We have been accustomed to hearing a famous and widely used phrase when it comes to exhorting a man into doing something, “Be a man”. As I think about this statement, I find the direct reinforcement of’ macho’ image of men. The kind of reinforcement that requires great import of perseverance, resilience and strength, less encumbered by emotions. From the very primitive ages, men have been assigned to be the bread earners of their family, staying resilient enough in order to save the female and children in their horde. The bravery emanated by men have always been appreciated. More often the soldiers who stake their life for the sake of their country are tagged as “HEROES’. This traditional definition of ‘being a man ‘ still persists today in our society which puts much pressure on men and even little boys to act like a real ‘macho’. They struggle to qualify this definition of ‘macho’ and aren’t as much liberated enough to expose their emotional part as a human being who is vulnerable to pain, dread and failure .
The traditional definition of masculinity is so much inscribed in the definition of “being a real man” that even little boys are trapped into this vicious circle of masculinity. I have a 7 year old brother and whenever he comes home crying, complaining about the fight he’s had, the immediate reaction of my parents is ‘Hey, only girls cry, boys don’t do that’. This is a very common ideology preached by most people in our society who believe that ‘crying is not a manly thing’. A belief which has been fed with the very same ideology by their ancestors. This creates a very grave urgency for men to suppress their emotions and keep buffering themselves into the pitfalls of masculinity just to prove that they qualify the definition of being a man. This creates emotional gap on the repressed minds of men and young boys to not express much of their grief and agony for the fear of being tainted as ‘sissies” or ‘less of a man’. Soon enough they learn that prompting for emotional help is not what boys are destined to do. This ideology promotes “repress your emotions for your ego” tendency among men which is completely wrathful to the emotional health of men. This is why; number of men fall into the traps of drug abuse and crimes.
Numerous studies have shown that suicide is almost three times higher in males in than females. This is mainly because of the fact that some men are really frustrated and cannot handle the strain of their masculinity being questioned. Hence, they seek for other recourse in a desperate attempt to appease.
Failure is another attribute which is considered unmanly. The traditional stigma that puts stress on ‘a successful man with exuberant wealth’ is also incumbent to imprison men in the vicious circle of masculinity which makes them even more vulnerable. For instance, I recall a conversation I had some months ago with one of my male colleagues. I told him how I was having a difficult time figuring out my career goals, now that I am in my late teens. To that he replied with rebuff, “Why should you even bother about that? You are a girl, you find a wealthy husband and you’re all set. The real matter of worrying is for us, the guys. We have to make our own living long enough to sustain a life of our own, our future wives and children. If we fail, nobody will count us in. If we fail, the world will curse us for being imbeciles, incapable of doing anything in particular and what more; no father will give his daughter to a trashy imbecile”. My immediate response was obviously defensive because I sensed a huge loss of power in my side as a female and we had a small casual debate as well. However, later when I thought about it, I realized that he was right in his own way. Sadly in our society, I wouldn’t be slandered for failing as much as he would be just because I am a girl and he is a boy. In the same way, when boys fail handling technical appliances or more often don’t know how to ride a bike its more than a disgrace to them.
It is therefore apparently seen how cultural definitions of masculinity seeps into subsequent relationships of gender role in our society and imprison men into this big circle of ‘ masculinity’. The society has a lot of expectations from men. “A man has to lend safety to his woman, never expose his fear or get frightened, be the ultimate protector and never shed a tear no matter how hard they feel deep inside” are some encroaching ideologies that men forcefully internalize disguising their real emotions and conductive feelings. These ideologies are so much inscribed into us that it cannot be changed within short intellectual discussions. Everybody irrespective of their gender, is made up of flesh and bones and is equally susceptible to pain and vulnerability. When men are coerced into acting braver, their emotional promptings are quashed, which, for many men is difficult to handle. Discussing and writing more about these issues can be imperative for change. Hence, challenging ideology is not the ultimate solution. Rather, acknowledging that there is an ideology but understanding that the social foundation of that ideology was different from now is important. Thousands of years ago men had to live with their might by hunting and gathering. However, now in this era of globalization, these roles are nonexistent. Hence, trying hard to prove one’s masculinity can be a major issue of concern for men. We need to acknowledge this more and make sure that the upcoming generation will be raised to value emotion as well.