One evening, Sohan was going through his Facebook wall. He read the #metoo status of Rohini and felt like sharing it. He copied and pasted the status, recalling a heinous incident he went through. Little did he know, that the night will pass pacifying his batchmates in a college facebook group, in response to his unexpected status. Memes were being shared on the group with the morphed images(his face imposed on the body of a bollywood heroine). That night, he became the hot target of jokes. In the end, he decided to delete that post and deactivate his FB account.
It is an illustration of the effect of Patriarchy which is little known in our society. Patriarchy is the social system governing rigid dichotomy of gender roles, in which males predominate in the roles of political leadership, social privilege and economic control of property. According to the concept of patriarchy, men are supposed to be strong, unemotional and logical. While, women are supposed to be expressive, caring, weak and dependent. This differentiation is mostly justified as per the inherent natural biological differences and is further reinforced with the empirical evidences and theory like "The men are from Mars, and women are from Venus". Thanks to our long term conditioning, the force of patriarchy has become the water that we all swim in like fish irrespective of the gender. In conventional and plain understanding, the victim is a woman while the perpetrators might be men or society in general.
In this article, I will discuss the lesser known dimension of Patriarchy, i.e., man as victim of patriarchy.
Lets begin from the childhood. The typical notion is that men are not expressive, but have you ever wondered, a 2 year old baby boy cries as much as a baby girl does. So, gender has no role to play right from the childhood. It is the social conditioning that forces a boy to wear a mask as time passes. A newborn baby girl is draped in a pink towel, while a newborn baby boy in a blue towel from the hospital itself. The segregation begins here, pink dolls vs blue trucks, fairytales vs Super Heroes.
Even in schools, in the class of SUPW(socially useful and productive work) , a girl is given the fair opportunity to explore her artistic talent by making flower or rangoli or mehandi designs. It is a free class for the boys. Even punishment in school varies for the two genders. Since the boy is supposed to be rough and tough, he will be punished (murgha punishment) more severely than a girl child(usually the standing punishment). A brother is supposed to take care of her sister(may it be younger or the elder one), pick her up late at night from her friend's place.
Alas! boys are systematically brutalized in order to prepare them for positions of domination. "Mard ko dard nahi hota" , "hath me chudiya pehni h kya", "real men don’t cry", type of mentality is forced down their throats, robbing them of core aspects of their humanity. To be more explicit, patriarchy is a form of cultural violence, which includes the physical, emotional, and spiritual brutalization of boys. The beauty of an equally responsible relationship and magnanimity of sharing and caring are not the essential elements expected from them.
When there has been hue and cry about the violence inflicted by males in our society, we forget the fact that no human being would ever do anything harmful to another human being, if they didn’t get brutalized in the first place, to the point where they lose the contact with their own natural self and it erodes their generosity, compassion and kindness.
Going further, as soon as a boy turns 25, job pressure starts building upon him. And by the time he turns 28, he is supposed to be the breadwinner of the family, which means he should choose a ‘stable’, socially acceptable and ‘masculine’ career rather than go after his passion which isn’t usually expected from women. In choosing a career of fashion consultant, he might have to pay the cost of being labelled as a gay or a pervert. He faces the restriction on the choice of clothing, the company, pursuing his passion. How many guys can get their legs shaved(despite scorching summers) without being judged? Their choice is also ultimately dictated by the social norms.
While getting married, he is supposed to protect his male ego, where he cannot accept a girl of higher social or economic rank in the social hierarchy without challenges. The pressure to outperform his life partner never wholeheartedly allows him to support her (Watch the movie Akele hum Akele Tum).
Post marriage, women are seen as natural caretakers of the household, while men are discouraged from spending too much time with the children. Since the childcare is seen as a feminine activity, the fathers remain alienated from the feeling of being emotionally connected to their kids. Father figure has limited role of providing financial security to the kids. In the bollywood movie, Kabhi khushi kabhi gum, Amitabh Bachchan too was a victim of this phenomenon. Despite having emotions for his son, he had to pretend as a stone hearted person. As per social norms, men and women can't be equal parents to their children. It says that women are considered fit to take care of children and this results in women getting custody of children in maximum cases of divorce.
Patriarchy denies emotional literacy to men. The rigid gender norms might also be the reason behind high rates of suicides among men as men are less likely to seek help for emotional problems. The ingrained fear of being seen as weak puts a lot of pressure to hide their real emotions.
The cult of masculinity further turns a blind eye towards the fact that men can also be the victims of sexual abuse, or domestic violence. And if they were victims it was because they were not being manly enough. Or they are supposed to be sex hungry so their consent is implicit. Similarly, domestic violence is supposed to be directed at women only. While, there is a real possibility of men being victim of domestic violence.
Men are confined to this conception of what it means to be a man. It forces them to live up to an unachievable standard based simply because they are men.
What can be done?
At societal level, it is impossible to change overnight. But change can begin at home. So start by dis-identifying or de-associating yourself with everything that you have been conditioned to think or do. Learn cooking when you need to learn this life skill and not because of your gender. Learn to drive as and when needed. Question everything that you do. Undo your socialization and choose what you want to be. Be free of social norms, obligations or fear of being judged. Set your own values free from patriarchal suppositions.
Feminism, a new wave and a new concept is good for men too, since it is the bedrock of gender equality. It seeks to get rid of those archaic norms of what a “real man” or a “real woman" is expected to be. This value needs to be imbibed in the kids of today. [A must read: We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie(read the book review here)].
At the end, humanity, duty, responsibility, kindness and emotions are gender neutral concepts. There is a need to acknowledge that in the current set up there is a problem with gender stereotyping and we must fix it. It needs sensitivity towards and from both the genders. Lets strive towards a world where Sohan and Rohini will be looked at through the same lens. Imagine, how much happier we all would be, shunning the weight of entrenched gender expectations.