If you are a man, you have been feeling that you have your own set of challenges. There are certain societal expectations and rules that people around you expect from you.
In this blog, I’m going to write about some uncomfortable truths that some men may face.
Please note that these uncomfortable truths are not universal. You are born and raised in a different environment than other men. Each of you have diverse backgrounds and circumstances.
However, as a human we should acknowledge these truths and realities. We should discuss these more so that we can promote understanding and positive change.
Have you heard any of the following dialogues?
”Real men don’t cry”.
“Men shouldn’t be sensitive or overly emotional; it’s a sign of weakness”.
“You need to man up and stop being so emotional”.
“Emotional men are not masculine; they’re too soft”.
“You’re too sensitive; toughen up and act like a man”.
“Don’t be so dramatic; keep your emotions in check and be more composed.”
Sounds familiar, right? You may have heard it in movies or in written material. maybe someone in your family or school have said any of the above mentioned to you.
Many men often encounter societal pressure to suppress their emotions. They may be conditioned to believe that expressing their emotions are signs of weakness.
When men are conditioned in this way, they may disconnect themselves from their own emotions.
There are traditional masculine norms that emphasise strength, toughness, competitiveness, aggression, assertiveness, dominance, etc. And men may feel compelled to follow these norms.
Won’t such men feel restrictive and find it hard to fully express themselves? I think so.
What is toxic masculinity?
If a man is aggressive and violent, he is toxic. Such men will use aggression and violence to solve conflicts or showing dominance.
If a man finds it difficult to express himself emotionally, he is suffering from mental health issues. And such men will be difficult to deal with.
If a man objectifies women and treats them as objects for sexual gratification, he is toxic. Such men encourage a culture of sexism. Their negative attitudes and actions perpetuate gender inequality. They will feel no shame in abusing, disrespecting, harassing or assaulting women.
Many of us know that toxic masculinity is bad, but traditional masculinity norms pressure some men to adopt it.
Society expects a man to be “The man”. A man that doesn’t show weaknesses.
He should be strong. He should be resilient. A man doesn’t have any mental illness.
Such societal norms create barriers in the mind of some men and they avoid seeking help and support. These men fear that they will be judged. They fear appearing weak.
This can have detrimental effects on their mental well-being. This can lead to untreated mental health issues and a lack of proper coping mechanisms.
Like women, men are also not immune to body image pressures.
Social media is promoting muscular bodies. Many movies are promoting muscular body. Print media is promoting muscular bodies. Many songs promote muscular bodies.
So you as a man should also have a muscular and ripped body.
Men who do not fit these ideals may feel dissatisfied with their own body. They may go through low self-esteem issues.
So, are we talking about body positivity for men too?
If you read, watch or hear news, you may come across certain cases, where the legal system was biased toward men.
Some men face biases in the legal system related to cases like divorce settlements, domestic violence allegations, child custody, etc. In such cases, men may feel a sense of injustice. They may feel that they are being treated unfairly.
When men are involved in parenting and caregiving, they may feel limited due to certain societal stereotypes and expectations.
Men who actively want to play the role of stay-at-home fathers may face judgement from society. People around them may question their masculinity. People may question their competence.
Societal stereotypes may not look into the fact that these fathers really want to give a great care to their kids. Due to limited parental roles these fathers may miss the opportunity to bond with their children. These men may feel there are limited options in finding work-life balance.
Society expects that men should achieve a certain level of professional success.
You may have faced the same. I have faced the same.
If you don’t choose a good career option, your friend may judge you. Your neighbours may judge you. Your relatives may judge you. Your parents may judge you.
But why are these people judging some men? Because society as a whole expects it from men.
As a result, men face pressures to prioritise work over personal well-being. To achieve material things, to achieve professional success, men ignore other aspects of life.
Statistically, men are more perpetrators of violent crimes.
You can see many examples and incidents of “male violence and aggressions” in movies, OTTs, on social media websites, on roads and around you.
Some men who aren’t involved in such incidents feel a sense of collective guilt and shame. Because these men associate their own gender with violence. They may feel indirectly implicated for such crimes. They may feel responsible for the actions of other men who are violent or aggressive.
Men often struggle and face challenges in navigating sexual relationships. Why? Because they lack comprehensive and inclusive sexual education.
Traditional societal norms and taboos discourage discussions about sex. This can lead to inadequate or incomplete information being provided to men.
As a result, these poorly educated men can have misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations. They can face difficulties in forming healthy and fulfilling sexual relationships.
If you are a parent, you may have faced yourself that men face workplace discrimination when they seek parental leave.
I myself faced this issue at my workplace.
A man also have important roles when a newborn comes or when they have childcare responsibilities. In such situations, men don’t get sufficient leaves due to traditional gender stereotypes and expectations.
As per Statista, men in India are committing more suicides than women.
There are many factors like professional problems, financial loss, social isolation, abuse, relationship issues, family problems, mental health issues, etc.
Due to traditional masculine norms, men may feel pressure to be independent and self-reliant. This can discourage them from seeking support or expressing their emotions. These norms also influence men’s mental health outcomes. Society promotes seeking help from others or showing vulnerability as weakness.
In such conditions, men feel pressure to handle their problems on their own. Even when they are facing significant emotional or psychological distress.
When these men are going through internal struggles, they feel reluctant to reach out for assistance. And when they don’t get help in time, it contribute to the higher suicide rates among men.
Men often observe that there is limited representation in the media. Representation that is based on stereotypes.
Traditional stereotypes have wrong ideas about masculinity and they are often narrow and unrealistic.
For example, you can see that movies, television shows, and advertisements often represent a limited range of male characters and narratives. Mostly show that male characters are masculine, dominant, strong, and emotionally distant.
Most narratives follow the ideas of traditional male stereotypes where the characters have success, have attitude, and have physical power.
And the men, who don’t have such traits are represented by mainstream media as weak or vulnerable.
Moreover, mainstream media often underrepresented men from different race, ethnic, cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds.
When people watch such media, they start to have harmful biases. In the absence of diverse characters or narratives, biased people have restricted understanding of masculinity.
So mainstream media requires to showcase a wide range of characters and narratives that can portray a broader spectrum of male experiences, emotions, and identities.
Please note that I’ve just mentioned less-discussed realities and challenges that men may face in society. It is important to remember that these uncomfortable truths do not define all men’s experiences.
I have also addressed the importance of recognising and addressing these uncomfortable truths to promote healthier notions of masculinity. By doing so, we can create a more inclusive and supportive society for men.
It’s good to know that people have already started talking and discussing about this topic to challenge and redefine societal expectations and gender roles.
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