There is no denying that patriarchy has favoured men and provided them with certain privileges which are still denied to women. However, everything comes with a price, doesn’t it? We as a society, have done nothing but put restrictions on all genders. We all are victims of patriarchy since our very birth. It leaves me flabbergasted that how much can our society be influenced by patriarchy that it even allocates something as innocent as colours and toys as per the gender of a baby! If the child is male, then he’ll have a blue room and play with action figures and cars; and if female, she’ll have a pink room and dolls to play with.
No matter how progressive and advanced we claim to be in our thought process, a lot of us still stick to those stereotypes where men are supposed to be dominating and women their feeble subordinate. This whole twisted notion of masculinity has been taught to us since we were kids. The notion of boys don’t cry/ladke rote nahi hain is instilled in the minds of young boys since childhood. It is simply unjust to teach boys from their tender age that crying and expressing their emotions is an act (of shame and weakness) reserved only for girls! Gender norms restrict men from feeling the full spectrum of emotions and force them to suppress their feelings.
Having to suppress your feelings and living constantly under the pressure of being a certain kind of strong man who keeps his emotions hidden, does more than enough damage to the mental health of many men out there. As opposed to the general belief, a large section of male population grapples with depression and anxiety, amongst other mental health issues.
In the 21st century, you’d expect people to discard these ludicrous gender norms but the reality is far from it. Instead of eliminating the patriarchal toxic masculinity, we have been promoting it. Our popular culture glorifies toxic masculinity and exhibits how men are supposed to have a categorically strong physical built and be the knight in shining armour always, irrespective of their own complexities of life.
Even when it comes to their career choices and clothing preferences, toxic masculinity does not let men be in peace. It is frowned upon if a man works in the cosmetic sector or fashion line; these career options are considered as a girl’s job. Being shamed for pursuing a career of their preference and largely, just living life as per one’s own term can leave a huge negative impact on men’s mental health. It has the capacity to affect their self-esteem and confidence.
Furthermore, there is an unspoken rule according to which men aren’t supposed to wear pink or shave their legs! Apparently, pink is a girly colour and if men wear it, irrespective of their sexuality, they’d be considered anything but straight. And of course, in the heteronormative patriarchal society, one ought not to deviate from heterosexuality lest all hell break lose! One can only imagine how suffocating it must be for men to live in a society that would call them names, just for doing what they want to.
It is safe to say that the societal gender norms are so prejudiced that all they impart is suffering. They have placed unreasonable regulations such as men shouldn’t work in kitchen or care for their child (except for providing financial stability) because that would reduce their manliness, so to say. How can this not mess up with their emotional well-being and deteriorate their self-confidence as well!
Patriarchy has so deeply-rooted the concept of toxic masculinity that the society refuses to accept that men can be raped or sexually harassed. It’s so horrifying to hear when men, themselves believe the false notion and have internalised that all sexual intercourse is good. It’s against the toxic masculine culture to view men as victims, let alone survivors.
This denial to acknowledge that men can be assaulted results in men getting emotionally tortured and having no space to be vulnerable and talk about those vulnerabilities. Given the numerous ways in which toxic masculinity guides men’s daily lives, it is not a surprise to see so many men out there battle with a lot of mental health issues. The worst part is that due to the same structure that pushes them to the edge, they are made to feel hesitant in seeking help as well. The old adage of mard ko dard nahi hota that is so quickly thrown around not just in popular culture but also in our day-to-day lives is symptomatic of this toxic and psychologically injuring mentality.
We need to come together and encourage men to embrace their feelings and channelise them in a healthier manner. We need to normalise the idea of men seeking help, be it professional or from their peers to deal with their mental health issues, rather than pressurising them to suppress their thoughts and emotions. It’s time for toxic masculinity to go.