50 years back, if we saw a man using mascara and handling contour brushes, he would have been shamed, harassed and ostracised from society. Society had strictly drawn the “lakshman rekha” for both men and women. There was no going back. Make-up was looked at as effeminate, weak and a taboo for a man to even consider to keep. Cut to present, has our “nazariya” changed? Have we changed?
His name is Ankush Bahugana.
Some might have heard of him for his hilarious commentary on Instagram trends. Well, what most of us know him through are the Make-up Tutorial reels he makes and simultaneously breaks an inch of toxic masculinity as he goes.
Bahugana speaks to SheThePeople about his intent and contribution to un-jumbling the rigid and adhesive gender roles through his work. Here are some of the interesting bits of a conversation which started with “Mein honestly bolun toh” and ended with “Mein revolutionary nahi hoon yaar:”
1.What gave you the idea of doing a Make-up Tutorial Video?
"Honestly, I have used make-up very often as an actor and it is very normal for me to do so. My friends and family have normalised this and make up is not an unusual thing for me. I did not post this video with any intent, vaise. I did not have any content to post that day and thought of uploading a normal video of me doing makeup. I had no clue that it would make such a huge impact. The response was actually quite overwhelming. "
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2.Growing up, how did toxic masculinity shape your notions on sexuality and gender identity? How did patriarchy essentially affect your mindset?
"As much as I may support the feminist movement and declare myself to be someone who is inherently not supportive of sexism and misogyny, we are talking about centuries of conditioning which will not take a backseat easily. Bolne aur Karne mei farak hota hai. I am still learning and unlearning. I am not perfect.”
3.How have you consciously tried to learn, unlearn parts of your mindset which are inherently patriarchal?
"With time, I have learnt to acknowledge my privilege as a cisgender man and try to boost the voices of the LGBTQIA community who are the real torchbearers of this movement. Since the content they make has largely been undermined or pushed out of mainstream context, I make it a point to magnify their voices because their perspective needs to be heard. It is important."
4.What is the difference in the reactions you receive from your male, female and LGBTQIA followers on the kind of content you curate?
"The cisgender community to be honest, has given me a lot of love. I do get appreciation and applause from people about the work I do and it feels great. The most nuanced feedback I have received is from the LGBTQIA community where they have made me realise that I am only being celebrated because I am a cisman. When members of the LGBTQIA community do the same, they are beaten, ostracised, disparaged and excluded. Kya kar raha hun mein yaar? I am doing the bare minimum. These double standards exist in society. I want to make my audience aware of this hypocrisy."
5.What role does media play in reinforcing stereotypes?
"Media definitely has all kinds of content. People often say that art cannot be put into boxes of right and wrong but in India people take art very seriously. Movies like Kabir Singh carry a lot of influence. Problem is not showing a character like Kabir Singh, the problem is glorifying him in the movie. Issue hai ye ki log unhe cool samajhne lagte hain."
6.In an era of Cancel Culture and toxic controversies, how do we embrace the attitude of acceptance?
"I believe Calling Out is extremely important. Jab tak Call Out nahi karoge, koi nahi seekhega. But there is a huge difference in being nasty to someone and calling out someone. Scaring the person is not the goal. Changing their mindset is the purpose. Genuinely trying to talk and communicate is important. Your intent really matters here. If you just scare or threaten the person by cancelling them, they would still have the same point of view, they won’t just share it publicly. But in their closed and safe group of people, they would still feel the same. Tumne Cancel karke kya kar liya? Kuch bhi nahi. Ulta kisi ki Mental Health aur kharab kar di. Chahe dimaag jiska kitna bhi kum chalta ho, mental health par toh right sabka hai."
7.Do you think women end up reinforcing patriarchy as much as men?
"Of Course, they do. Male and female content creators can both be vessels of sexism. There are many men who make sexist content and enjoy it and so do women. Farak sirf itna hai, that one community faces the brunt of it. Straight men ke alaawa sab hi oppressed hain.”