Busting the myth of Manliness in Indian society

Busting the myth of Manliness in Indian society

By Somali K Chakrabarti


Mard ko dard nahin hota.

Amitabh Bachchan had declared in his characteristic style in ‘Mard’, one of the memorable Bollywood blockbusters from the 1980s. Translated in English it means ‘A real man does not feel pain’.

This stereotypical projection of men in India, has time and again been exemplified by the society, perpetrated through the movies, and reinforced by many parents while raising their children.

In a thought provoking show ‘When Masculinity Harms Men’ in Satyamev Jayate’, Aamir Khan took a step towards busting the myth of manliness that exists in the Indian society.

Here is what Mr Bachchan said on the show.

Gender sensitivity


To forcefully instill values in the male child to constantly act like a man or to behave violently is wrong.  ~Amitabh Bachchan

A far cry from his iconic dialogue!

Power, aggression, control are classified as ‘masculine’ traits, while caring, sharing, expressing emotions or crying are the typically seen as ‘feminine’ traits.

These notions are instilled in the mind of male children right from their childhood. Any small boy, who cries, is consoled saying he shouldn’t cry like a girl, since he is physically stronger. Mothers urge their sons to beat up other children rather than get bullied or beaten up. The image of a ‘Macho‘ man endowed with enormous physical strength, gets so  imprinted in the mind of male children that it often leads them to believe that “masculinity“ is about demonstration of power rather than about human consideration or sensitivity. As such, they value aggression more than reason, and at times they tend to believe that they will be more admired and can get away with whatever they do if they are more aggressive or violent.

95% of incidents of violence in India are committed by men. The deeply-entrenched notions of masculinity often drives the violent behavior.

The expression of masculinity may take the form of:

  1. Ragging in colleges, road rage
  2. Domestic violence, eve teasing
  3. Acid attacks and brutal incidents of rape.


Ragging in colleges, behavior driven by road rage 

Freshers, in some colleges, have to undergo severe mental and physical trauma due to rampant ragging in those colleges. The tendency of senior students to rag freshers comes from their urge to demonstrate their authority and power, as they revel in their ability to humiliate freshers and put them through discomfiture. In a few cases, ragging stretches to such obscene limits that juniors end up losing not only their morale, but also their lives.

Road rage, at times, leads to such extreme violent behavior that people end up paying with their life even for small mishaps.


Inequality, domestic abuse and physical violence 

In many parts of the country, particularly in the small towns and interiors in north India, it is still considered to be below the dignity of men to do household work, to lift and carry their children in public, or to demonstrate affection towards their children or spouse. Even to walk alongside their spouse is a taboo for women in some places, where conventions demand that the lady must walk behind her man, as per her status in the society. Men are thus conditioned to be insensitive, and domestic violence is the norm. Boys, when they grow up seeing womenfolk at home, including their mother or sisters being beaten up, take it for normal behavior and are likely to demonstrate aggression towards their spouse or daughters too.


Physical and sexual violence

The absurdities run in plenty. We have had high profile politicians making statements such as ‘Boys are prone to make mistakes and should be pardoned’. Girls, of course, are seen as liabilities. Rape, molestation, and acid attacks are used as ways by men to show their dominance and power or to inflict pain upon the victim.

One rape occurs in India every 30 minutes reveals an analysis of 13-year of crime data. [Source: One rape every 30 minutes in India, Times of India dated July 28, 2014]


Role of cinema in imposing stereotypes

Stalking has been glamorized in umpteen movies, as is the objectification of women. If a woman says ‘No’ to any  advances by the leading man, it is supposed to be taken as ‘Yes’. Inspired by such movies, people think it is normal to stalk women and tease them, while women are expected to tolerate or ignore any embarrassing gestures from men. Inability of men to take ‘No’ for an answer from a female who may not be interested in pursuing a relationship, hurts their ego so badly that some of them take revenge in the most violent forms.

It was good to see leading actresses agree that due to the impact that films have on millions, they should stop portraying women as objects.

As a society, we need to realize that being sensitive, expressing emotions, sharing household chores, or accepting a woman’s refusal does not make a person any less of a man, but goes a long way towards removing gender inequalities.

So, when Amitabh Bachchan, who once said ‘Mard ko dard nahi hota’ on cinema screen, now says on the show that it is wrong to continuously urge male children to behave ‘like a man’, we know its time to dump gender stereotypes and uphold the virtue of humanity in man.



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  1. Satyamev Jayate, When Masculinity Harms Men
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  • Nice message. Btw mard came in 80s

  • I liked your piece on the myth of Manliness . I quote Sir Walter Scott .
    O woman in our hours of ease
    Uncertain ,coy, and hard to please,
    And variable as the shade
    By the light quivering aspen made;
    When pain and anguish wring the brow,
    A ministering angel thou .

  • I wrote on the same topic in my last post. I think it was important that this issue was raised and that the icon of masculinity in Indian cinema, so to say, was there to refute the common connotations associated with the term.

    • Thanks for your comment Rachna. Can’t agree more with you. People are so influenced by movies, and the entire definition of the ‘masculinity’ revolves around being aggressive, bashing up people, or suppressing the show of softer emotions. Somewhere we need to think if we are instilling such notions within our families and while raising our children. I read your post and our views on this topic completely resonate.

  • The way you have captured the entire sceanrio, hats off to you. All the points are so clear and elaborated well.

  • The way you have captured the entire sceanrio, hats off to you. All the points are so clear and elaborated well.

  • People have the preconceived notion that men simply do not have feelings.This is far from the case.Men are taught from an early age that they need to be strong,confident and stoic. They begin to equate emotions with weakness. Societal expectations have ‘taught ‘men not to display any emotions. This becomes a huge problem in relationships, because men suppress their feelings. Emotions live in the background of a man’s life and the foreground of a woman’s. The different ways men and women show their emotions can cause communication problems.

    • Thank you Ratna for sharing your views. I like your statement ‘Emotions live in the background of a man’s life and the foreground of a woman’s’. Holds true in most cases, particularly when it comes to display of tender emotions.:-)

  • Very good article on a pretty sensitive topic. The Indian society would need some time to evolve out of being skewed unduly in favour of the man. Denying resources to certain sections based on caste , creed , occupation , religion and gender has been ingrained in most societies in the world. When resources get scarce discrimination in the society on the above parameters increases. At an average home it’s usually that the resources allocated to women in the house which undergoes a cut and discrimination starts at home ……..let’s open our minds and change asap

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