tall, dark, and handsome’. Overly pale skinned men are often called ‘girly’, skinny guys are often cat-called and short guys are shamed with demeaning terms. This insensitivity continues to be practiced by the people in our society. These perceptions are extremely upsetting as they can just crush an individual’s self-esteem. It makes us aware that there’s something terribly wrong with our society. Alopecia or baldness is a condition where people tend to lose their hair, and it is a condition more common among males than females. Yet again, we see society’s coldness in mocking people with such conditions, and turning what is just a hair loss problem to an event that leads to the loss of self confidence. Individuals must understand that the victims of such shaming already go through a lot of insecurity and the least we can do as fellow humans is not the make them feel inferior about it.
Besides these stereotypes, men are also subject to pressure when choosing academic fields. They are expected to take up physical sciences or engineering and not social sciences. This stereoptype can be very destructive as it threatens to bar an individual from following his/her passion. His/her individual intellect is limited simply because of his gender. This harsh idea has a long term negative impact because it makes an individual less efficient in his/her work. After all, how can someone even excel in something which he/she doesn’t even like?
Models of men who support the women in their life should be appreciated more. Geeta Phogat, was the first Indian to ever win a gold medal in wrestling, and her father believed in his daughter’s aspirations and capability at a time and place where women were looked down upon and restricted to the domestic sphere. Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to go to space, also was given support and encouragement by her husband. Mary Kom’s husband Onler Kom’s willingness to let his career slide because he wanted support his wife’s endeavours to become the best boxer India made him a true model for male support. It is necessary that we recognize and hold out situations where men have believed in equality between the sexes and respected women’s choices as model instances.
Hence, gender stereotypes are evidently doing nothing other than pulling us further away from the ultimate goal which is to be happy and stand beside each other, supporting one another. To all the boys out there, it is perfectly normal to be yourself, in fact it is something which makes and defines you. As a matter of fact not only a man or woman, every soul deserves love and above all respect. Men who respect and encourage women while maintaining their own choices without hindrances from stereotypes are the ones we need more of.
Picture Courtesy- Ted Talks