Breaking the Chains of Toxic Masculinity

From “Mard ko dard nahi hota”( Men don’t feel pain) to “sakht launda tha pighal gaya”(He was a tough guy, but he softened). Indian society has undergone significant changes over the years, BUT the core values still revolve around how the society has become so narrow and entrenched in a distressing obsession with toxic masculinity.

The fundamental responsibility of  parents is to cultivate their children’s character, guiding them towards becoming compassionate and kind human beings. However, it is a heartbreaking reality that parents, sometimes without even realising it, get harsh  on their children, especially in Indian society where the children are often compelled  to behave in a certain way that is acceptable to the society. While Growing up in a village of  western Bihar where the societal norms and conservative thought process is ingrained deeply within the society, I was supposed to follow all the norms which were there to be called manly enough suppressing the emotions, not being allowed to play with my sisters were the few to be  named.

It pains me to witness how parental instruction can unknowingly become sources of emotional difficulty for children.

According to the National democratic institute the term ‘masculinity’ refers to the roles, behaviours and attributes that are considered appropriate for boys and men in a given society. Masculinity is constructed and defined socially, historically and politically, rather than being biologically driven. Women as well as men are involved in reinforcing these social expectations of masculinity (e.g. when a mother tells her son to act like a man and not to cry.) The research done by the institute describes how power means masculinity and how masculinity is superior to femininity in the hierarchy. However, it begs the question: what’s the need of such a hierarchy? And what are the parameters on which such expectations are measured by society? And why there is a pressing need to conform to the expectations of society. The pressure to conform to these expectations not only affects men but also impacts women and gender minorities. It is disheartening to recognize that the concoct of masculinity is not a natural or universal truth but rather a social construct imposed upon us. These thoughts stir deep emotions within me.

The conservativeness of the society often leads the children to adhere to strict guidelines dictating how they should behave in order to be deemed acceptable by societal standards.This burden placed upon the children is immense. They are expected to adhere to predetermined roles, stifling their individuality and suppressing their true selves.The pressure to conform can weigh heavily on their spirits, restricting their personal growth and inhabiting their ability to explore their unique identities.

In India, men are often presented with an idealised image of the “Macho man,” a figure that is expected to aspire in order to be considered real men. It is portrayed  in the Bollywood industry and is deeply ingrained in the deep rooted culture of social status where mens are always depicted as tough and emotionless, discouraged to express their feelings. The influence of societal norms on masculinity and femininity barriers permeates choosing career options as well, the rigidity of masculinity and femininity norms have fixed certain bars surrounding careers which are suitable for men and there are the ones which are suited for womens such as the job role of nurse and all the administrative job roles are suited best for mens only.

As per the report of union ministry of social justice and empowerment over 70% of callers to India\’s national mental health helpline were men since its launch.The perpetuation of stereotypes runs deep within our society, and it begins at a young age when children are instructed about the games they are “supposed” to play. If you’re a boy then you are supposed to play football, cricket and other outdoor games emphasising physical strength and competitiveness conversely,  girls are supposed to play games that are perceived as requiring less strength or physical activity. These observations leave me both amazed and saddened. It is astonishing to witness how deeply ingrained these concepts have become, even with the minds of young children. When I was kid I used to  play Ghar-Ghar and my friends who were girls often made me sit in the hall and read the newspaper or watch T.V and would do all the household chores. At that time it was normal but now as I am writing this article I can recall and see  deepness ingrained in the concept of gender roles in our society.

In my previous article on Gendering Colours And Style: Fashion’s Journey In Shattering Gender Norms I discussed how society has set a bar and decided which colour is for boys  and which colour is for girls in the same scenario the society has set a bar even for emotions. If you\’re a boy you can’t cry, If you\’re a girl you can’t raise your voice. Which affects the mental health of mens as showing feelings and emotions are often considered feminine.

Never miss real stories from India's women.

Register Now

Not only this, even the bollywood movies have also contributed in shaping the stereotypes and  narrow mindedness regarding gender and their roles. “Hamare mohalle me ladke cricket khelte hain aur ladkiyan badminton”

This dialogue is from Doctor G directed by Anubhuti Kashyap. Though the film showcases and challenges the setted bar of job roles of the society but at the same time it also showcases the narrowmindedness of the society. Bollywood movies often perpetuate toxic masculinity by glorification of violence, objectifying the women, reinforcement of gender roles and normalisation of abuse.

It breaks my heart to see how toxic masculinity perpetuates aggression, dominance, and emotional suppression. Men are burdened with the weight of false notions that they must always be strong, tough, and devoid of vulnerability. This pressure to conform becomes a breeding ground for destructive behaviours, perpetuating a cycle of violence, misogyny, and prejudice.

The consequences are devastating, not only for those directly impacted but for society as a whole. Women face objectification, disrespect, and discrimination, while men suffer silently, carrying the weight of unexpressed emotions. The mental health toll is immeasurable, as men internalise their struggles, fearing judgement and rejection if they dare to seek help.

The journey to dismantling toxic masculinity may be difficult, but the rewards are immeasurable. It\’s a path that leads us toward healthier relationships, enhanced mental well-being, and a brighter future for all.

It is important for us to highlight the consequences of spreading these stereotypes. By limiting children’s opportunities based on their gender, we deprive them of the chance to develop a holistic set of skills and interests. Boys may miss out on learning valuable lessons about empathy, nurturing, and domestic responsibilities, while girls may be discouraged from pursuing physical activities that can foster their strength and confidence.


About the Author

Lucky Kr.

The author is an Ex-hotelier now striking out in communications and is enrolled in Indian institute of mass communication. Beside Reading, writing author likes storytelling, Cooking, Theatre & drama. read more...

1 Posts | 214 Views

Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

All Categories