When we hear the term “perfect man”, what does usually come to our mind? A guy with a set of six pack abs, buffy chest and biceps and height of at least 6 ft. Any feature other than the previously mentioned are not appreciated enough. But why is that so? Why do these beauty standards make us believe that we are less than someone, that aren’t worthy enough?! Toxic masculinity refers to the traditional masculine norms which have been passed on from one generation to another. It is people’s idea of ‘manliness’ which often refers to domination and aggression. These norms not only harm the society but men as well. Little boys are taught at a very early age ‘boys don’t cry’ or ‘men should be tough’.
In almost every family there is this unwritten rule that a daughter will help her mother in the kitchen and the son will to be responsible for other household chores which certainly requires going outside the house. Even if a growing male shows interest in cooking or the recipes, they are told to drop the idea because for some people cooking is considered way too feminine for a ‘man’ to try it. Boys are often told, not to showcase their emotions, especially if it is sentimental. The mere tag which says that “boys don’t cry like girls” is disturbing enough. Society has always been harsh on not only women, but men as well. From the beginning of their early teens and even childhood, boys are pressurised into believing that they will have to handle everything in their household, regardless if they are the youngest or the oldest among their siblings. They are taught that they have to be financially independent as soon as possible, in order to take care of the entire family. They are taught that if they won’t own a fancy car and an expensive house, they will not be considered eligible for marriage.
Believe it or not but it is not easy to be a man in a society which is loaded with such toxic traits. Even for the smallest of the things, boys are teased and bullied at school at a very young age. Some primary students even tease each other for carrying a pink handkerchief, referring it as too feminine. Yes, as unbelievable and unacceptable as it sounds, it is not the right way how boys should be treated or to be taught on how to treat each other. Not only our own family and friends, but even some strangers have the audacity to tell young men, how to be more masculine and less feminine in order to be more ‘manly’. Even those local vendors and shop keepers sometimes sarcastically command their male customers to buy more boyish or manly coloured clothes if they tend to choose to buy any light coloured apparel like a hot pink shirt, or even a white pair of pants. Being ‘Manly’ is often considered as bold, dominant, loud and aggressive. Any of these mentioned behaviors has always led to a negative and destructive outcome caused by a person, regardless of the gender. A very wise male I know, once said that “Masculinity doesn’t mean that you need to be all bold, scary and arrogant. One can be polite and decent as well. A man can be subtle and decent too.” To which I absolutely agree.
Not only for their emotional behavior, but men are teased for their body type as well. They all have been victims of body shaming since as long as they can remember. According to some crackheads in our society, men shouldn’t be too thin or else they would be considered feminine, which doesn’t make any sense if you ask me. Too thin is not acceptable, too fat is not acceptable, too tall is not acceptable, too short is not acceptable, too fair is not acceptable too dark is not acceptable and the list of this toxic masculinity goes on. Men can’t wear nail paint because “it is too girly for them” or grow long hair for the very same reason. For some people, the length of a man’s hair defines their gender. Wearing a nail paint, wearing makeup, practicing skin care or cooking one’s favourite dish has nothing to do with “being a man”. One should just simply do what makes them happy, without caring what other people say.
Men too go through mental health issues but are ordered not to talk about them or even their feelings in general. Anger, frustration, sorrow, pain, love, hatred, it all just keeps boiling inside their head and they become miserable with time and age. Some are able handle it well and some tend to take it out on their loved ones and family through physical abuse and violence. M.K. Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see”. It all begins at home, where we should teach the boys of our family to be polite and gentle. At home, we should give them the reassurance that their feelings matter too and they should feel comfortable in talking about them with their parents or any trusted adult. They too deserve to be loved and pampered, instead of being told to “toughen up” when they are being emotionally expressive. A true man or a perfect man is the one who is respectful and polite towards others, someone who is not ashamed of being the way he feels toward everything. Men are human too and their mental health and emotional experience deserves to be talked about, in order to make them feel heard. They deserve to know that their existence is important and it matters. Being too thin or too fat, being too short or tall, or being too emotional wouldn’t make them any less of a man.