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.
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:
- Ragging in colleges, road rage
- Domestic violence, eve teasing
- 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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- Satyamev Jayate, When Masculinity Harms Men
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