Ever since the evolution of mankind, one has associated the word masculinity with words that reflect virility and toughness – power, dominance, and strength. In a broader perspective, this is true, however, it would be unjust to limit the term masculinity to just these words. Generally speaking, it is a set of behavior or attributes associated with men and boys which one relates to masculinity. Machismo the Spanish form of man or in indirect dialect masculinity emphasizes power and one’s lack of accountability to the consequences of an action.
Consider the latest Bollywood films which have been receiving rave reviews and earned crores of rupees: Kabir Singh. In the film, Shahid Kapoor played the role of an alcoholic surgeon who went to the path of self-destruction after his girlfriend (played by Kiara Advani) was forced to marry someone else. While this money-spinner at the box office has already put Shahid’s career on an upward trajectory, the dark side of masculinity – a misogynistic display of self-destructive hedonism – sparked a number of questions about why films like this should be allowed to be released. One reason could be because of our failure to detect chauvinism when it is in the guise of a heartbroken man. The culture of glorifying masculinity and its various manifestations have fooled us time and again to comprehend the disturbing facts about strength and power politics in society that never had qualms about showing biasedness towards men’s reckless use of strength and power.
The question arises, what does it really mean to be a man? Well, the stereotypes in our society expect men to be stoic. A “real” man “should” be physically strong and unemotional. A “real” man doesn’t show weakness, is self-sufficient or doesn’t succumb to vulnerability. Unfortunately, the “should” kills. Research over the years proves that societal expectations of masculinity have harmful consequences. To some, it may be a matter of no concern, however, to the vulnerable ones these characteristic expectations become poisonous and the outcome is detrimental for the individual himself and the people he is associated to.
Men don’t cry – this is often the dominating philosophy parents instill in young male children. Shed one drop of tear and boys risk being labeled as a sissy or a weakling. This societal norm is probably the beginning of indoctrinating the idea in a male child that he is expected to be emotionless. Expressing grief is frowned upon both by his parents and relatives because of unhealthy social stigma which calls upbringing into question. Plenty of statistics show that men are less likely to seek proper treatment whenever they face a mental health problem. If you were to dig deeper you can find a link between being unfeeling and the propensity to committing violent crimes. More than an accusation, this is a statement. The battle of minds here is not about glorifying the other gender but rather focusing on the downstream consequences of not having a healthy outlet to vent all the negative emotions. If you are bottled up all the time, it’s like a Whac-A-Mole, it will pop up behaviorally in another way which creates the term ‘toxic masculinity’. In order to suppress emotions during unfavorable situations, some men tend to act aggressively in an overbearing way which might be harmful and destructive. Yet such symptoms are solely referred to as masculinity and lauded by some owing to the patriarchal society we live in. One of the many ways some think they should exhibit masculinity at times is through toxic behavior and being violent on oneself or towards others. As mentioned earlier, like Kabir Singh, there are many Hollywood movies which have been stereotyping toxic masculinity as a means of selling more tickets since many bottled-up men find those characters and circumstances quite relatable. This helps sell the ideology that women are disloyal creatures who are scamming fragile men to push them towards self-destruction. The tendency to sympathize with the male protagonist in these movies when they come down to self-destructive behavior is applauded and perhaps even one of the reason why these movies make business. After all, it’s just a story and a fictional character. I, too am a part of the audience who enjoy watching these movies for entertainment purpose and would recommend them to family and friends.
SOCIETY TEACHES MEN NOT TO EXPRESS THEIR FEELINGS. HERE IS WHY IT IS HIGH TIME WE PUT AN END TO THAT CULTURE.
While these movies might be high on the entertainment quotient, can we afford to ignore the influence they have on impressionable young men? Psychology is something that subconsciously gets influenced by what we see. Research into this topic begun as far back as 1947, when the scholar Franklin Fearing tried to highlight the impact of movies on a person’s development. In a journal titled, “Influence of the Movies on Attitude and Behavior”, Fearing wrote, ‘The individual does not passively respond to the situation. Rather he responds in the situation selectively and creatively. This is cognition. Motion pictures achieve their effects because they help the individual to cognize his world.’ Boys watching today would be the men of tomorrow. Being aggressive or being self-destructive might be a way for some young boys out there to express their anger if things do not go their way in life. Some, if not all might look at it, in a heroic light since their favorite movie star depicted a similar character in a movie.
In recent times the west addressed toxic masculinity by launching the advertisement called “The Best Men Can Be” which sparked a heated debate online. The advert speculated the topic of toxic masculinity further and whether it is an issue the society needs to tackle. It addresses several critical issues such as sexual harassment, the #MeToo movement and the pressure placed on young boys to conform to gender norms. The campaign was received well by many where one described it as “an amazing call to action”. The brand’s slogan “The Best a Man Can Get” addresses the recent ongoing #MeToo movement both in the east and west. From a viewer’s perspective, the campaign urges men to make a point of calling out the detrimental behavior of other men. Furthermore, the narrator concludes by saying that there won’t be any going back because they believe in the best of men. The commercial had a strong impact. One person went on to tweet that “Thanks for this Gillette. I agree. We absolutely as men can do a better job instilling better morals and behavior overall with one another,” a piece of evidence that media campaign is extremely influential and can contribute towards the betterment of society. Some even acknowledged that while the advert may have an ulterior motive, its overriding message is still undeniably effective and powerful.
The issue here is not something that could be bypassed as a myth or confined to as a call to undermine men and their “masculinity”. A survey named ‘Future Men’ conducted by YouGov in Britain found that more than half of Britain’s men feel the pressure to “man up”. The scenario might not all that different in our part of the world too. So how does one man up? The majority feels as though crying in front of others would make them feel less like a man, and 67 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds said that they feel they have to exhibit “hyper-masculine” behavior in difficult situations. Of course, being in control of a situation or carefully expressing emotions is a good trait and should be applauded. However, it should not come at the cost of denying one’s emotion or not being allowed to feel it at all. Nothing could be better than maintaining a healthy relationship with a close one to whom one can express his genuine emotions. If the matter is serious or requires medical attention then one should not shy away from taking help from a counselor or psychologist, whatever the individual deems fit. At the end of the day, toxic masculine behavior is not something that should be addressed by men alone – this generation including women should come forward in unity and change the definition of masculinity. Men can have emotional triggers and it should be acceptable for them to express their feelings through a healthy channel. Being emotionally expressive should not be labeled as being weak or less masculine. Rather, not allowing them to express emotions is the root cause of the problem and needs to be eliminated.