Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On being a ‘Man’

On being a ‘Man’

NOTE: This post is being written in a completely conscious state, and gladly so. Also to mention that it is not at all out of sympathies for the men folk, but out of understanding, if not from practical experience, then a theoretical one!;)
Enough has been written about women. The way they are, they way they fuss, they way they cry, blah blah blah. The same goes for men species, who come along with their own set of stereotypes! But amidst the two poles, I would like to talk about a fusion that co-exists. Nope, I’m not aiming for another “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”, but I’ll just be emphasising on some important facts!
While I completely agree with Carl Jung who said that there is a masculine element in every woman called animus and a feminine element in every man, called anima, there’s more to that.
It just occurred to me, after reading a fab piece written by Michael S. Kimmel titled “Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame and Silence in the construction of Gender Identity” , what boys perhaps feel when it comes to becoming a “man”.
I think it’s time that women realise and so does the society that as much as some  feminist discourses talk about wanting to be in par with men, they forget an underlying aspect, which is: Men among themselves are not at par with each other! Why? Because of the power quotient!

Kimmel helped me understand how boys struggle to fit in the category of “men”.
Let’s just take a plain example, Society got created and tagged along masculine and feminine stereotypes. While feminine characteristics dwindle much towards that being submissive, docile, dependent, in need, caring etc. masculine characteristics involve and expect them to be mentally, physically and emotionally strong, to be all powerful, aggressive, to compete, to be best in almost every damn thing, to shoulder responsibilities etc. So when a boy or a girl baby is born, they are right from the beginning being shaped to fit the moulds of a man/ woman. Ofcourse, none of the parents ever thought or even kept a possibility of their child constituting an LGBT community. You know why? Coz that has never been thought as an option! It’s a category where all the ‘left-overs’ go, according to the society!  The question I ask, then is, where does a person’s individuality goes? Does s/he ever get’s to even see that?
As much as women struggle to fit in the ‘girly’ category, I think men may have a more difficult time. Coz women are given a leeway in many things. Considering that times have changed for the better where advancing towards independence, being outspoken, confident, wearing dresses etc is not considered anything akin to an expression of “haw!!!” for women. So yes we may be progressing that ways. But well, for men the bar to prove their masculinity just gets better and better every time. An inch lower and they might be just tagged ‘sissy’. I ask:
Why a man is always expected to shoulder a responsibility? Why is he always expected to not cry? Why can he not weep with his full heart? Why can’t he be weak, fragile and innocent? Why does he always have to win or be good in everything? Why does he always have to protect the girl?
The answer Kimmel gives me is a really interesting one: He borrowing from Leverenz writes : “ Our real fear is not fear of women but of being ashamed or humiliated in front of other men, or being dominated by stronger men”.
Kimmel also tells the reader, with the help of a study where men and women were asked what were they most afraid of, while women were most afraid of being raped or murdered, men were most afraid of being laughed at. ( Noble, 1992). Also, men who committed suicide would often do so, not because of monetary loss but because of loss of power and status in the world of men!
Now, I do not know if it would be correct to assume that men are each other’s enemies. I wouldn’t like to reach at conclusions without any evidence, but all I feel is that we women perhaps have been a wee bit too harsh on men! They are not as bad as they are ‘thought’ to be!
Sigh. The movies create such high expectations and magnify stereotypes on what it is to be a ‘man’ and women get caught by that!
Kimmel beautifully brings in the concept of silence in his chapter. He tells us that that because men are afraid of being ashamed, it leads them to silence “the silences that keep other people believing that we actually approve of things that are done to women, to minorities, to gays and lesbians in our culture.  The frightened silence as we scurry past a woman being hassled by men on the street. That furtive silence when guys in the office make gay- bashing jokes. Our fears are the sources of our silences, and men’s silence is what keeps the system running. This might help to explain why women often complain that their male friends or partners are often so understanding when they are alone and yet laugh at sexist jokes or even make jokes themselves when they are out with a group.”
The third thing he mentions is that of violence being a marker of manhood. Now where did that come from? Perhaps from the animal kingdom? Survival of the Fittest? So either you have a war of the minds or a war of the hands? But well, a ‘war’ none the less?
This was just an attempt to understand one of the many ways the society is constructed and the ways in which innumerable discourses get mapped for people to follow perhaps something that their hearts don’t say, but they still follow!
I’m glad that a space is getting created for all kinds of people to live according to who they are, yet the question remains, why have they suffered all these years to prove, to strangers, who they really are? They are there, isn’t that enough?
Maybe all of us have been brought up to interfere in other’s life more than ours?
I’m still clueless of a lot many things, any offence made to any one unknowingly pls be excused! And yes I re- iterate my words. “This was not at all out of any sympathy. Period”
Hoping these words do strike you somewhere, coz they definitely made a mark here.


Kunal said...

In the present times, when the stereotypes are busted every day and thoughts and minds are expanding and exploring, it is only apt to say that there are not too many distinctions (or expectations) as to how a girl or guy is perceived. There are girls who don't cry and there are guys who cry (Jude Law in 'The Holiday' exists). However, both girl and a guy, I think, they all tend to not cry in public or say not display their true emotions. May be due to reasons that they fear that they will be misunderstood or will be taken as a signs of weakness.

With experience, I have come to believe, that you may choose to not display your emotions to everyone, but that does not mean that you are not in tune with them. With people who are close to you, they will come to know somehow and they will understand what you are going through. But, even if no one does, as long as you 'feel', emotions exist and they will come out in their own unique way.

I don't fully understand this part of the post -
'Our fears are the sources of our silences, and men’s silence is what keeps the system running. '

I can only say for me, on this account that Fear is not always the reason for our silence. And the fear of being laughed at is not we are afraid of. But, they may be exceptions or aberrations as opposed to a scientific rule and we can find evidences to support both the sides.

That said, I think we can all agree to this, that emotions are not gender specific. Everyone feels. Some less. Some more. Some hide. Some display. A few are strong. A few are weak. But, even the definitions of strong and weak are not true in the strict sense. Its just our perception. :-)

sumukh bansal said...

what a view...
never thought that way for man and also for women..
good one..

in short we are under attack :)))

Kshipra said...

wow, thats some great research.
And yeah that resonates a lot of men around me.
It reminds me of a street play I saw at JMC, with the underlying theme of "Mard ko bhi dard hota hai". And how we as a society were able to accept the changes in the way women are perceived but have still been hard on men.
Great read :)

Of Prisms and Lives said...

Yea , whatever you have put out here definitely has a point .
In the end, we men have to let go of our insecurities and behavioral inconsistencies , based on the mere justification that either we fit in and stand in line or we have to fall by the wayside, which in itself is a far enriching experience than being paranoid and following everyone else towards the age-old power squabble exits .

I'd say that somewhere down the line your post shows a defiance of that code of conduct . No mean feat , I say .

Aakriti said...

sumukh: thank you for stopping by.. Well, I'm learning as well:) and nope NOT at all under attack. Hw does it mks u feel that way?

Unknown said...

Yay!! finally, the rationale unveils. Jokes apart, I do believe, that in today's world, even these differences are fading away slowly. I see a lot more men cry out really loud these days. :)

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