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What do ordinary men around us truly think and feel about this ‘man’s world’ run by men for men? Here are some interesting and unexpected answers.
This world, as we see it, is run by men. It seems that way, and it surely feels that way, especially from the perspective of a woman.
Yet, I have often wondered how the men folk feel in this ‘world’ that’s practically ‘run’ by them? How do they see themselves? What does it mean for them to be ‘men’? And most importantly how do they see other fellow men and women?
Since I had a lot of questions, I asked them.
To get some answers, I created a quiz with 9 questions, The Man Quiz. I asked the men I know to take it up and provide me with their takes on topics ranging from the idea of ‘masculinity’ to feminism.
A total of 18 men took the survey and allowed me perspective on what it is to be a man in this man’s world. Even though the sample size was small, it gave me insights into their experience as what it is to be men in the world.
The intent behind my first question was to understand how men feel they are ‘perceived’ when they show the most basic human emotion, fear. As it turns out, 50% of them have been made to feel ‘unmanly’ for showing signs of fear by their surroundings. 11.1% are in the ‘maybe’ category about their experiences and 38.9% said their environment didn’t judge them for it.
Not surprising since the absence of fear in men with a sprinkle of righteous anger have been glorified so often in movies that we often expect the same from men in real lives too, conveniently forgetting the threat of violent repercussions such expectations pose for their mental and physical well being. It’s time we normalized the opposite.
Have you or a man you know ever listened to a song, watched a movie or done something that’s considered ‘girly’ and felt the need to hide it from the world? Well, you/they are not alone. Most men around us have done that, just to uphold their image of being ‘manly’.
A ‘cool girl’ is often a girl who exhibit traditional manly traits like a free-spirit, someone who enjoys a drink, likes motorcycles etc. but a man exhibiting traditional feminine traits is often panned as something shameful and unnatural.
I find the irony quite amusing. The internalized misogyny is harming the very gender they seek to glorify. It goes to show how gender is nothing more than a social construct and how gendered expectations harm all genders regardless of their intent.
Once I started researching on the topic and talking to the men around me, one thing became quite clear, even though the rules are less for them, the society is equally cruel to men.
A society’s expectations for a man to provide while ensuring he feels ‘unworthy’ of love and a good life when he fails to do so, is at par with women who are constantly told that they don’t deserve love and a good life when they don’t fit the criteria of ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’ girls. A man’s worth is measured by the numbers in his CTC, not his character, not his compassion, and not even his love. That’s the truth.
And here is where I believe we can make a difference. We, as humans of today, need to step up and see the value in a man beyond the numbers, especially the ones who see us beyond the petty expectations. It’s a two-way street.
I heard it somewhere we can’t persecute people for the information they don’t have. Even though the onus is on us after a certain age to upgrade our knowledge base and unlearn toxic learnings, we cannot completely ignore the role the society and upbringing plays in constructing skewed narrative about gender and gender- roles at the most basic level, home. According to my survey, 66.7% of men have thought about gender roles inside their homes and outside. That is a very inspiring trend and it is quite wonderful that we have started to think about the implications of gender constructs in all set-ups.
The only way to bridge the gap that gender has created is through having a dialogue with the one another. 55.6% of men from my survey sample have taken that first step.
Whether you are a man or a woman, the road is hard for us all and the only way we can understand the other better is through imagining how it must be to walk a mile in each other’s shoes.
I had to ask the men the difficult question – whether feminism only helps women – and the responses I got were as amazing and polarizing as I had expected. The happy news is most men in my survey feel that it helps all genders, but still many feel that it’s not all dandy as some women take advantage of their gender and ride the wave of the movement for their own benefit.
Here’s my take. Our thoughts are carved by our experiences. Even though I understand the skepticism rising from personal experiences of some of the men who feel feminism only helps women, or that women take advantage by playing the gender card too often, I don’t agree with them.
Feminism, like every other human movement in history, has its flaws and is still at a nascent stage of conception and execution, according to me. It is not fair to denounce an entire movement because of a few bad apples. Besides, it is one of the only inclusive movements that has historically uplifted lives of not just women, but LGBTQI+ individuals, children, and of course men.
Here’s a simple example, today if a heterosexual man doesn’t want to be a bread winner, with the right partner that’s possible. Because feminism has fought for the rights of the women to work, get equal pay, and not be discriminated at a work place, as well as for men who want to do the ‘softer’ work traditionally associated with women. Whether we see it or not, equality is tied up with all the genders.
This question garnered some of the most intriguing responses from the men who took the survey.
One of the most common stereotypes that men really wish would stop is that ‘men don’t cry’. Here’s another instance of toxic dehumanization of men masquerading under the garb of masculinity. Crying is again a very human reaction to pain but somehow, we as a society, can’t even allow our men the dignity of emoting like humans. And then we wonder, where did we go wrong?
Next time you see a boy or even a man cry, please don’t tell him that boys don’t cry or why are you crying like a girl. That will either scar him for life or push him more towards a breaking point. Instead, just hold him and say it’s okay.. because it really is okay to cry.
Only women doing domestic chores, equating physical strength with manhood, seeking men for financial/social security, or the quote ‘man up’ are some of the other stereotypes that men from my survey believe should cease to exist among us, and I couldn’t agree more.
It’s time for us as a society to start thinking how we are treating and raising our men, if we want a more progressive and a truly inclusive society. It’s time we (EVERY one of us, not just the women, so it includes policies at infrastructure levels) took responsibility for how conducive we make it for men to emote and exist authentically without persecuting them for being ‘different’ because whether we like it or not, they too deserve better.
Header image source: a still from Kabir Singh
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