Young siblings, in an urban city in India, approach their mother and ask about their future.
Young girl: Mummy who will I marry when I grow up? (*Perfectly normal*)
Mummy (smiling): A young and handsome prince will come riding on a horse and take you away to live in a big castle. (*A mother being sensitive to the feelings of her younger one*)
Young girl: Thank you, mummy. (*Starts dreaming about the imaginary prince*)
The brother taking a cue from his sister asks the same question in a rephrased manner.
Young boy: Mummy will I marry a beautiful princess too? (*Mother gets hesitant in answering*)
Mummy: Yes dear, but for that, you will have to grow up to be tall and handsome.
Young boy: Ok mummy. (*in a dejected tone as he knows his future life will not be as easy as his sister’s life*)
The above scene clearly depicts the difference that a child will have when thinking about his/her life partner. The nonexistent charming prince has not only raised the girl’s expectation but has also served a reminder to the boy of how he is expected to become. Stereotypes about men have been prevailing for centuries and show no signs of abating in the near future. It is an everyday struggle for men to deal with the pressures of society which is adamant on reminding them of those stereotype ideas which these men hate. Being a majority population of the world simply places more burden on their shoulders. When the society spots someone who does not fit with them or is a bit different, the hypocrites come out in full voice.
The moment a baby boy is born in the house, his closet consists of “manly colors” like blue and gray. His toys will have cars, action figures, and jungle animals while tiny jeans, t-shirts, and shoes become his staple attire. Any liking to the color pink is automatically seen as girly. Young boys tend to develop a hatred towards pink since they are afraid that their friends would tease them. From a tender age, boys want to preserve their status of manliness. Boys are taught to be tough and to protect themselves and their sisters from bad people. A boy crying in front of people is termed as a “cry baby” or “crying like a girl” by people who should be cajoling him. Why are boys afraid of becoming emotionally vulnerable and letting a girl help them out? Sometimes situations around us tend to bring out inevitable emotional responses where the boy has no choice but to let his emotions flow. But it is practically a full-time job for people to make fun of boys who cry and to incessantly remind them of their “masculine identity”. Boys are expected to have hearts of steel and crying is simply seen as a chink in the armor.
A common stereotype about men is that they are expected to pay for their women counterparts. While it should be a personal choice for men to pay for people they are with, I genuinely feel that paying for people simply to reassert their manhood is completely nonsensical. Why should paying for women be a decisive requirement to be a real man? Why can’t women pay for themselves and maybe even for their male partners sometimes, without the society looking accusingly at the man? One argument that could be made in favor of women is that men are the bread earners of the house while women engage in domestic chores. But there again lies the problem. Why are men expected to earn enough for the entire family and not just for themselves?
Another stereotype constantly being faced by men is that they are expected to be competitive at all times but not against females. Being competitive is a very healthy habit which should be taught to children, irrespective of their gender. But the expression or gesture of any man losing against a woman is excessively hyped. “Ladki se haar gaya” is a constant phrase which many of us can associate with. What is wrong for a man to lose to a woman with more potential and ability than him? Why is a man looked upon as heartless when he defeats a woman but treated as a sore loser when the same woman defeats him? Winning and losing in any field is part of the natural learning process but people who involve gender are the real losers. While creating a sense of dejection around the beaten man, it also creates an undue sense of self-worth among women on their victory.
The recently released movie ‘Dangal’ portrays this exact scene where all male wrestlers are afraid to fight the female protagonist in fear of being teased at losing out to her. Although, I found the movie to be quite unique and different from typical Bollywood masala. The father whose dream is to have a son win a gold medal for his country later decides that a gold medal is still the same whether it be a son or daughter. I completely agree with the thought process that is followed and feel that women should be given equal opportunity too. But the problem lies when the society starts interfering and decides what is right or wrong based on the gender.
To conclude, the podium for equality has been monopolized by women and feminism in general. The emotionally tough and physically tough men are left on their own to take care of, not just themselves, but of women too. They are expected to earn for their family while also thinking about their female partner’s respect and safety by themselves. Why is it so wrong for a man to stay at home and look after the children while the woman earns the bread? Even this was shown in the movie ‘Ki and Ka’ where the hero loves to stay at home while the actress earns the bread for the family. Though the movie tapers off, the concept is really nice and the way protagonists deal with the role reversals is commendable. Any woman unhappy with gender inequalities has the tools to speak and the public to listen to what she feels. But what about men? Who will fight for them?
It is bemusing and ironical that men themselves will have to stand up for eliminating these misconceptions. Just like for every other thing.