Ever wonder what it took to add that prefix “real” to Men?
Yes, it’s the inevitable subscription to the “man box’. Let me decode the man box for you. Man box is a metaphor for all the qualities you think a real man should have, qualities that have been relentlessly put into your head from the very beginning of your existence. From pre-school till we are on our deathbed, we yearn for acceptance. Acceptance into the society, acceptance into the group that everyone wants to be part of.
Having said that, is it too difficult to be accepted into the group you’ve always wanted to be a part of? Sadly, your acceptance in the boy’s group is directly proportional to how much you fit into the box, isn’t it? Hey, look how courageous he is, look how macho he seems to be and obviously, look what a spectacular body he has; if “man box” were to be an exam this man would ace it with flying colours.
Who made this man box? Why does it exist? Isn’t it suffocating? Do you need to conform to the man box for the entirety of your life? What will happen if the box is opened and everyone is let out? (no, nobody will scream who let the dogs out) Most importantly, is it your volition to be trapped inside the box? Will you still be ’Man enough’ if you choose not to conform?
Firstly, and most importantly, a shout-out to all the boys who have ever cried in public, expressed themselves when they were feeling low or decided to not pretend to be always strong and let their emotions get the better of them. It has in no sense made you weak. Humanity and emotions come from within, best not to forbid them. Let everyone hear this out loud, showing emotions does not make you less of a man or a woman. It does not take away your identity from yourself. For all those who haven’t, merely portraying your strength does not make you manly.
Ever wondered why is it important to let your emotions out in the form that they originate?
It’s because of the law of conservation. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. Let your emotional energy (read: innocuous emotional energy) get out before it converts into a violent one. Man-box gives you only one platform; the platform to showcase your violent or aggressive energy to prove yourself. It makes you convert all your energy into anger and this is how violence perpetuates. The need is for you to abandon that platform and create various others for yourself. Learn how to channelize your violent energy and terrorizing instincts into peaceful ones. Trust me when I say this, you are not alone in this fight against the ’man box’.
Once you start being an iconoclast, it won’t take time to break the box into pieces. All we need right now is for a man to understand another man and make a comfortable space where other men can come and share their emotions. You have successfully made Fight Clubs for venting out anger, but aren’t you failing as humans in not creating a safe space for venting out your emotions? It’s one thing to fight your emotions and another to acknowledge and use them for your good. Use your bro-code to help other men in melting the emotions that they have crystallized inside them, because they were never taught to be fragile and vulnerable. Try, for once, to bond over emotions rather than “locker room talk”.
Secondly, do yourself a favour and introspect about what you are doing; are you doing this because you truly want to do it or is it just what society thinks it is appropriate for you to do? It’s disheartening to see that we haven’t yet realized how conformist men are to this toxic masculinity, so much so that they regret it only after being called out; only after being made to realize that what they had done is not acceptable. Honestly, the half-hearted apology is not for what they had done, but for being caught and called out.
The mistake is not in that half-hearted apology; the mistake lies in not understanding that a wrong has been committed which cannot be corrected. The mistake lies in not recognizing that they are sinking with their toxic traits of masculinity. The mistake is letting the toxic masculinity get ahead of them. The next time you tell someone that, “You are a man, therefore, stay strong”, “You are a man, therefore, learn to dominate”, “You are a man, therefore, put your damn emotions inside and move on”, introspect. See, if what you’re doing is just inviting one more person inside the trap that you have been put into, subconsciously or consciously, since your childhood without your consent. Accept that being inside that box is your choice, a decision that you willingly make every day.
If given a choice, would you still choose to put yourself in a box that doesn’t let you talk to your own friends about your emotions? Would you still choose to be afraid of sharing things? Would you still choose to be labelled weak for not dominating women?
If your answer is yes, then ask yourself, are you strong enough to be vulnerable when life goes downhill? Are you brave enough to stand strong and uptight for women who selflessly put you before them? Are you confident enough to listen to what women in your life have to say and respect them? Are you courageous enough to be sensitive? Are you strong enough to control your actions/surroundings so that you don’t make any woman feel uncomfortable and put her in a position where she has to come out and say #MeToo. If you want to survive in the box, then use the same qualities that make you man enough to help you in redefining the box and hand-pick for yourself what you want to be associated with. Above all, are you man enough to stand against your own tribe when you hear about their “locker room talk”?
The need to always assert superiority and to dominate is just another way of acquiescently tolerating the man box which is not only toxic for females but also for you. As venomous underestimating women is, it’s equally noxious to over-estimate masculinity. Know that you are not always supposed to be the bread-earner and there’s no shame if you fail to do what society thinks a man ought to do. You are a human being before a man. Men, it is for you to accept other men who want to stay home and take care of their family because we already have.
We already embrace girls who cannot cook and we equally embrace boys who cannot earn. It makes you no less masculine. Let’s stop putting categories of work into lists of masculine and feminine. Respecting women starts with respecting their work. You will be shaken after imagining a world without money because that world will make you worthless and make women the reason behind your survival.
Take a careful look around you during this pandemic, do you see men doing what they are “supposed” to do in order to survive or do you see women doing what they do to make your everyday count? Aren’t you just equating yourself to your paycheck? The fight is against toxic masculinity and not men. Are you smart enough to disassociate your unique self from this all-encompassing masculinity? Masculinity which does nothing but distances you from your true self.
It’s pitiful to see how all of us have to fight against the stereotypes that have dehumanized us and reduced us to two categories, masculine and feminine, when all of us are quirky in our own ways. Let’s embrace who we truly are without leaning on the wall that gender-conformity has built for us. Let’s sympathise with each other and help each other grow and outgrow that box, breaking the shackles of all the conformity, that god knows who made for us. We need each other to make this a better place. It’s important to realise that you need our support as much as we need yours to make this world a better and safer place to live in.
Anushka Khandelwal is a II Year B.A. L.L.B. (Hons.) student at the National Law School of India University. With a keen interest in constitutional law and sociology, she enjoys decoding social phenomenon using feminist lens and an interdisciplinary approach. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.
Featured Image Source: Richmond College