Can a man cry? No! A man cannot and must not cry, because our society does not accept a man who cries. In our early childhood as a boy, we have always been fed with the phrase “Be a man!” (“Nupa thok-u!” in Manipuri, “Mard ban!” in Hindi), which always meant: “Stop acting that way!”, “Stop the tears!”, “Stop your emotions!” etc. There is a very popular Bollywood movie one liner: “Mard ko dard nahi hota” meaning: “A man doesn’t feel pain”. We have always been taught that, to be a man, we have to separate the heart from the head. Anything contrary to these, such as crying, showing emotions or pain, etc. is considered as masculine failure. There has always been this gender stereotype that men are supposed to be tough, strong and brave. Men are so focused on how to appear as “man” that they forget to cry, show vulnerability and pain. As men, we have always suppressed what makes us human in order to make (/be) a man. The conventional idea of “man” says that he is the leader, the protector, and the provider. And this wrong idea of “man” begins to appear right and sticks to our brains like the most resilient parasite almost impossible to eradicate. This idea takes hold of almost every man’s head. The reason why I believe this very idea of “man” as wrong is because it has brought more destruction than construction. The destructions that this wrong idea brings to both the society and the individual is unendingly numerous.
To the society, this wrong idea of “man” is responsible for many social evils that prevail. Patriarchy, violence (both public and domestic), sexual crimes, unfair competitions leading to corruptions, etc. are some of the evils caused by the wrong idea of “man”, that can be mentioned. Patriarchy as we are all aware of is that social system that gives power to men more than women. This power is not offered freely, but either commanded or snatched by men from women, mainly because of wrong idea about “man” or “manliness”, that, a man should lead, command or direct. Violence is often driven by negative emotions such as anger or fear. The very reason why we mostly see man committing violence in home as well as in public (during agitations, revolutions, demonstrations, etc.) can also be contributed partly or wholly to the wrong idea of “man” or “manliness”, that, as a man, he should never be defeated or disproved of his ideals or anything that he believes in. Thus, the use of physical, psychological or verbal force is justified by the wrong idea of “man” or “manliness”. It is a fact that the most horrific and highly publicized sexual assaults and crimes usually occur in severely patriarchal cultures and in wars led and fought by men. A fair number of men indulge into unfair competitions or corruptions to secure himself and his idea of being a man. This reality is not understood by many, but the truth is that, many men believe that how unfair the way be, if it leads to his economic and positional wellbeing, then that way is justified for him. Thus, the wrong idea of “man” or “manliness” also directly or indirectly leads to power politics, corruption, cheating, robbery, etc.
The kinds of damages and destructions that the wrong idea of “man” and “manliness” causes to individuals are not any less than it does to the society. Because of the lies and wrong ideas about manliness that were fed to us, an individual, in time of socialization, begins to seek social mandate revolving around that wrong idea. We start to seek social validation by demonstrating strength, physical ability, skill sets, etc. thereby suppressing what is really desired from within our hearts in majority of cases. In time of forming relationships with friends, family, romantic partner, etc. the wrong idea about manliness creates gaps and meaninglessness. A-lexi-thymia (latin: a=without; lex=words; thymia=emotions/feelings) is a mental health designation which means “An inability to put emotions and feelings into words”. Research shows that more than 80 percent of men in USA suffer from some form of a-lexi-thymia. I believe that the percentage would be more in our country and our state. I feel that it is an effect of the ideas that were fed to us in our childhood days. And, this is, where all the problems begin, because if we cannot express or understand our own emotions and feelings, we can never understand someone else’s feelings or emotions. This is the main cause of bullying, dating abuse, gender violence, sexual conquest, etc. And, for those men who start to feel that they have not quiet measured up or perceived as a “man” based on the wrong idea, they start social-isolation and in turn lead to covert masculine depression. At this point, substance abuse starts, which includes drug, alcohol and materialism to feel man enough.
“Men who have measured up as “man” sob because they have suppressed their emotions, feelings and their true self. Men who have failed to measure up as “man” sob because they have simply failed. They are all sobbing in solitude.” The zeitgeist is women empowerment, women upliftment and woman security. If we look deeper into the reasons that are responsible for this zeitgeist, then we shall clearly see that it is because we have not tried to understand and correct the wrong that is affecting men as a whole. We think that men don’t need help, may be because men really don’t ask for help, as thousands of years of evolution installed the ‘battlefield mentality’ in them to not let the enemy know his weakness during war/battle. Does it mean that men don’t need help? No! Men also need help as much as women do in this age. It is high time, that we discuss the issues of men which have not yet been brought into the limelight, to not only cure and prevent chronic depressions and suicides among men, but also to improve the quality of lives. It is time that we encourage the real and constructive masculinity instead of the toxic and wrong idea of masculinity. Compassionate, caring and loving natures are traits of constructive masculinity. It is time that we challenge the negative aspects of masculinity and redefine it. Let us create a society where every life matters and is valued. And, this kind of society is not a utopian one, but it can be achieved in reality.
The writer is a Guest Faculty, Dept. of Geology, Imphal College, Imphal. He can be reached at email@example.com