I am well aware that more often than not, it’s women who are expected to bear the burden of patriarchal norms institutionalised by the society. However, at times, we tend to conveniently ignore the fact that patriarchy is not very forgiving of men either. And it is this ignorance that makes us a little insensitive to men whilst blaming them to be all exactly the same.
We talk of feminism today and how it empowers so many, yet we forget that it didn’t happen overnight; it evolved. There are a numerous schools of thought within feminism itself who don’t see eve-to-eve on every matter. Quiet similarly, I think we are at fault when we suddenly expect the men in our family to change.
I’ve been away from home for the past three years for my studies, which gave me a chance to explore so many new ideas, get my thoughts together, understand what kind of a person I am, and want to be; what ideals do I wish to live with. It took time. But being at home with family during quarantine made me realise that I was at fault when I assumed that my family would automatically adhere to the same ideas that I did while I was in college.
I never discussed the new ideas that I came across with them. And I suddenly realised the unsaid pressure of both worlds burdening men. We tend to foresee the years of social conditioning that men go through in order to become more ‘manly’, and then suddenly expect our husbands, fathers, brothers and boyfriends to unlearn it all and become our versions of a feminist man.
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Trust me ladies, we need to cut our men some slack here, It’s not that men are resistant to evolution; they just don’t know how to go about it. And that is where we need to step in.
Talk. Talk to them about each and every idea. Tell them why you feel a practice is wrong or discriminatory. Talk to them about the many privileges they are entitled to just because of their sex. Talk to them, they’ll understand.
Most men unknowingly are feminists, the concept is just alien to them. The silver lining to this lockdown has been the discussions I’ve had with my family about every little thing. While having dinner the other day, my father said, “It’s not like I have anything against washing dishes; I kind of enjoy it now. I just never thought it to be a place for men… humne bus kabhi aisa socha nai (we never thought about it).”
Though men are raised with a sense of entitlement, they too are slotted in fixed moulds early on in life and are expected to toe the line. They too have to live up to the myth of toxic masculinity. Express no emotions, be the strong and silent types, never depend on anyone, suffer in silence, and win at any cost. That cost is often their mental health. So many men suffer from depression and anxiety and don’t even want to talk about it as they struggle to fit in with being macho.
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Which is why I emphasise to talk.
Talk to the men in your life. Help them out. The masculine ideal is as exacting of men as it is denigrating of women. If women have to conform to ideals of beauty, men too are forced to fit into the macho image. If society expects women to be soft, feminine and mild, it encourages men to fit into stereotypes of being the strong, resilient and silent ones, sans emotions. If women are expected to put their career on the backburner and meet familial responsibilities, men are thought of as nothing but primary providers and breadwinners. Men, who show the instincts to care and nurture, are ridiculed.
Perhaps mocking and berating men is not the way to show that the feminist revolution is about equality and that they have a stake in the new game. The message is that feminism can help men, too, not just as supportive allies but as partners, with an equal voice and equal humanity.
Let the men in your life know, they don’t have to be perfect; we love imperfect actually. Let them know it’s okay to cry, we’re there for them. Let him know, that pink shirt looks lovely on him. Let him know, his nose piercing looks hot! Let him know, his long tresses need a wash.
Let them know!
Kuhu Srivastava is final year political science student at Kamala Nehru College, University of Delhi.
Featured image credit: Lukkas Eggers/Unsplash