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I have always been awestruck by Amitabh Bachchan. Legendary and inspiring, Big B makes no mistakes and therefore comes across as an actor from beyond the regular realms of perfection. Such is his expression, such is his emotion and such is his dialogue delivery that one simply can not escape his charisma. I mean look at that dialogue he delivered in the film Mard in 1985.That dialogue still echoes in the unwritten, unforgiving constitution of social conduct, so much so that it has become a preamble to the same. The dialogue goes “Mard ko dard nahi hota”. Ah to simply state the dialogue without Big B’s expression, a relegation most diminishing, a crime most heinous.
No no, this article is not an article about Amitabh Bachan.
It is instead, as you will upon proceeding to find out, an attempt to underline how social prejudice and stereotype make it difficult for a man to express his true self.
Here’s some food for thought. In our attempts to overwhelm the evil of misogyny, there has developed a kind of pseudo-feminism that does not realise that the fight isn’t against men but patriarchy that in many ways victimises men also- that we have consciously (and perhaps subconsciously too) forgotten that men too suffer at the hands of prejudice and stereotypical discrimination. Boy now that was a pretty long sentence huh.
I’m sure you’re aware of the fact that bottling up emotions has, inter alia, serious psychological consequences. And the best way to give vent to these emotions is to cry your heart out. That is why you feel so ‘light’ after shedding a few tears. But unfortunately, even today, in such a modern era, crying and emotional vulnerability has exclusively feminine connotations. A crying man is simply deemed effeminate and becomes an object of contempt not only for his social group but for society in general. So you see, it is very difficult for a man to express his inner self to other people. He has, therefore, no other option but to weep quietly in solitude. Quite a dramatic poignancy there, don’t you think?
Oh here’s a fact. Men who put up a tough, macho front are more likely to be emotionally sensitive. However do note that due to societal pressure every man tries to paint a tough (read masculine) and macho (read even more masculine) image of himself. It’s just that more often than not this proves to be a futile pursuit for more often than not men are neither too tough nor too macho. But that in NO way questions their masculinity. It only questions their gym schedule.
Now realise dear reader, that society has this set of gender roles that it thrusts upon its people. Gender roles are a discriminatory concept which dogmatizes that certain tasks and behaviours are suited only for a particular gender. In other words, gender roles are sheer blasphemy to gender equality. Since a very long time, cooking and house-making were essentially feminine tasks and inspirational women were those who fulfilled duties regarding their homes.. On the other hand, breadwinning and protecting the family were exclusively masculine tasks.
However, due to the rise of feminism, there has been a little shift in the female side of the story. With time, we will hopefully get to a point where women will be as capable as men. It is a difficult job, but the discourses have to be kept in place and not allowed to die. Women have played first fiddle in so many fields, inspiring and achieving, motivating other women to become inspiring achievers too. But before you smile to yourself thinking that you are a part of a modern, pro-equality society, consider that there has been a small-to-no change in the male side of the story. Society till date thrusts the onus of breadwinning upon the man. In his gender-role, it is solely the man who must ensure that his family is protected and that it does not go to bed starving. And THAT is a very heavy burden for a single man to carry. Is it not sad that despite having a family, the ‘male of the house’ has to battle his insecurities alone?
The male-dominated society that ensures gender conformativity is, as much as it is for women, a bane for men.
Gender roles have also crept their way into parenting. While both parents should be actively involved in parenting, mothers have the responsibility of child care ( not to ignore their confinement indoors that comes from such responsibilities). So while it is the mother’s job to spend time with the children nurturing them, feeding them and helping them with their schoolwork, the role associated even with top inspiring women achievers who have to work out of their homes; the father is supposed to work hard and earn money, and then spend whatever little time that remains with the children. With such less involvement, the father-child bond is bound to get weak. Is it not unfair that a man should be denied the pleasure of parenthood simply because of his sex? I think it is. A patriarchal society denies certain pleasures to the man too, not anywhere implying that men have been more oppressed than women.
You must realise, dear reader, that equality is a two-way thing in the sense that if you treat everyone equally then you too must be treated similarly by others. The milestone that needs to be reached is the redundancy of gender roles. To limit feminism to a discourse only for women would be to be deeply ignorant of the fact that it is less “ for- women” ( not to ignore the specificity of the situation of a woman) and more “ against-patriarchy” and against the gender-normativity that patriarchy promotes.
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