Gender stereotypes are not only restricted to women but also men who can get negatively affected too. “You are a boy, and remember, boys don’t cry.” “You should try football. It is such a manly sport.” “Focus on your studies. Otherwise, who do you expect will take care of the family in the future!” I am sure many of us have stumbled upon such statements addressed to men that constrict their identity to very limited roles and leave no room for exploration. Men need to have a respectable job, need to protect and provide for their family, need to follow sports, need to be strong and macho, and oh— bear all these prejudices in silence since they are not even allowed to express their emotions because if they do so, they are “girly” and “weak.” 

 

IMPACT OF SOCIAL PREJUDICES ON MEN

Although in a traditionally patriarchal society, men are considered to be the superior gender and have a lot of privileges like being the primary head of the family, having a central role in making decisions, experiencing a safer environment than women (well, most of the time), it has a flip side too. The major issue with gender stereotypes is that they divide the two genders and associate with them specific roles and expectations that are so rigid that it becomes really difficult for either gender to move against these stereotypes without facing backlash from society.

 

The definition of men and masculinity is very narrow, and expectations to maintain their masculinity can sometimes be so strong that men can feel themselves losing their identity altogether and feel unconfident, incompetent, or confused. And all this anxiety is aggravated by the fact that they are not even able to express themselves adequately as, since a young age, men are forced to repress their emotions, and often these feelings can manifest in the form of aggression and frustration. 

 

MEN WHO CHALLENGE GENDER STEREOTYPES

Here are a few examples of some men and groups who, despite facing criticism and backlash from society, are redefining the definition of masculinity and setting a different narrative:

RAJ MEHTA

A stay-at-home dad decided to go past all the criticism and judgment to take care of his family and support his wife in her career instead of sticking up to the traditional role of the man being the ‘breadwinner’ for the family. Often, even if a woman has a full-fledged career, the responsibility of taking care of the house and child-rearing is thrust only on her, making it very difficult for a woman to juggle these two roles. It is men like Raj Mehta who are changing the dynamics of a family by taking up the primary role of a caregiver despite running a food delivery and catering business from home. Yes, we should celebrate people like him but at the same time also normalize men taking up the responsibilities traditionally meant for a woman.

 

“My relatives and friends would tell me, ‘Watching the kids is a woman’s job.’ But I didn’t change my mind because I knew that my decision of quitting a full-time job was to take care of my child and support my wife’s dream.”

 

ESHAN HILAL

He is considered the first professional male belly dancer in India— an art form traditionally performed by women that flaunts sensuality and “femininity.” Despite facing plenty of opposition from his family, he not only challenged the traditional norms of society but also broke the superficial wall of gender-specific roles and inspired many male dancers like him to showcase their talent to the world. 

 

“People assume that I am a homosexual, or a bisexual or a transgender just because I am a male dancer. Dance is not about gender or sexuality; it is an expression of emotions.”

 

PUSHPAK SEN

If you are into fashion, I am sure you must have heard about Pushpak Sen, aka, ‘The Bong Munda’ who has taken over the internet and awed audiences with his “eccentric” sense of fashion. This man travels the world slaying in exquisite sarees and bindis contrasting with his strong beard. He is not only representing Indian culture globally but is also blurring the lines between gender and fashion.

 

“Fashion to me is not just an aesthetic choice and a free license to snobbery. For me, it is not to be caged in the grids of Instagram. It is a language. Fashion is a roaring language of protest— of revolution.”

 

ANKUSH BAHUGUNA

Ankush Bahuguna, through his easy-to-follow and often clumsy humorous makeup tutorials, has garnered a lot of love and appreciation on the internet. His short Instagram and Youtube videos are a successful attempt at highlighting that men can also desire to look good and have normalized makeup for men.

Ankush Bahuguna and many more male influencers like him use social media wisely and, through this platform, question toxic masculinity and bend the rules of beauty and makeup that are often synonymous with femininity.

 

“Are you trying to tell me that your masculinity is so fragile that it would get hidden under some translucent powder?”

 

BIN BAIKANCHA TAMASHA

Translating to ‘Tamasha Without Women?’ Bin Baikancha Tamasha is an all-male Lavani dance group. Yes, yes, you heard that right. Lavani, a folk dance that celebrates women’s beauty, is performed by men, and here is the twist— they crossdress! These men are so comfortable in their skin that they do not worry about people’s rude and insensitive feedback and showcase the art in its purest form by draping themselves in a glamorous nine-yard saree, completing the look with makeup and ornate jewelry. Though they are currently not performing due to lack of funds, this troupe surely left its mark in this majorly patriarchal and heteronormative society.

 

MAVA

MAVA— Men Against Violence and Abuse was established in 1993, and since then, they have been on a mission to educate boys—yes, boys—about gender inequality and discrimination. MAVA does this through their mentoring programs in schools, colleges, and communities through leadership-driven training and using out-of-the-box methods including interactive workshops, folk songs, street-theatre, youth blogs in a hope to reduce gender-based violence and instill in men a sense of gender sensitivity and involve more men in ensuring women empowerment.

 

“Men often become violent, aggressive, and uncaring due to patriarchal modes of socialization that mold their psyche. Images of masculinity in society are linked to being strong and violent and to notions that men with ‘power’ are ‘real men.’ The situation necessitates efforts that address how men can analyze perceptions of masculinity and create appropriate alternatives.”

 

CONCLUSION

Indeed, the world is undergoing change, and so are men. These are just a few examples among many who are constantly questioning gender roles and contradicting these stereotypes. Their efforts not only affect them but also set new grounds for social norms where men are not macho, muscular, emotionless robots but people who have different styles, follow different passions, have different preferences, and most importantly, give room to revolutionary changes in society. They are not afraid to question toxic masculinity; they call out sexism; they are not intimidated by women in power; they give space for women to grow and grab equal opportunities. They are actively paving the way for a more tolerant and less prejudiced society.

Written by: Aashna

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